Wednesday, September 21, 2011

My Ten Most Anticipated Films for the Rest of 2011

We are approaching the home stretch of the movie year – the final three months, when studios release all of their “prestige” movies. Many times, the year’s best come out during the final three months (for example, last year 6 of my top 10 were released from October-December). And while there are a lot of films I want to see from this period – including The Skin I Live In (Pedro Almodvoar), Anonymous (Roland Emmerich), In Time (Andrew Niccol), Young Adult (Jason Reitman), The Adventures of Tintin (Steven Spielberg), Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Stephen Daldry), Corilanus (Ralph Fiennes), Carnage (Roman Polanski), We Bought a Zoo (Cameron Crowe) – these are the 10 films I’m most looking forward to in that time. I should note that Alexander Payne’s The Descendants would have been very high on this list, had I not seen it at TIFF this year.

Anyway, these are the 10 films I’m looking forward to most.

10. The Ides of March (George Clooney)
As an actor, George Clooney has proven to be one of the most consistent movie stars around. He always picks interesting roles for himself, in good movies. In his three directorial efforts – Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Good Night and Good Luck and Leatherheads – he has shown a real skill behind the camera (ok, Leatherheads wasn’t great, but it wasn’t awful). For The Ides of March, based on a hit play, he has assembled a great cast including Ryan Gosling, Paul Giamatti, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei, Jeffrey Wright and of course Clooney himself for this political thriller, revolving around Clooney as a Presidential candidate, and Ryan Gosling as his political fixer. The reviews have been solid – not spectacular – but I’d watch that cast in practically anything.

9. War Horse (Steven Spielberg)
Because Steven Spielberg is perhaps the biggest and most successful filmmaker in history in terms of money, he has a lot of fans, and a lot of haters. I’ve always been a fan, and in fact I think the period between 1998’s Saving Private Ryan and 2005’s Munich is Spielberg’s most interesting of his career. Then he made Indiana Jones 4 and ruined it. For me, the hope with War Horse – about a friendship between a boy and his horse who gets sold to Calvary to fight WWI – is that it is a return to form for Spielberg. The trailer doesn’t tell us much, and I haven’t read the book (or seen the play that was also based on the book), but anything with Spielberg remains of high interest to me (yes, even Tintin).

8. Hugo (Martin Scorsese)
I’ll be honest – if Hugo were not directed by Martin Scorsese, it would not be on this list. But Scorsese is my favorite filmmaker of all time (I named my freaking dog after him for God’s sake!), so I’m going to let the childish trailer for this one slide (besides, trailers often don’t represent the movie very well). The film is based on a wonderful graphic novel about a young boy who lives in a train station in France in the 1920s, who spends his days winding the clocks, and avoiding capture, before he develops an unlikely friendship. True, this sounds about as far away from Raging Bull, Taxi Driver and GoodFellas as it could get, but it’s still a Scorsese movie, so you know it will at least be interesting to watch. The cast – including Ben Kingsley, Chloe Mortez, Jude Law, Sacha Baron Cohen, Emily Mortimer, Christopher Lee, Michael Pitt, Ray Winstone and newcomer Asa Butterfield also has me excited.

7. The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius)
The Artist has been an audience favorite ever since winning the Best Actor prize at the Cannes Film Festival in May. It is a French film, that is apparently a love letter to the movies – set during the time as Hollywood was converting from silent films to talkies. The trailer, in glorious black and white, looks irresistible and I am a sucker for these types of movies. People are already saying that Jean Dujardin, will be an Oscar nominee this year.

6. We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay)
Lionel Shriver’s bestselling book We Need to Talk About Kevin is one of the best books I have read in years. It is told from the point of view of a mother (Tilda Swinton) whose son went on a high school killing spree who is writing her estranged husband (John C. Reilly) about everything that has happened – from the time Kevin was born, to the present day. The novel was deeply disturbing – was Kevin just a bad seed, or was his emotionally cold mother a contributing factor – but also incredibly well written. Director Lynne Ramsay (Ratcatcher, Movern Callar) is talented beyond belief, and while the film has received mixed reviews, some absolutely love it. Plus, I’ll watch anything with Tilda Swinton, perhaps the most daring actress in the world right now.

5. Melancholia (Lars von Trier)
At the Cannes Film Festival this year, Lars von Trier overshadowed his own movie by proclaiming he had sympathy for Hitler – and getting himself banned from the festival. It was a joke gone horribly awry, but what else can you expect from von Trier, who almost always says something stupid when he opens his mouth. His films though are usually excellent, and the reviewers who ignored and his comments, and concentrated on his end of the world film, with Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsborug – were deeply impressed. I love von Trier’s film, so I’m there.

4. J. Edgar (Clint Eastwood)
Last year’s Hereafter was quite simply, the worst film Clint Eastwood has ever directed. But having said that, Eastwood is usually a very reliable director, and for this film he tells the story of the infamous FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his power struggles through the years, and his secret homosexual relationship (with Armie Hamer, better known as the Winklevii). The story is right up Eastwood’s alley, and the supporting cast includes Naomi Watts and Judi Dench among many others, so here’s hoping this is Eastwood’s redemption movie for the horrible Hereafter.

3. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (David Fincher)
Following Zodiac, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Social Network, I think it’s fair to say that David Fincher is one of the best directors in the world right now. His obsessive planning, meticulous filmmaking and attention to detail are already legendary, and his films are intelligent and extremely well made. They are also well acted by all involved. Here, he is taking the bestselling Stieg Larsson novel and making an American film out of it (a year after we saw the original Swedish version) and he has cast Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara in the two leads – and Stellan Skarsgaard, Robin Wright and Christopher Plummer in support. The original Swedish films were all excellent – but they lacked the directorial control of a Fincher, so I hope this one is even better.

2. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy (Tomas Alfredson)
Tomas Alfredson’s last film was the wonderful Swedish vampire saga Let the Right One In. Now, he returns with this adaptation of John LeCarre’s famous spy novel, starring Gary Oldman as LeCarre’s most famous creation, George Smiley. The cast also features Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Ciarin Hinds and Mark Strong in the story of double agents and double crosses. LeCarre’s novel was more subdued and realistic than most spy stories – something I am hearing about the movie as well. I cannot wait for this one.

1. A Dangerous Method (David Cronenberg)
David Cronenberg is easily the best director to ever come out of Canada – and I think his recent twin crime films, A History of Violence and Eastern Promises, are two of his very best. Here, he does a period piece about Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley) who worked with Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortenson) and was both a patient and a lover to Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender). The reviews have been mixed – with some turned off by Cronenberg’s typical coldness of style, but that just makes me want to see it even more. I will watch anything Cronenberg does with great fascinating.

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