Film Misery is growing! The staff, recently expanded with three new writers, weighs in on what films we’re most looking forward to in the next several months. With festival season underway, there is plenty to enjoy in the remainder of 2012.
QUESTION: What two Fall/Winter 2012 movies are you most excited about?
I almost think it would be more accurate to call Michael Haneke a “mad scientist” rather than a filmmaker because all of his films are about experimenting on the audience and forcing us to feel certain emotions that may be counter to logic (he once said that any audience member who stays through the end of Funny Games is sick). His Palme d’Or winning drama Amour has been described as “accessible,” which is usually a turn-off word for film snobs like myself. However, I have complete faith in Haneke and the dozens of critics who have heaped praise on his latest effort and I cannot wait to see it finally.
Quentin Tarantino has always been appealing to me because he makes movies specifically for people who love movies. I have never gotten tired of any of his films and I revisit each of them at least once a year, sometimes more. His next film is misleadingly being marketed as an action-heavy revenge picture, but if I know anything about QT, then there will be a lot more than initially meets the eye. I’m looking forward to a dialogue heavy movie that will undoubtedly feature some of the most vibrant characters of the year.
To the Wonder
Two of the most transformative movie experiences I’ve ever had have been thanks to Terrence Malick, so my mouth waters at the prospect of anything the man will put out. And this movie seemed to come out of nowhere; it was all Tree of Life, Tree of Life, Tree of Life, then suddenly an article appeared that Malick had some Ben Affleck film already in the can. And post-production was short enough that Malick was releasing it just one year after his previous film. A surprise considering the 20 years between his 2nd and 3rd films.
Well, since There Will Be Blood is pretty much my favorite film of the 21st century so far, I’m hoping PTA’s new film will have similar features: a richly symbolic narrative, other-worldly mise-en-scene, and balls-to-the-wall performances. Not that I’m expecting Hoffman or Phoenix to top Day-Lewis. And there’s also the fact that PTA made me love and cherish a film that starred Adam Sandler. It’s a miracle, so we all know he can do anything.
In a season teeming with fresh studio offerings, it’s a holdover from last year’s festival circuit that has held my passionate attention for months on end. Director Andrea Arnold is largely to blame for that, her previous feature Fish Tank having tapped into youth frustrations with a fearlessly assured sense of compassion. Again turning her attentions to the middle-ground between childhood and maturity, Arnold’s counter-cultural sensibilities taking on material as robustly Victorian as Emily Bronte raises only enough skepticism to serve as tang to the immense anticipation.
Zero Dark Thirty
Upon first seeing Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker, the not-quite-born-yet cinemagoer in me reacted with confusion. “Dude, what’s the big deal?”, I’m almost certain was my ignorant response back in 2009. Suffice it to say that every revisiting of the film has yielded greater intensity and revealed unacknowledged pathos. One worries the latter may be lost in Bigelow’s follow-up on the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, though the intelligent new-generation laden cast, which includes standouts like Jessica Chastain, Edgar Ramirez, and Chric Pratt, counters that slight trepidation. Even if there’s not as much character in this one, which I truly doubt is the case, there will undeniably be as much unnerving tension.
Ben Affleck’s film about a risky CIA mission during the Iranian revolution, a mission whose operatives disguise themselves as a fake film crew, has already earned rapturous praise at Toronto. So much so, that Roger Ebert has already declared Argo as the film that will go on to win this year’s Best Picture Oscar. While a film’s Oscar chances seldom influence my anticipation, I have to admit it pleases me to hear such strong early buzz for a film I was already quite excited to see. I wasn’t nuts about either The Town or Gone Baby Gone, but Ben Affleck has proven himself to be a tremendous director of action and tension. Add in the fact that Bryan Cranston get second-billing, and my ticket for Argo is as good as purchased.
One of the only things I have ever agreed with Armond White about has been regarding his devout praise for Steven Spielberg, whom he calls “every bit the equal of John Ford.” While that’s arguably an overstatement (I wasn’t thrilled with his 2011 efforts), I am at least inclined to call him this generation’s David Lean, a helmsman who today outranks the savviest and most film-literate of big-budget filmmakers. Spielberg alone is enough to get me excited about essentially my least-favorite genre – the biopic – but this account of the final years in the sixteenth President’s life has so much more going for it. The supporting cast includes Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The script, written by Angels in America and Munich scribe Tony Kushner, hints that the film will offer depth and complexity in its depiction of Civil War-era politics. Most importantly, this looks to be the film that might win Daniel Day-Lewis that unprecedented third Oscar.
Though I increasingly find myself suffering from remake and reboot fatigue, this new adaptation of the Tolstoy masterpiece is on my must-see romantic period-drama list, along with Wuthering Heights and The Great Gatsby (I’ll be waiting a while for that one). The screenplay was adapted by Tom Stoppard, one of my favorite playwrights (see: my collegiate directing thesis of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead), and this production marks the third collaboration between star Keira Knightley and director Joe Wright after their former epic-love-story projects Pride & Prejudice and Atonement. Expect the same meticulous choreography and sumptuous visuals of Atonement, this time set amongst opulent Russian romance with a genre-defining literary backbone. It will most likely be over-the-top and drowning in cinematic flair, but I can’t pass up another date with Tolstoy’s sprawling tale.
Formerly titled The Surrogate, this feel-good dramedy from director/screenwriter Ben Lewin is based on the life of poet and journalist Mark O’Brien and explores his relationship with a sex therapist after living many years paralyzed by polio. I’m very interested in how the film will deal with its subject matter – disability and sexuality, an intersection under-represented on screen – and really excited to see Helen Hunt back in theaters in a major role. The film’s been praised for its standout performances, and will likely earn nominations for Hunt and John Hawkes. It is clearly typical Fox Searchlight fare: it looks emotional, uplifting, and crowd-pleasing, but nevertheless an excellent antidote to any film misery one may be experiencing this fall.
With the tragic delay put on Gatsby, no other film has me so excited, despite the mixed reaction at Toronto. In Bruges (2008) is one of my favorite films of the century, so to finally see a new film from Martin McDonagh is something of high anticipation. And although the advertisements paint a different picture than the baroque irony of his last feature, Psychopaths seems to retain his reliance on intelligent and witty dialogue in a less classy setting (L. A. in place of Belgium). But what catches my attention most in the trailer, and why it’s my most anticipated film of the year, is Sam Rockwell. Perhaps the most underappreciated actor in the industry today, he looks like he has a moment to shine here. With a shih-tzu.
Killing Them Softly
Admittedly, I’m a little skeptical at exactly how good this film could be in its best case scenario. But even so, this hitman follow up from director Andrew Dominik, of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, is one I can’t miss. Returning in the lead role is Brad Pitt who is alongside Bryan Cranston, Ray Liotta, and James Gandolfini. From what I gather it is a suave and funny psychological thriller with a blunt political standpoint. Having not seen the film, I suspect I will find the blunt tone to be an intentionally heavy-handed device. As Dominik proved in his last feature, he can master subtlety when he wants it. So I’m particularly curious how he will handle the material nearer to his debut feature, Control. The trailer indicates to me that despite reports of the film being funny and blunt, it may ring poetic as well.
If you have a question for the Film Misery staff, we’d love to hear it! Send it over via email to Alex@filmmisery.com.