Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Most Anticipated Movies of 2005

Even before the 2004 wrap is completed, I bring you the 2005 sneaks! Probable 2005 releases that I've already seen and which would easily be in the top 5 anticipated movies are: Tropical Malady, 2046, and Clean.

Surveying the following titles, 2005 could be the best year for fantasy films since...well, ever. Gilliam, Gaiman, Burton, Phillip K. Dick adaptations, even a full-length Wallace & Gromit feature. And rumors are that David Lynch is working on a new film that may be ready by the end of the year. A backlash to the Year of the Documentary? We'll wait and see.

01. Kings and Queen
Why? See 2004 list. Plus, early reaction has been very strong.
But... Real life bickering threatens to turn Desplechin into the next Jean Eustache, a suicide.

02. The Brothers Grimm
Why? Time Bandits. Brazil. 12 Monkeys. Terry Gilliam doing fantasy is like Julia Child with butter.
But... Recall Lost in La Mancha. The man is a loon.
03. The New World
Why? Terence Malick re-stages Pocahontas. A perfect match of directorial sensibility and material.
But... Looks like the kind of movie that plays world music chorals over slow motion slaughtering of Indians.
04. Untitled Jonze/Kaufman Horror Project
Why? Charlie Kaufman is the most exciting filmmaker in America, and anything he does is automatically top 5 material.
But... If this is indeed Donald Kaufman's "The Three," as rumored, it will be either the most ballsy meta-joke of all-time or the project where CK jumped the shark.
05. A Scanner Darkly
Why? If you were given a random project and forced to choose one working director to helm it, who would you choose? After School of Rock and Before Sunset, I'd probably go with the versatile Linklater. And now he's adapting one of Phillip K. Dick's best stories with Sabiston's rotoscope animation. Awesome. Take a peek.
But... I still remember Wanking Life, bud.
06. Howl's Moving Castle
Why? The follow-up to Spirited Away.
But... No one thinks it's as good as Spirited Away.

07. Untitled David Lynch Project
Why? The follow-up to Mulholland Dr.
But... Can Lynch ever top Mulholland Dr.? (I bet not.)
08 I'm Not There: Suppositions on a Film Concerning Dylan
Why? Bob Dylan, plus Todd Haynes' experimental inquiry into the nature of biopics sounds like the greatest filmed thesis since, um, Far From Heaven.
But.... An awfully academic exercise, and haven't we already seen 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould?
09. The Fountain
Why? Aronofsky's top-secret mindbender is reputedly ambitious beyond reckoning.
But... Aronofsky hasn't exactly hit it out of the park his previous two times up.
10. Mirrormask
Why? Neil Gaiman. Dave McKean. If you are a nerd, your heart is already racing.
But... Can they make the leap from comics to cinema? (The answer appears to be yes.)
11. Untitled Jim Jarmusch Project
Why? Bill Murray and Jim Jarmusch is the best matchup of actor and director since Murray and Wes Anderson.
But... Jarmusch's on a winning streak. Due for a whiff?
12. The War of the Worlds
Why? Excellent teaser. Also, Spielberg's only good movie in the last five years is a Cruise vehicle.
But... Will inevitably garner unfavorable comparisons to Orson's radio hoax.
13. Where the Wild Things Are
Why? Spike Jonze's animated feature is all I know. That's enough.
But... Don't know anything else about it.
14. Sin City
Why? The cast. Robert Rodriguez quitting DGA so Frank Miller can be credited as co-director. The trailer. Especially the look.
But... Miller's blocky bleeding blacks were cool, but Sin City the comic was third-rate ersatz pulp, and it's a tall order to pull off both the superhigh-contrast look and the pulp-comic style.
15. Pretty Persuasion
Why? "Do you fuck dogs?"
But... Afraid it may employ the same kind of ham-fisted satirical devices used in the Skander-approved American Psycho.
16. Old Boy and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance
Why? The latest features from the new new bad boy of Asian cinema.
But... Wasn't really blown away from the accomplished but empty Mr. Vengeance.

17. Izo
Why? The latest (or one of, anyway) from the old new bad boy of Asian cinema. Bonus: Beat Takeshi! Plus, it's supposedly awesome, or at least similar to his last awesome movie, Graveyard of Honor.
But... Miike is always hit and miss.
18. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Why? Perfect match of material and talent, as the ebullient trailer suggests.
But... Is there really a pressing need to remake the original?
19. Melinda and Melinda
Why? Supposedly Woody's best in a long, long time.
But... The Woodman hasn't exactly set a high bar for himself to clear these days.
20. A History of Violence
Why? David Cronenberg doing David Cronenberg, apparently.
But... It's often best to leave hermeneutics to scruffy academics.
21. Cache
Why? Haneke and Binoche, together again.
But... Always a danger of labored academic provocation with this director.
22. Batman Begins
Why? The most interesting Batman story finally gets told by a good storyteller. Bale well cast.
But... Material calls for high noir panache, and Nolan hasn't exactly shown himself to be adept at atmosphere and mood.
23. Les Temps qui changent
Why? Denueve, Depardieu, Techine, what can go wrong?
But... Techine hasn't exactly been on a roll.
24. Where the Truth Lies
Why? Lightning strikes twice? Sounds remarkably close in theme to The Sweet Hereafter.
But... Somewhere in the last six years, Egoyan lost his way, to the point where his new movie barely makes these kinds of lists.
25. The Wallace & Gromit Movie: Curse of the Wererabbit.
Why? Finally, a Wallace & Gromit full-length feature. Plus, claymation rules.
But... Might be a stretched out short the way most claymation features are.

Cutting too close? Art School Confidential (Clowes' acidic yet one-note lampooning of his art school years is the last Eightball strip I'd think would work as a feature film, except maybe Dan Pussey. Yet here it is.); Fever Pitch (Farrelly's Red Sox nut movie may cut way too close to home.)

Dreading with anticipation....Manderlay. [As I type these words, my fingers are trembling with fear: "A sequel to Dogville set in the 1930s American South." What I fear is I will lose ten years of my life arguing with insane movie nerds who will think this (most likely) totally fucked up piece of shit is better than Faulkner or something.]

Sequels of some interest: Stars Wars Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith, The Ring 2.

Exciting known quantities: L'Intrus (Denis's impossibly obscure visual poem), Kung Fu Hustle (by all accounts awesome), Eros (Wanker's short sounds good), Head On (raves all around), Nobody Knows (somebody thinks I used to look like the main actor), Ong Bak: Thai Warrior (the most kickass movie ever?), Good Morning, Night; Look at Me.

Other intriguing films: Ridley Scott's Crusades epic Kingdom of Heaven (I fear the clash of civilizations subtext), Ang Lee's gay cowboy movie Brokeback Mountain (not sold on Heath Ledger), The Constant Gardener (from the director of City of God), Robert Towne's L.A. story Ask the Dust, Nicolas Cage is The Weather Man, the Sundance favorite Cronicas, Kate Winslet's Romance & Cigarettes, Legend of Zorro (I dug Mask of Zorro), Cameron Crowe's Elizabethtown, the noir experiment Brick, Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, Noah Baumbach's The Squid and the Whale, that Miranda July picture, and last but not least, What Is It?, the latest insane opus from crackpot Crispin Glover.

Promising, but something to prove: The Good Shepherd, Jarhead, Everything Is Illuminated, V for Vendetta, Zathura, Chronicles of Narnia, Aeon Flux.

Do we need another one? King Kong (sorry, geeks), The Producers, All the King's Men.

Other noted auteurs likely to have a project released this year: Hong Sang-soo, Tsai Ming-liang, Jang Sun-woo.

Long overdue: movies by PTA, Rivette, and Edward Yang.

Special mention: The re-release of Antonioni's The Passenger.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Pretty kind of divisive (updated)

Update: Pretty Persuasion wins no prizes, unless you count the collective loathing of brand-name critics and the uniform adoration of geeks a prize.

Hated it: A.O. Scott. The Hollywood Reporter. Dennis Lim.

Loved it: Emanuel Levy, in the most lengthy review yet. He even quotes Skander's Q & A.
Nerd #1. Nerd #2.

Hard to tell: NY Post.

Also, Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean's Mirrormask sounds awesome. Hopefully it is better than Violent Cases and Mr. Punch. On the other end, I shudder at the retarditude promised by the following description: "Lars von Trier's allegory of American gun culture..." Will this guy ever fucking stop? Ever?

* * * * *

Sundance is upon us, and the buzz movies thus far are Hustle and Flow, Brick, and a movie called Pretty Persuasion. Pretty Persuasion, described as a darker, raunchier Heathers, stars Evan Rachel Wood and Ron Livingston and is written by one Skander Halim. Halim's a pretty good scribe, I hear, and his "pitch-black" script, not the direction of Marco Siega, seems to be the subject of early buzz, both good and bad. More good notices here. More prominently, the LA Times yesterday also gave a good notice, calling Pretty Persuasion "Mean Girls when it grew up and got funny." Too bad you gotta pay to read the article online.

Then there's the dreaded 52 that a bud hangs on another. I admire the integrity, Mike, but that's rough.

In other news, this just in: Johnny Carson has passed away. Like a great many Americans under 60, I grew up on Carson, watched him off and on throughout my high school years. In many ways, his retirement effectively ended television as the great uniter. He was the last great institution of the television age; American culture, after Cronkite and Carson, has become a jungle of segmentation, a different talk show host and news anchor for every taste. Slate's appreciation piece nails what made Carson so consistently watchable and funny, and Tom Shales in the Washington Post ponders his legacy.