As Rush Hour 3 and Stardust and the like trudge turgidly out of theaters, autumn brings a breath of fresh air. Fresh, Oscar-baity air. Bwog cineastes Daniel D’Addario, Jamie Johns, and Christian Kamongi are here to help you say yes to Coens, Cronenberg, and Clayton, and no to Alvin and the Chipmunks.
The Brave One (September 14): When I first heard about The Brave One, I assumed it was a sequel to The Accused, Jodie Foster’s first film about a rape victim out for revenge. If Jodie Foster and Neil Jordan want to actually redeem their careers after the duds that were Flightplan and pretty much everything Neil Jordan has directed since The Crying Game, it’s going to have to be a lot more than that. I’m hoping that it actually is a provocative look at one woman’s struggle to overcome the shock of sexual assault through violence, as the trailers have been telling me it will be. -Jamie Johns
Eastern Promises (September 14): David Cronenberg has been described as North America’s foremost narrative filmmaker and if his newest feature is even half as explosive and revelatory as his previous masterpiece, A History of Violence, then it’s a must-see. The sense of uncontrollable doom and macabre textures that characterized A
History of Violence (and Cronenberg’s whole ingenious oeuvre) seem to be at play in this thriller starring Naomi Watts as a nurse who may be unknowingly digging her own grave as she dares to unravel the mystery of a young woman’s murder. Oh, and did I mention that Armin Mueller-Stahl, Vincent Cassel, and Viggo Mortensen play members of the Russian mob, casting decisions that may be enough to ensure expectations of pure terror. -Christian Kamongi
Across the Universe (September 14): First, let me state, this does NOT actually look like a good movie. But as someone who spent 11 dollars and two hours of my time watching (and loving) the car crash (har har har) that was I Know Who Killed Me, I want to know what its competition is for worst film of the year. This one is definitely a contender because instead of amputee strippers and stigmatic twins it features Beatles sing alongs set to those crazy messed up late 60’s and Evan Rachel Wood in a lead role…not having sex with Marilyn Manson, which, let’s face it, is the only interesting thing she has been doing lately. Also, it’s been the center of a huge battle between director Julie Taymor, who has been trying to remove her name from the film, and the studio. I just hope the Magic Johnson theater shows this one. -J.J.
Lust, Caution (September 28): Ang Lee is arguably the finest commercial filmmaker, and his newest picture jets him off to wartime Shanghai in a spellbinding cat-and-mouse thriller staring Joan Chen, newcomer Wei Tang, and in my personal opinion the foremost male actor on the planet, Tony Leung. The recent controversy surrounding its supposed NC-17 rating (and the even more controversial fact that Focus Features refused to fight the rating) seems to have already negated film critic Keith Uhlich’s absurd remark that Lee is the “pan-cultural Ron Howard without an honest bone in his body.” Expect a steamy one. -C.K.
The Kingdom (September 28): Jarhead redux, with Sydney Bristow and Michael Bluth along for the ride. This looks less heavy-handed than Paul “Subtlety’s for Suckers” Haggis’s In the Valley of Elah and less all-over-the-place than Rendition, so maybe it’s worth a shot. If Ang Lee’s latest isn’t at Lincoln Plaza, maybe I’ll walk across the street to AMC Lincoln Square and see Iraq through Jason Bateman’s point of view. -Daniel D’Addario
Michael Clayton (October 5): One of the few bright spots at the multiplex in the month of October (I’m not thrilled about Elizabeth becoming a franchise… and Saw is back for round four), this film seems to feature the best of both sides of Clooney. He’s using his considerable movie-star charisma in a serious, intelligent (for Hollywood) project, with an impeccable cast. I’m also excited to see if Sydney Pollack, as Clooney’s boss at a major New York law firm, can summon the quiet evil he embodied in Eyes Wide Shut. -D.D.
Margot at the Wedding (October 19): At this point, it seems more or less official that Nicole Kidman has ceded “the next Meryl Streep” title to Cate Blanchett. But with this project and The Golden Compass coming this fall and Baz Luhrmann’s Australia next year, David Thomson’s favorite actress is putting up a good fight. I can’t wait to see what Noah Baumbach gets out of Kidman, who usually steers clear of character-driven independent films. Perhaps her performance as a quiet, depressed woman living in the shadow of her sister will reach the same heights as Laura Linney in The Squid and the Whale or, dare we hope, Kidman’s own Grace in Dogville. –D.D.
American Gangster (November 2): Probably the best film trailer I’ve seen since that for The Departed. This film’s Denzel Washington-Russell Crowe pairing seems to have an acting matchup as great as the DiCaprio-Damon faceoff in Scorsese’s film, and it’ll be nice to take Russell Crowe seriously again. But the most exciting part of the trailer was the 1970s aesthetic – it looked like Harlem thirty years ago, from the suits to the cars to the club where Denzel flaunts his wealth. May the new age of mob neo-noir never end. -D.D.
Lions for Lambs (November 9): I was more excited for this movie when it seemed to be a tight political drama about the media and the rush to war starring Robert Redford, Meryl Streep and Tom Cruise. Now that it’s turned into a story about two smart college kids signing up for the army and going to war, I’m less interested. However, Tom Cruise playing a grade-A douchebag in any movie is always entertaining and makes me forget about you know, all of that other douchey stuff that he does in real life. Also, check out that shot of Columbia’s campus in the trailer! -J.J.
No Country for Old Men (November 9): The Coen brothers return with a special treat: one of the crime dramas that helped build their name. This one is a Western, casting into relief the way that the Coens have played with genre conventions from Blood Simple to The Man Who Wasn’t There. This film’s graphic violence (based on the great Cormac McCarthy novel) promise to bring it a bit closer to the former. Are audiences ready for the most dastardly villain the Coens – or any directors – have brought to the screen this decade? -D.D.
Southland Tales (November 9): A musical written and directed by Richard E. Kelly, the man who brought dorm rooms their Donnie Darko posters. This one stars Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson as an action star with amnesia, Sarah Michelle Gellar as a reformed porn star, Justin Timberlake as a singing and dancing handicapped Iraq veteran and Seann William Scott pulling a Lindsay Lohan by playing twins. I think this movie is about metaphysics and nuclear war? Little is known about this movie and its quality since Kelly did major cuts after the film was universally panned at Cannes. It could either be in the worst film of the year running with Across the Universe and I Know Who Killed Me, or it could actually be, perish the thought, good. -J.J.
I’m Not There (November 21): Todd Haynes models his much-anticipated biographical study of Bob Dylan somewhat structurally as a poetic multi-protagonist narrative with six actors representing Dylan at different eras in his career. The Dylan incarnations consist of Cate Blanchett, Christian Bale, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, Ben Whitshaw, and newcomer Marcus Carl Franklin. The to-die for cast doesn’t quite stop there with performances from Charlotte Gainsbourg, Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams, David Cross (as Alan Ginsberg!), and Bruce Greenwood. The film also re-teams Haynes with Edward Lachman as cinematographer, which means that the film will be in no short supply of Haynes’s characteristic visual eloquence. -C.K.
Berlin Alexanderplatz (DVD, November): For any of you who missed out on MoMA’s glorious run of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 15 1/2 hour masterwork, this is the Criterion Collection offering you a chance to delight yourself in exuberant chromatics and one of the finest repertory company of actors ever afforded to a director. Various
legends of the Fassbinder cult are here from baby-face Hanna Schugylla to Barbara Sukowa to an incredibly fragile, brutal, yet empathetic Gunter Lamprecht. Whatever the controversy between Juliane Lorenz and Ingrid Caven at the Fassbinder Foundation may be, it isn’t reflected in this stunning restoration. Claims that the new
print is not true to Fassbinder’s intentions fail to recognize that the film’s cinematographer (and close Fassbinder compatriot) Xavier Schwarzenberger personally overlooked the restoration. -C.K.
Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair (DVD, November 6): Were any of you rather disappointed with the supplementary materials offered on the two DVDs of Quentin Tarantino’s epic? Well, luckily for us, this uncompromising practice in the aesthetics of violence will be properly provided with a four-DVD box set that will consist of both volumes as they were originally intended (a.k.a as one sweeping edition). The fact that the new rating is NC-17 leads me to believe that the Showdown at the House of Blue Leaves will be presented in its original gloriously bloody palette. -C.K.
Atonement (December 7): The smart-money early pick for the Best Picture Oscar, Atonement reunites Keira Knightley with her Pride & Prejudice director Joe Wright. While Keira Knightley never transcended pleasant bemusement or cutesy rage in the Austen film, perhaps an Ian McEwan novel will pull greatness out of her. Or perhaps we should be watching Romola Garai, a young Brit on the brink of stardom, in the pivotal role. Could be middlebrow “prestige” schlock a la Vanity Fair, but I hope it’ll be something more. -D.D.
The Walker (December 7): Paul Schrader’s films of outsiders stand somewhere in between the Hollywood sensibility of his good friend
Martin Scorsese and the grimly unrefined quest for grace and absolution that characterize Abel Ferrara. His newest work has been described as a sequel to his classic American Gigolo, yet if anything the film may be a departure from what has been expected of this most cranky of the Hollywood brats of the 70s. In this “sequel,” Woody Harrelson takes over Gere’s post, except as a walker for the
ladies who happens to be a homosexual intellectual as well. Maybe those medium-brow jerkoff shrills at the Academy may take a notice this time around to Schrader who has yet to receive an Oscar or even nomination for that matter. Yes, you read me correctly; the screenwriter of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, and director of such masterpieces as Mishima and Affliction has yet to receive a nomination. -C.K.
There Will Be Blood (December 26): A film directed by the only 90s auteur who hasn’t disappointed us (P.T. Anderson) based on an Upton Sinclair novel about the corruption in oil industry in the early 20th century starring Daniel Day-Lewis. Do we really have to give you a reason to see this one? Come on! And everyone’s favorite Paul Dano plays a preacher, swoon. -J.J.
Rumors and Hopes (Distribution Uncertain)
Daratt: Chadian filmmaker Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s tale of revenge after the announcement that war criminals shall be amnestied.
Ne touchez pas la hache: Legendary French New Wave filmmaker Jacques Rivette adapts Balzac.
Nightwatching: British auteur Peter Greenaway presents a conspiratorial look at Rembrandt’s classic painting Nightwatching.
Boarding Gate: If Olivier Assaya’s thriller about assassins plays before the close of the year it will likely cement Asia Argento’s status as one of the foremost actresses of her time. -C.K.