Movies get better in the fall, mainly because award season is right around the corner, and studios want their films to still be in critics’ consciousness when their Oscar ballots arrive. The whole let’s-just-wait-and-release-all-the-good-movies-from-October-to-December thing has actually gotten so out of hand that it’s almost shocking when a good movie comes out at any other point during the year (this is especially true for dramas). In fact, aside from a couple of superhero movies (The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers) and Rian Johnson’s excellent Looper, I wasn’t very impressed by any movie I saw this year (until I saw The Master, which was impressive – in a literal sense, and in a lot of ways).
Anyway, the good stuff is finally getting here, and just like I spent all my time and money in September on buying and listening to new albums, it looks like I’ll be forking over for a whole bunch of movies between now and the end of the year. Here’s a look at what’s caught my eye.
When I first heard that this movie existed, I just assumed they’d cancel the Oscars next year and give everybody a shot in 2014. I think everyone actually had this same reaction. I mean, Spielberg, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Mr.-everyone’s-favorite-president-to-biographize (new word – you’re welcome)? Done deal.
There’s an episode of Seinfeld where Jerry lies about having seen Schindler’s List (he was making out with his girlfriend instead) after his parents implore him to go see it. “You have to, Jerry!” they say. A lot of Spielberg’s movies end up being talked about this way. In addition to Schindler’s List, you’ve got Saving Private Ryan, and – to a lesser degree, admittedly – Munich. These movies feel important, and what’s more, the movies themselves seem to be aware of how big a deal they’re supposed to be. This isn’t necessarily a good thing. (In Munich’s case, the movie seemed weighed down by it’s own (self) importance.)
Even if I didn’t want to see Lincoln (how definitive the title makes it sound!), and I do, I’d feel to some degree like I have to see it. Some of the early reviews suggest that it feels more like a history lesson on one event rather than a dynamic picture of a great man, but I have a hard time believing Day-Lewis alone won’t be worth the price of admission alone.
Yes! More one-word, last-name titles, please.
Hitchcock is my favorite director, and so I was a little skeptical when I first heard this movie was getting made. The trailer put many of my fears to rest. Hopkins looks like he’s going to kill it as Hitch, Helen Mirren seems perfectly sardonic and a great foil to Hitch’s hubris and desperation, and the story behind the making of Psycho is as interesting as any film in the great director’s oeuvre.
I’ve read two Hitchcock biographies, as well as the book-length interview Hitch did with French New Wave groundbreaker Francois Truffaut (hence the reason I pretentiously refer to Alfred Hitchcock as Hitch, as though I knew him personally), so it will take a pretty sterling performance from Hopkins to match the image already created by the tons of anecdotes I’ve read about his life. He has to be the perfect combination of mischievous, deranged, funny, arrogant, and childish to pull it off. I’m really hoping he makes it happen.
Silver Linings Playbook
Director David O. Russell doesn’t have a particularly prolific resumé (two movies in the last eight years – the hilarious I Heart Huckabees and the simultaneously grim and inspirational The Fighter, for which Christian Bale deservedly took home his first Oscar), but his is a name I’m always glad to hear attached to a new project. Silver Linings Playbook (starring Kentuckian Jennifer Lawrence, the un-douchey version of Bradey Cooper, and Robert De Niro’s reanimated corpse) looks like it cement Russell as one of the greats of his generation.
The big question for me, though, is will Bradley Cooper use his powers for good, or for evil? Let me elaborate: I hate Cooper’s character in The Hangover (who’s about as three dimensional as his character in Wedding Crashers), and I get the uneasy sensation that the smarmy, cynical heartthrob role comes pretty easily to Cooper. So easily, in fact, that if he isn’t careful he’ll pull a Matthew McConaughey and spend most of the next fifteen years playing slight variations of himself. (McConaughey had a similar fork-in-the-road moment in 1996 right after A Time to Kill, but instead of becoming one of the next great leading men, he just ended up doing about half a dozen really derivative romantic comedies. Booo!)
In SLP, Cooper looks to be stretching himself a little. Hopefully it’s a sign of things to come. It’d be a real shame if he ended up in Failure to Launch 2 five years from now.
I’m not gonna lie: I love Quentin Tarantino’s movies. All of them, even Death Proof, which is terrible in about ten different ways and awesome if fifteen others (starting with the cameo of the sheriff and his son from Kill Bill!). I just want you to know up front that I’m not even going to pretend that I’m being objective in any sense here.
Let’s start with a list: Leonardo DiCaprio, Christoph Waltz, Jamie Foxx, Samuel L. Jackson (back, finally), Jonah Hill, and Don effing Johnson. Those first three are all Oscar winners, Sam Jackson never disappoints when he’s teamed up with QT (I think the voice inside Tarantino’s head is Jackson’s, which explains why he writes dialogue that sounds perfect coming out of Sam’s mouth), Jonah Hill showed us he can act in Moneyball, and Don Johnson is the latest member of the John Travolta Memorial Career Revival Club (other members: Pam Grier, David Carradine).
Inglorious Basterds showed us what QT’s unique sensibilities look like when applied liberally to historical action, and it was fantastic. I can’t wait to see DiCaprio’s deranged plantation owner (Leo’s a great actor, but Tarantino looks to have brought out a lunatic playfulness that we haven’t yet seen from him) dialogue with Waltz’s bounty hunter. Bold prediction: this will be Tarantino’s best since Pulp Fiction.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
I don’t know what more there is to say about Peter Jackson’s long gestating attempt to get The Hobbit made into
a film three films, but I can say this: I can’t wait to be back in Middle-Earth. Lord of the Rings was my generation’s Star Wars, it redefined what was possible onscreen, it made eleventy-billion dollars and won a ton of awards, but none of that will be going through my head when I sit down around Christmas time and hear the opening notes of the “Shire Theme.”
When I said I didn’t know what more there is to say about this movie, I wasn’t lying. If you liked LotR, you’ll probably like The Hobbit. Other than that, I can only tell you watch the trailer and salivate until Christmas.