Hi, it's Tim. Such a great time to be a cinephile, the end of summer. Venice is in full bloom, Toronto is so close you can almost taste it, and we can finally start talking about awards hopefuls in categories other than Visual Effects and Sound Editing.
But not right now. We all know the upcoming films that we’re supposed to be excited about for their artistry (Her), their awards prospects (August: Osage County) or both (Gravity). And we all know the movies that we’re probably going to end up seeing even though there’s no reason to be excited at all (The Hobbit: Get Your Smaug On). What I’d like to talk about for the moment is all the little stuff that nobody cares about, or at least not very loudly: films that aren’t going to make much of a ripple at the awards shows, on the critics’ lists, or at the box-office, but that I, personally, am looking forward to anyway. For the filmgoer cannot live on prestige alone.
September 13: The Family
To be fair, readers of The Film Experience have better reason to be aware of this movie than the population at large, since it stars Michelle Pfeiffer as the wife of a Robert De Niro’s ex-mobster in witness protection. Even so, the film is stuck with such a lousy release date that openly begs for us to overlook it in favor of TV coming back, TIFF wrapping up on the very same weekend. It’s an uncaring date for a movie that looks like it has to deserve more than that: Pfeiffer, De Niro, and Tommy Lee Jones are all three actors worth getting excited about, and the trailers have a broad sense of humor that nevertheless seems playful more than just dumb and hammy. To be fair, nothing in Luc Besson’s career suggests that he’s a good fit for the style of comedy that the film would appear to possess, but as a palate-cleansing lark before awards season starts in earnest, his unsubtle instincts could be just about right.
October 11: Machete Kills
Robert Rodriguez’s Machete, spun out of a one-off joke in Grindhouse, was junk. Absolutely tawdry, tacky junk, with pointless violence and naked Lindsay Lohan and Jessica Alba body doubles and all. It’s also totally hilarious in its over-the-top absurdity, and while there’s certainly not one blessed thing that’s respectable about looking forward to see more of the same cartoon slapstick violence and politically nuts plotting, I am looking forward to it anyway. Few filmmakers can reliably do the “deliberately stupid to be energetic and funny” thing, and Rodriguez has proven through the years to be one of the very best at it, and whatever else is true, his mindless action-comedy should be a nice change of pace surrounded by such deeply serious films as Captain Phillips, All Is Lost, and 12 Years a Slave.
November 15: Faust
A mere two years after winning the Golden Lion at Venice, Aleksandr Sokurov’s take on the famous German legend of a scientist making a deal with the devil finally shows up in North American theaters, though I don’t imagine that anyone living outside of the biggest cities will have any chance in hell of actually seeing it that way. A pity; a most grievous pity. Sokurov (whose best-known film, Russian Ark, is also his least typical) is an unsparingly severe art house kind of filmmaker, but everything he makes is the best kind of ordeal, pushing us right up close to human beings in the grips of intense emotion. Coming off of three stories about real-life men destroyed by their grasp for power, the tetralogy-capping Faust is exactly the kind of unique take on a deliberately clear-cut plot that has made all of the director’s work some of the most brilliant and challenging in current world cinema.
November 27: Oldboy
My initial hope was to pick one movie from each remaining month of the year, but there’s not anything in there that we can plausibly call “little”, unless I want to try and sell you on the idea that I’m some kind of savvy insider for looking forward to Inside Llewyn Davis. Instead, let’s go with the Thanksgiving release of a most peculiar mix of director and subject – so peculiar that it must be worth looking forward to, whether the final results are any good or not. Spike Lee remaking a notoriously dark South Korean action movie? And with Josh Brolin? It’s hard not to have your curiosity at least slightly piqued by that, and for all that he’s prone to getting into self-serving spats that don’t do anybody good, Lee is too gifted a filmmaker to ever write him off in advance. Frankly, if we had to have an American Oldboy, I’m deeply grateful that it was made by somebody with the visual instincts and ambition of Lee, rather than just a talented fanboy who’d undoubtedly make a flavorless carbon copy?
Now it’s your turn. What unheralded fall/winter releases are you looking forward to?