Alien invasions, animation, old school laughs, and innovation are all on deck
I'm almost done looking back at 2010, and at the same time, I've already begun to look forward to 2011. Greg Ellwood and I put together a look at 30 of the most anticipated films for next year, but in doing so, there were many more that we ended up cutting that are still worth anticipating. If you reach January 1st and you're already excited about more than 30 films, that's great. But you factor in at least 30 more that I'm curious about, and I'd say we're starting off 2011 in a very good place.
There were some big titles we didn't include in the preview gallery, including "Pirates Of The Carribbean: On Stranger Tides," "Transformers: The Dark Of The Moon," and "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol," and that's mainly because typing those three titles out in full takes seven and a half hours. Good god, 2011 is the year of the big giant sequel subtitle, evidently. And while I find it hard to get wildly excited about part four of much of anything at this point, each of those has something that's got me intrigued. I'm curious if they can reinvent the "Pirates" franchise with Sparrow at the center instead of supporting the main story. I'm curious to see if Michael Bay's use of 3D sends more people to the hospital than the "127 Hours" arm scene. And I'm curious to see what Brad Bird does in live-action, and how many more tall buildings they can find to hang Tom Cruise off of.
We'll hide the name under the fold in case you want to be surprised
I'm of mixed mind about reporting this, and so I want to give you an opportunity to make up your own mind about how much you want to know, so you can enjoy what is obviously meant to be a surprise in the upcoming film "Thor."
And, yes, I know I'm the guy who reported that Samuel L. Jackson was playing Nick Fury on the exact same morning he was shooting his top-secret cameo. I know I've spoiled my share of surprises.
To be fair, I didn't realize quite how they were working him into the film, and I didn't know it was going to be the kicker after the credits or that they'd even keep it out of the press screenings to try to preserve some sort of surprise. Since then, I've realized that a lot of the tiny connective threads from one film to the next are designed as surprises, and I'm reluctant to ruin all of them for viewers before they have a chance to see a film.
In this case, "Thor" is coming out this May, and The Wrap has broken the story about who you'll see in that film making their very first Marvel Universe appearance. They did a nice job of tracing the rumor from the start to finish, confirming it via someone who they say has seen a cut of the movie. I just sort of wish they didn't give it away in the headline. Makes it hard to miss, even if you're trying.
If you don't want to know who I'm talking about, go ahead and bail out now. I won't hold it against you.
Ambitious visual plan makes this a must-see at Park City
Now that I'm actually spending time digging into the Sundance website to read all the entries on all the films, I'm starting to get excited about the line-up.
That's the way it almost always is with a festival. There are titles that jump out at first, titles that get interesting as you read about them, and titles that you'll never see coming that will blindside you. I just accept that and do my legwork ahead of time and roll the dice. Sometimes you see the films that really are worth seeing, sometimes you miss something special, and it's all part of the game you play when you're covering these events.
It helps when a film has a number of things about it that are immediately compelling, and that's the case with the latest addition to the line-up, just announced this morning in an e-mail to the press.
I quite like the film "Open Water" by Chris Kentis and Laura Lau. It's a simple premise, but the execution is what made it particularly effective. Their new film sounds like an experiment, and if they pull it off, it could be remarkable. "Silent House" stars Elizabeth Olsen as a woman "trapped in an unnerving nightmare."
And here's the kicker… the film is one long continuous camera shot. One.
How much of the spirit of Jacques Tati survives in this animated fable?
I did not grow up with the films of Jacques Tati.
I did, however, grow up with a healthy appreciation of silent comedy. I saw my first Chaplin and Keaton films when I was very young, and as long as I've been a film fan, I've had images of Harold Lloyd and Laurel and Hardy in my head. I fell in love with French films in general through Truffaut, my particular Gallic gateway drug. Even so, Tati was not part of my vocabulary.
When I started working at Dave's Video, a laserdisc-only store in the San Fernando Valley, it was the early 90s, and it was Criterion who introduced me to Tati's work. "Jour de fete," "Mr. Hulot's Holiday," "Mon Oncle," "Play Time," and "Trafic" were a revelation, the work of a filmmaker who has obviously absorbed the lessons of the silent era of comedy only to bring a new voice to that style. His films weren't, strictly speaking, silent, but he was a purely visual storyteller. His Mr. Hulot character is as indelible a creation as Chaplin's Little Tramp, and the real testament to how strong Tati's work is may be the influence he had with only nine films to his name.
Even today, Tati is not a name I hear referenced often in American film, and I'm not sure what level of awareness there is of these great lovely films he made with younger film viewers, if any. Right now, you can see "Play Time" on Netflix Watch Instantly, so if you want to get a taste of what his work was like, that's a good place to start. It would be a great way to warm up for a viewing of the new film, "The Illusionist," but not essential.
A full hour of unapologetic comedy fandom as we bid this legend farewell
In addition to a regular podcast this week, Scott and I decided to record a special tribute to Blake Edwards.
I know I published my own tribute to him last week, called "Seven Things Blake Edwards Taught Me," but this was also a conversation I wanted to have with Scott. When we first met back in '86, we were at that age where we were using VHS to mainline movies, learning about directors and actors by watching whole filmographies. We used to star in an on-camera movie review show on our high school's closed-circuit TV channel, and one of the movies we reviewed in our first season was "That's Life." At this point, that's become a missing Blake Edwards movie, pretty much forgotten and not really in circulation.
For someone who knows Edwards's work and who knows something about his life, "That's Life" is a mess, but it's also very revealing and nakedly autobiographical. To a sixteen year old who only really knew the "Pink Panther" films and "Victor/Victoria," it was nearly incomprehensible. Like many of the films we reviewed back then, we just weren't equipped to make sense of what we were watching.
Now, years later, Scott and I have over 20 years of shared Blake Edwards fandom between us, and we've had conversation after conversation about various films of his and aspects of those films and aspects of his filmmaking. I wanted to try to preserve some of that and communicate some of the love that we have for his work
Can an online library replace physical media completely?
It does not remotely surprise me to see a trends piece in the Wall Street Journal (I'd link to it, but it's behind a paywall, so what's the point?) about Blu-ray sales finally starting to convince the industry that people might actually want physical media still.
Well, duh. I've been saying that in print during this entire digital explosion, and people have spent a lot of time and energy telling me how wrong I am. "No way. Everything will be streaming in the future." While I believe that streaming media is a major part of the marketplace at this point, I don't believe it's ever going to replace physical media completely, and I'm tired of being told that it will.
As a result, I've been guilty in my own way of being willfully blind to a bit part of the industry. I have enough movies here in the house that I don't see much need to rent, particularly if it involves driving somewhere or mailing something. I'll rent PS3 games from GameFly, but that's because I'm tired of paying $60 to play something for eight hours. I rarely play a game a second time after I beat it, and the price point doesn't make enough sense to me on most titles. With movies, I rewatch them, and I keep them so I can share them with others.
I decided to finally try out some of the various digital rental services for myself. I rented a movie from iTunes. I rented a few movies from the Playstation Network's rental service. Finally, a little over a week ago, I signed up for Netflix's Watch Instantly service through the PS3.
From a little-seen Rob Reiner film to the year's most acclaimed drama, what just missed the list?
If this was my top ten list for 2010, I could walk away a happy man.
Instead, these are the ten films that almost made my main list, and to me, this just shows what a good year 2010 was. I wouldn't knock a single one of these films. I would happily watch any of them right now. I would recommend every one of them to film fans. It's just that when you're making lists, something gets left off, and I feel bad enough in the case of these eleven films (yes, I have a tie this year… sue me) that I wanted to make sure they got their own list, their own spotlight, their own special praise.
The crazy thing is I think I could do a runners-up runners-up list this year as well. There were a lot of films worth seeing if you went looking for them.
Let's start with #20 on my overall list, and we'll build to the movie that almost cracked the top ten. Remember, these are the films I saw that qualified for consideration for these lists this year, and these are the films I didn't see. With that in mind, my runners-up, the next ten best:
It took adapting a novel by Wendelin Van Draanen for Rob Reiner to find his voice for the first time in 20 years, and the result is a sweet, unusually clear-eyed piece about the way we find our moral compass in life. The structure of the picture bounces between the perspectives of Juli Baker (Madeline Carroll) and Bryce Loski (Callan McAuliffe), kids who grow up across the street from each other. From the moment they meet, Juli is smitten, but Bryce resists her interest with everything he's got. It's only as they get older and they begin to come into focus as people that Bryce begins to notice what a genuinely interesting and special person Juli is, just as she's starting to realize there may be nothing special about Bryce at all. Both Carroll and McAuliffe give mature and honest performances, and they are supported by a great adult cast including Rebecca De Mornay, Anthony Edwards, Penelope Anne Miller, Aidan Quinn, and the great John Mahoney as the one family member who sees through Bryce and who dares to challenge him on the man he could become.
Comedy and horror are heading to Park City in January
I got an early Christmas present in my e-mail inbox this morning, my press credentials for Sundance 2011. I'm looking forward to my time in the snow, as I do every year, and we're starting to talk to publicists about our schedule, lining up time to meet filmmakers, and even looking at the screening schedule.
There are titles that I'm already sure I'll be seeing at the festival, and we're starting to see synopses and photos and, in a few cases, trailers for the movies that we're going to try to stack into our week in Park City. The two trailers that landed online today are totally different in tone, and both are titles that I'm guessing get a lot coverage at the festival.
"Cedar Rapids" is a Fox Searchlight release that's launching at Sundance, a new comedy from the director of "Youth In Revolt," "The Good Girl," and "Chuck and Buck." It's got a pretty recognizable cast, too, with Sigourney Weaver, John C. Reilly, Alia Shawkat, Anne Heche, Rob Corddry, Stephen Root, Kurtwood Smith, Thomas Lennon, Mike Birbiglia, Isiah Whitlock Jr., and of course, Ed Helms, who is front and center for this one.
Just based on the trailer, it's the art-house "Hangover," with Helms playing a guy who is sent to a convention for insurance agents, where he proceeds to go totally mental for a few days, earning himself two bags of honey-roasted peanuts. I'll say this… seeing Clay Davis make a "Wire" joke is just plain weird:
From subversive foreign horror to family animation, it's been a great year
We decided to do things differently this year, and I am so pleased we did.
I grew up watching Siskel and Ebert in their various shows, and one of my favorite times of the year was the big end of the year show as they would count down their top ten. I would be outraged in different ways by each, vindicated in some ways by each, and I found it to be a blast each and every time.
At Ain't It Cool, I always did a top ten list in print, and even though we've been playing with audio podcasting here at HitFix and I'm doing way more video interviews than ever, the idea of a video top ten never occurred to me. It was Greg Ellwood's idea for the year, and so far, we've seen Alan Sepinwall and Melinda Newman offer up video lists for the things that meant the most to them this year.
Today, it's my turn, and I love the way Alex Dorn edited this piece. I think 2010 was a great year of movies, and this feels like a piece that sums up what I'll most remember about this year, what resonated the most with me. The first time I tried recording the voice-over, it was over 11 minutes long, so I had to edit on the fly as I recorded it the second time. I thought I'd print the full text I wrote out so you can refer to the list here after you check out the video piece.
Keep in mind... I consider everything that I saw in a theater or at a festival eligible. I have to. Release dates are so strange, and so different around the world, that there's no way to treat it all as the same "year". These are the ten films that meant the most to me this year as a viewer, and if something here isn't out where you are yet, then hopefully you'll get the chance to see it soon.
Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning take their father/daughter act on the road in style
Sofia Coppola seems to exist to enrage people to an unreasonable degree.
When "The Godfather Part III" opened in 1990, I was managing a movie theater, and I heard the open hostility that some audiences had for her, hostility that they walked into the theater with because of the way the press treated her. It was such a big media story, with Winona Ryder dropping out and Coppola stepping in, and people were so incredibly unkind to her before the film even opened that it felt almost pre-determined. I like her work in that film. I think she's a very unaffected, natural Mary, and her inexperience in front of the camera actually made it more piercing at the end of the film.
1999 was an amazing year of film, and I would rank "The Virgin Suicides" among the very best of the movies that came out that year. In it, Coppola established a voice as a filmmaker that, upon reflection, seems to have already been firmly established with "Life Without Zoe," the segment of "New York Stories" that she wrote, and "Lick The Star," a great little short film about a bunch of mean girls. For her first feature, Coppola tackled a difficult piece of source material, the Jefrey Eugenides novel, and found a way to make a film that felt like broadcasts from inside these characters. Her use of music and perspective and her refusal to fill in the narrative around the dreamlike structure she built made "Virgin Suicides" a sensory experience that lingered.