From what we hear, Kevin Smith acquitted himself nicely during his stint as Roger Ebert’s film critic subsitute. Until we can get some more information, here’s a look at the promotion clip run during the week of Smith’s appearance. Big thanks to YouTube for the clip.
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As the summer film season slowly starts to fade in the still humid days of August, SE&L turns its attention to the upcoming fall parade of possible releases. Some of these titles aren’t 100% confirmed, and there is always the possibility that a studio or distributor can change their mind and pull the picture before it opens. And SE&L is not concerned with the obvious choices. You won’t find entries for Scorsese’s The Departed, Aronofsky’s The Fountain, Nolan’s The Prestige or Sean Penn in the long delayed remake of All The King’s Men. Those are standard filmgoer gimmes. No, we at PopMatters are looking for the unknown quantity, the borderline movie or moviemaker who can and will quite possibly deliver something decidedly different come autumn. So, without further ado, here is a list of the 10 films that will have our attention during the last four months of 2006:
This Film Is Not Yet Rated (1 September—NY/LA)
Ever wonder who, exactly, makes up the membership of the MPAA, those guardians of cinematic right and wrong and purveyors of the patented rating system for films? Well, so did documentarian Kirby Dick (Twist of Faith). Hoping to out the actual people behind the pronouncements, Dick lays on the standard industry thesis—violence gets a pass while nudity gets the axe—yet there is more here than just a missive about misguided values and the basic breakdown of how the Association works. Dick is also saying something about the way in which entertainment formulates social philosophy and visa versa. It’s a lesson that’s long overdue.
Science of Sleep (22 September—Limited)
With the imaginative and idiosyncratic Michel Gondry behind the camera and rising international superstar Gael García Bernal in front, this looks like—pardon the pun—a real sleeper. In this fairytale comedy about a dreamer who loses his fantasy/reality filter when he falls for a new neighbor, the standard Gondry guarantees are present—impressive visuals, joking juxtapositions and deep emotional resonance. How audiences will react to the famed filmmaker working without a Charlie Kaufman script for once (the pair previously collaborated on 2001’s Human Nature and the masterful Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) will be interesting. We at SE&L can hardly wait
Renaissance (22 September—Limited)
While some would like to call this a Parisian Sin City rip off, SE&L believes there is room enough in the cinematic universe for two black and white animated crime thrillers. While it will have a long way to go to top Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s endlessly fascinating fake film noir from last year, Renaissance appears ready to do battle. Granted, the plot sounds a little convoluted (there’s a ominous genetic engineering company at the center) with lots of speculative fiction facets, but the cartooning is indeed quite impressing. As a matter of fact, in some ways it puts the humans as drawings dynamic at work in Sin City to shame.
Infamous (13 October—Limited)
No, it’s not deja-vu all over again, or a quickie remake of a recent triumph. The story goes that writer/director Doug McGrath (Emma) was working on this version of the backstory behind In Cold Blood—based on a George Plympton book—when Capote came along. Suddenly, actors were dropping out and Oscar nominations (and awards) were being won. Now, it’s nearly a year later, and if the trailer is any indication of the overall quality, the Academy may find itself in the odd position of giving out TWO Best Actor trophies to different performers playing the same person. Toby Jones is terrific as Tru - both evil and elfin all rolled into one - and the supporting cast looks excellent. Here’s hoping for a dynamic double play.
The Queen (6 October—Limited)
How’s this for casting: Helen Mirren as the reigning Queen Elizabeth, James Cromwell as her disconnected spouse, Prince Phillip, and Underworld’s Michael Sheen as Tony Blair. With such a group of actors on board, occasional genius Stephen Frears (Dangerous Liaisons, The Grifters) has more than enough performance power to pull off this story of the UK government’s struggles while trying to find an appropriate response to the death of Princess Diana. Such meaty behind the scenes exposés usually make for good clean catty fun. Here’s hoping that Frears and his fellow Brits cut through the sermonizing and idolatry and get down to the sensitive subjects at hand—specifically the still lingering tensions between Her Majesty and the famous former daughter-in-law.
The Marine (13 October—Wide)
With a trailer so overloaded with jump cuts you’d swear the editors were suffering from epilepsy when they crafted it, The Marine marks Vince McMahon and the WWE’s entry into so-called ‘legitimate” filmmaking (along with this past May’s sloppy slasher film See No Evil). Taking a simple story—a war vet seeks revenge on the criminals who’ve kidnapped his wife—and cramming it full of as much action, gunplay and fisticuffs as possible, SE&L senses an adolescent action epic in the making. So why is such an obvious attention getter featured as part of this list. Well, even we film snobs enjoy a little escapist popcorn schlock now and then, and this one looks nice and cheesy.
Fuck (10 November—NY/LA)
What’s better than a documentary about the MPAA? How about one destined to give said designators of decency a series of substantive conniption fits. Using a format similar to the hilariously vulgar The Aristocrats, first time fact filmmaker Steve Anderson gathers together a formidable group of celebrities, everyday citizens comedians, and scholars to discuss why the F-word is so used, abused and confused. While the answers seem kind of obvious, Anderson and his interesting collection of voices promise more than just a tawdry tour through the scatological and the shocking. We can hardly f*cking wait!
For Your Consideration (17 November—Limited)
Christopher Guest is back, and this time, he’s taking on awards season itself as the focus of this promising mockumentary. Featuring the usual cast of Guest regulars (Eugene Levy, Michael McKean, Catherine O’Hara, Harry Shearer) and a few very familiar new faces (including the UK Office‘s own Ricky Gervais) the film already has impressive credentials. Add in the Oscar-like environment and this look at how the ballyhoo surrounding the yearly rush for recognition affects three unknown actors could be classic. Considering Guests previous track record, odds are that this one is equally silly—and satisfying.
Black Christmas (25 December—Wide)
There’s no better way to celebrate the yuletide with its festive sentiments of peace on earth and goodwill toward men than with a good old fashioned genre workout. While die-hards are probably foaming at the mouth over yet another horror movie update (in a true touch of irony, A Christmas Story’s Bob Clark directed the first film), Glen Morgan, the mastermind behind the fantastic Willard update from 2003 is on board. That means that, no matter the spirit of the season, we fright fans could be in for a nice, gory gift under the X-mas tree. Besides, original cast member (and SCTV alum) Andrea Martin is back—after 32 years.!
Pan’s Labyrinth (29 December—Limited)
Following in the same sensational footsteps as his previous look at war as a child’s nightmare—2001’s The Devil’s Backbone—many have called Mexican auteur Guillermo del Toro’s latest frightening fairytale his masterpiece. The preview images are astounding and the international trailer argues for an artistry not typically seen on the big screen. If anyone can pull off the complicated tonal shifts and the merging of magic with reality, it’s Del Toro. From his criminally underrated Hellboy to the best Blade of the franchise, this is one director who appears to be a single breakout film away from major commercial and critical adoration. This just may be the one.
As Colonel Kurtz whispered, “The horror…the horror…”
Just for the record:
Leno gave THUMBS UP to:
Little Miss Sunshine
The Night Listener
Leno gave THUMBS DOWN to:
Miami Vice (reason? It wasn’t enough like the ‘80s show.)
It’s official: on 31 July, Warner Brothers announced that Christopher Nolan would return to helm the sequel to his well received reimagining of the Batman saga. Entitled The Dark Knight, it also marks star Christian Bale’s return as the tortured superhero. However, the most surprising piece of information in the otherwise standard studio statement was the confirmation of one of the ‘Net’s worst kept secrets: Heath Ledger, star of last year’s Oscar hopeful Brokeback Mountain, and relative newcomer to the Hollywood A-list, would walk into the shoes formerly worn by Caesar Romero and Jack Nicholson. That’s right; Ledger has landed the plum role of supervillain The Joker, crazed comic counterpart to Bruce Wayne’s brooding crime fighter.
With production set to begin sometime in early 2007, there is still time, however, for Warners and Nolan to rethink this position. Sure, all the contracts have been signed and the PR machine is already gearing up, but one can still envision a quick casting change, especially when considering what the role would look like in the hands of a better suited star. In all honesty, Ledger may be terrific. His recent efforts in films like Lords of Dogtown and Casanova have won him an amazing amount of industry respect, and when you add the Best Actor nod for Mountain, his hiring seems wise from both a performance and fiscal standpoint.
But there are other actors who could equally fill this villain’s natty purple suit – and they wouldn’t have near the homophobic baggage that has already resulted in some horrendously tasteless messageboard joking. Here is a short list of possible substitutes should Ledger – or his employers – get a case of comic book geek cold feet.
In a perfect world, this incredibly gifted – and granted, eccentric - actor would be turning down offers instead of plying his perverse persona in such off-radar Indie fare as Simon Sez and a Wizard of Gore (???) remake. He’s proven his mantle as both a straight (Back to the Future) and surreal (Wild at Heart) presence, and even showed his action movie mantle by twice wielding a sword at Charlie’s able Angels. While age may be a factor (Glover’s in his mid 40s vs. Ledger’s late 20s) his work in 2003’s Willard redux indicates that no one can do determined dementia like David Letterman’s favorite talk show guest.
Though many in geekdom have already designated Law as the go to guy whenever the freshened franchise gets around to adding The Riddler to the mix. There’s a better argument to be made for this fine formal actor as the killer clown. Constantly shrouded in a good guy gloss, Law could stand getting his perfect cheekbones and supermodel looks messed up for a down and dirty stab at essaying Batman’s nemesis. Sure, it may be a stretch to think of Gigolo Joe, or the updated Alfie as the manic murderous harlequin, but acting is about challenge, and right about now, Law could use one.
He’s got the range. He’s got the look. And he’s got the prestige of both an Oscar and a turn opposite the world’s largest simian spectacle on his side. All Brody needs is a chance to prove that he’s more than just a surprise beneficiary of the Academy’s desire to celebrate the wayward Roman Polanski and he could be giggling away in psychotic glee. Though his career path both pre and post The Pianist has seen more peaks and valleys that an expedition into the Himalayas, the opportunity to play the Dark Knight’s white faced archenemy could be the focus his fading star status desperately needs.
After three consecutive films playing the bland bright spot - Obi Wan Kenobi - in George Lucas’s career killers, McGregor could use a bit of a goodwill boost. Sure, he’s got more projects under his belt, and on the horizon, than anyone else on this list (he’s got seven films already in production or preparing to start) but unless he finds an antidote to the mind-numbing awfulness of the Star War’s prequels, McGregor may be looking at a lifetime signing autographs at sci-fi conventions. While taking on the Joker may seem like a step backward into the same old greenscreen routine, it’s actually a way of balancing out the groan-inducing good of a galaxy far, far away with some incredibly bad ass evildoing.
Talk about taking the series full circle – why not give the original big screen Batman a chance to channel his own inner demons. Sure, Keaton’s in his mid-50s and is therefore probably too old to convincingly star alongside the toned and twee Bale, but there is something rather intriguing about seeing the man who many thought incapable of playing Bob Kane’s cracked champion take a turn at bringing the Bat’s best known antagonist to life. Let’s fact it - anyone who can stare down the deranged Method madness of Jack Nicholson, and come out the crazier, deserves a shot at embodying the Joker’s jolly jaundice.
Ever since the Lumiere Brothers mystified audiences with their amazing “moving images”, film has been a confounding, creative force in modern entertainment. The visuals contained inside that bright light emanating from the little window in the back of the theater have frightened and freed us, saddened and saved us. They provide the comedy and choreography that help us escape in times of trouble, while dramatizing issues and events that keep reality and its innumerable variables in proper perspective. Cinema has been so influential, defining our sense of fashion and romance, our concept of thrills and pageantry that it’s no longer a diversion, but a deciding factor in everyday life. And it’s not just a Western conceit—movies literally make the world go round, from the fascinating frenzy of India’s Bollywood to Asia’s current cultural focus on horror, crime, and violence.
PopMatters wants its new blog, Short Ends and Leader, to act as a daily dialogue on the role film plays in our personal and pragmatic existence. Relying on our staff of astute contributors, we hope to offer unique perspectives on the industry—in our Front Page news and Hollywood Babylon gossip sections—movies as art—via the Depth of Field think piece section and our take on classic films, Past Perfect—as well as a glimpse into elements outside the mainstream featured in The Other. In addition, our regular Short Cuts section will highlight theatrical films that you may have missed, forgotten gems that deserve another look, and those horribly addictive guilty pleasures that satisfy something primordial in our otherwise ‘astute’ approach to amusement. Add in weekly guides to what’s new on DVD (Who’s Minding the Store), and films worth catching on the small screen (Viewer Discretion Advised) and you have a comprehensive forum for the discussion, and dissection, of movies and their meaning.
This conversation is not exclusive however, and strives to include as many divergent voices and opinions as possible. The Short Ends and Leader blog will always be open to input—from sources inside the magazine, the business of show and amongst our readership as well. Let us know what you think, what interests or bothers you, what aspects of film are over considered and/or under appreciated. After all, a dialogue is only effective when both sides are communicating. Short Ends and Leader will always be more than happy to start things off. The rest will be up to you.
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