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Feast or Famine: The 2009 PopMatters Fall Movie Preview

Today: December 2009: The big guns—James Cameron, Clint Eastwood, Peter Jackson, Terrence Malik—are still putting the finishing touches on their over the top treats. As usual, it looks like the Hollywood heavyweights are once again saving some of the best for last.

When Mame Dennis exclaimed, “life is a banquet and most poor sons-of-bitches are starving to death” in the classic musical that bears her name, she could have easily been referencing the current state of cinema. Every year, Hollywood puts on one Hell of a spread—exotic foreign imports, mainstream meat and potato titles, pure popcorn fun and overdone eye candy, syrupy kid vid sweeties, and lush, gunning-for-awards gourmet treat—hoping the audience will indulge and eat up. Laid out over 12 months like courses on a complicated buffet, some dishes demand more attention than others, while some appear appetizing but end up tasting like trash. Not every entrée is a winner, while some are flat out awful. In between are the rarities—the rapturous masterpieces, the surprisingly satisfying sleepers, the rotten, rancid flops. Sadly, most customers to this annual feast fail to fully appreciate the variety and array of options. To them, it’s either feast or famine, all or nothing from a cleverly marketed entertainment standpoint.

That’s where PopMatters’ 2009 Fall Preview comes in. Consider it a menu if you will, a handy guide to the possible pleasures, and pitfalls, of “dining out” over the next few months… and what an unusual collection of cinematic cuisines it is. September promises the usual summer leftovers with a couple of stand out starters, including a post-apocalyptic sci-fi allegory from producer Tim Burton, the latest from Oscar winner Diablo Cody, another Tyler Perry treat, and a couple of bloating, big budget actioners. October weans us off such proposed junk food by finding Spike Jonze tackling a kid lit classic, Viggo Mortenson delivering Cormac McCarthy’s famed Pulizter Prize winning future shock saga, Lars Von Trier trying his Dogme ‘95 hand at horror, and other seasonal scarefests. By November, the prime cuts are present, possible year-end favorites from Rob Marshall and Pedro Almodóvar, while December delivers similarly styled dishes from Peter Jackson, James Cameron, and Terry Gilliam.

All in all, it looks like a scrumptious smorgasbord, a filmic feast where every taste is catered to and all avenues of repast refreshment are tempted. Certainly, there will be offerings that don’t satisfy. In fact, some are destined to leave you starving. And when you go beyond the chains, the diners, drive-ins, and dives that typically get your hard earned celluloid bucks, the Ala Carte selections may inspire your sense of adventure. Just remember to pace yourself. Unlike hot dogs or blueberry pies, competitive consumption of films, aimlessly engulfing whatever comes down the weekly queue with reckless aesthetic swelling abandon is never a good thing. Indeed, you may wind up feeling overly full before the true meal begins. On the other hand, this is no time for a diet. Like Mame Dennis suggests, staying hungry when there is such a wealth of possible wonders to choose from renders you worthy of ridicule. Whether it be a banquet or a bust, the Fall of 2009 will definitely serve up some interesting fare. 

—Bill Gibron

Thursday, September 10 2009

Part Four: December 2009

At last, dessert, with just a few more entrees tossed in to satisfy those coming late to the table. The big guns -- James Cameron, Clint Eastwood, Peter Jackson, Terrence Malik -- are still putting the finishing touches on their over the top treats, hoping that viewers will appreciate the care and craftsmanship that went into each one. As usual, it looks like the Hollywood heavyweights are once again saving some of the best for last.

Wednesday, September 9 2009

Part Three: November 2009

Finally, it's time for the main courses, the big dishes that may leave a lasting impact come end of the year entertainment evaluations. Sure, there's some junk food included for the less mature mindset; a second helping of romantic vampire dross and an over the top world ending banquet that may just be more appealing to audiences than some of the high class cooking present.

Tuesday, September 8 2009

Part Two: October 2009

The banquet continues to get bigger during this equally elephantine cinematic salad course. Everything, from another unnecessary helping of serial killer Jigsaw to a pair of takes on two famous literary classics turn up this month. So do the standard spook shows, Romcoms, stunt spectaculars, and other familiar (if often tasty) samples of celluloid cuisine.

Monday, September 7 2009

Part One: September

Our spread starts off with a collection of cast-offs, creative risks, and the contractually obligated releases. While there may be a substantial helping of something entertaining during this hefty four-week first course, don't be put off by such a portion size. To paraphrase an old saying, too many mediocre movies can definitely spoil the season-ing.

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