The PopMatters Fall Movie Preview: A Season of Musts

Bill Gibron

PopMatters provides a pertinent point of reference to all the upcoming cinematic sprawl. Instead of giving just a basic breakdown on all the movies in the mix, we've decided to offer a little well-considered guidance too.

Okay fall, you've definitely got your work cut out for you. After a less than impressive spring at the Cineplex, and an equally sloppy summer full of subpar product, it's all up to you. Your task this year is even more daunting than in the past. Usually we film fans rely on you to provide the window into cinema's artistic soul; to prove that the previous months of ineffectual flops, overdone eye candy and pleasing popcorn fodder actually add up to something substantive in the overall milieu. But this time around, you have the added prospect of saving the entire year from being one big fat bust. Oh sure, the so-called 'slump' has long since vanished, the effect of Mel Gibson and his Passion being resigned now to a more contentious, racial arena. But nothing released in 2006 has really gone on to spur the imagination and capture to cultural consciousness the way Batman Begins did in 2005, or Fahrenheit 9/11 the year before. Even the overwhelming response to the Pirates of the Caribbean sequel was weighed out against the critical yawn over the film's effectiveness. When making money is no longer a sign of a movie's major viability, you know you're in some manner of trouble.

So there you have it, fall season. Between now and 31 December, you will offer up hundreds of films. Some will be backed by major studios and feature above the marquee stars. Others will be helmed by indie minded individuals hoping to sneak one by the bean counters. A few will play in limited engagements, hoping to generate a little end of the year awards worth before moving on to a wider winter release. Others will simply play their motion picture hand all at once, hoping to lance financial lightning and consumer confidence with such an all or nothing strategy. The fall film season is indeed an odd combination of summer's commercial concerns and Oscar aesthetic mandates. And now this time around it has to, nay MUST, make up for Superman's substandard performance, V for Vendetta's lack of electricity and United 93's avoidance by audiences. With this Fall Movie Preview, PopMatters provides a pertinent point of reference to all the upcoming cinematic sprawl. Instead of giving just a basic breakdown on all the movies in the mix, we've decided to offer a little well-considered guidance too. In this Season of Musts, there are definitely films that you Must See, a few that you Must Wait on, a few that you Must Rent and a callous couple that one Must Avoid at all costs. With over 64 titles considered, this list is barely comprehensive, and someone's own Must See may be missing from consideration.

But this is no longer personal, people. The Fall must make up for a previously mediocre eight months at the movies. Starting with September, here's what's at stake for the rest of 2006:





The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".


Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".


Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.


Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.


The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".


Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.


Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

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