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

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.