With a Bang: PopMatters Fall 2011 Preview

So far, 2011 has been a pretty mediocre movie year. Of course, this appears to be the argument that everyone makes every year. Critics complain about January through April and then kvetch even more over the dire dumping ground of September. They argue over the value of an overhyped summer movie season and pray that the last few months before the Oscars offer up something remotely redeeming. Most of the time, it happens. Best of lists compiled at the end of August end up overhauled and almost unrecognizable come 31 December while studios continue the shell game, convinced that the vast majority of the movie going public like it that way.

Are they right? Maybe. We don’t really seem to mind that our entertainment year is divided up into crap and classics. We complain about the lack of quality at our local cineplex, but tend to balk big time when an arthouse entry tries to sneak its way into the pure popcorn. Over the last few months, much has been made over the Best Picture viable of such early entries as The Help and Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. Some have even suggested that bloated blockbusters like Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, have a shot at Academy accolades. The truth, however, is a bit more intriguing. By the time Santa comes to gift us out of our respective failing fantasies, assumptions will end up as asinine.

History has told us that the Fall truly delivers each season’s best, but the question in 2011 is, will that still be the case? Over the next four months we will see our fair share of commercial pandering (Real Steel? Adam Sandler’s Jack and Jill?) but we will also see obvious attempts like The Debt, Carnage, Ides of March, J Edgar, and the return of Steven Spielberg with War Horse. Twilight inflicts its bifurcated beginning of the end on the faithful, while remakes and prequels — Straw Dogs, Footloose, The Thing — make cinematic nostalgia almost nauseating. Early buzz is bolstering the Rocky meets MMA feel of Warrior and Gary Oldman’s turn in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy, while pundits have complained that trailers for Dream House and Contagion give away the entire plot.

Of course, whenever you have someone like David Fincher pushing the public’s buttons by calling his anticipated adaptation of the brilliant The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo “The Feel Bad Movie of Christmas”, you’re bound to go out with a bang. Indeed, over the next few months, we will revisit 9/11, see more scatology than humans should suffer through, enjoy overly earnest period pieces and wallow through subdued, somber dramas. From trequels and series start-ups to the “who asked for them” imports (Johnny English Reborn? Really?), the last few weeks of the movie year are never really dull. Unfortunately, with the way in which Hollywood manipulates the creative calendar of late, they are becoming definitive and determinative.

Bill Gibron

PopMatters