Hello, reader, scroller, or blog explorer. I see you have found my blog. It has been an anomaly, a dream turning over in the back of my mind for months (possibly years, I do not remember) and I have decided, with the new year now a reality, that it is time for it to become a tangible reality to unleash onto the world. Here you will find reviews, thoughts, and pontificating exported from the nooks and corners of the folds of my brains. Film, literature, and possibly food will be emphasized. Please enjoy.
Wow. What a year.
This past year has been a plethora of surprises (The Spectacular Now), disappointments (The Bling Ring, To The Wonder), controversies (that one that was released on Christmas with that one famous actor), and heart (Monsters University), as well as many interesting movies that I have yet to see because they never came to my town and/or have been held back to compete in the midst of Awards Season (the list would be too long for a parenthetical statement).But 2013 is in the past, and, after several moments of convincing from my fellow cinephile friend, I will look upon it with a smile as one of the more exciting years in film in recent memory, joining the ranks of 1999, 2007, and the year before, 2012.
But as 2012 had its thrills via Looper and Argo (among others), and as 2013 had its memorable works in American Hustle and Mud, 2014 maybe the bookend to a trilogy. I, of course, am not talking about The Hobbit trilogy. Contrary to some naysayers, we are in a great time to be fans and matinee goers. And, even only one week into the new year, we can speculate that we have a lot to look forward to over the next 51 weeks.
Here are my most anticipated films of 2014.
1. Inherent Vice
The Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Writer: Anderson (adapted from the Thomas Pynchon novel)
The Players: Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Katherine Waterson, Benicio Del Toro, Jena Malone, Reese Witherspoon
Paul Thomas Anderson. Say no more.
Besides my semi-fanboy dedication to the man and his work, there are many reasons to be excited about this film. Six films in, we can surely call Anderson a man to keep an eye on, a bull in a China shop, unpredictable but never uninteresting; evolving and maturing throughout his career, but starting out as an interesting artist above many others with more experience. His early films were a conglomerate of Scorsesean freneticism, Altmanesque human ensemble drama, and Max Ophuls’s restless camera. He gave us the best Sandler movie ever, and a dark Kubrickian drama that, like a good John Ford film, dripped with American blood. 2012’s divisive-yet-respected The Master avoided all expectations thrown upon it as a shallow and nasty “expose” of Scientology and gave us a compelling, thoughtful look at postwar America and the identity crisis that plagued it.
So what can we expect from the next film, Inherent Vice? I do not want to guess too soon. The text it has inspired is there for speculation, separating it from his earlier films; it involves a kidnapping plot, a stoner private investigator (Phoenix) nicknamed “Doc,” a brutish crooked cop who nicknamed “Bigfoot” (I can already say Brolin’s casting as the character is what I would’ve had in mind) who enjoys chocolate-covered bananas, and a Raymond Chandler-meets-Hunter S. Thompson psychedelic noir escapade. But even if it may fall into an established genre, albeit one with a clever twist, Anderson’s stylistic choices are not going to be easy to anticipate clearly, not this early. Will he return to the fast-paced, frenetic and disoriented pow pow pow of his early films (minus Sydney)? Will he continue further down that abstract, atmospheric road he has been with his latest films? Read the book if you wish to give me the answer, but it could go either way and still be coherent.
One thing can be speculated: Anderson wants to surprise us. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
2. The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Director: Wes Anderson
The Players: See every other Wes Anderson movie, take the standouts from each movie’s cast, shed Luke Wilson, add a young Indian actor named Tony Revolori, and Ralph Fiennes, and you’ll have the cast for this film.
(NOTE: this choice is not an excuse to tease, and I confess, my own type of people, hipsters. But I will anyway.)
My second favorite filmmaker with the surname “Anderson” (and one of my top 10 favorites overall) happens to know my birthday (March 12th) because he’s releasing his latest film five days before, on the 7th. While David Bowie was very kind last year to release his album The Next Day on the day of my birthday, I consider Wesley’s gift more gratifying as it leaves me, famously non-punctual, from hanging onto the fringes of long lines, waiting in line to purchase a snack (most likely candy to compliment the color that can be expected from this film), sitting at the mercy of a seven-foot-seven moviegoer in front of me who went because of Owen Wilson and Bill Murray, but can’t quite “get” offbeat and detached hipster-happy genre-spectacle before him. Even worse, to my left and to my right would no doubt be a myriad of hipster-couples whispering in a way that they HOPE moviegoers around them will notice, full of pseudo-film-savvy (“an oh-mahzj to Rohmer, no doubt?” “haha, I see that Godard/Truffaut echo there, Wes, you thought I wouldn’t notice?”). Please, no.
Instead, Wes will be giving me his colorful and fantastic-looking candy-coated adventure, full of strange and unique characters, a couple days after a probable hellish opening night (and a night in which I will avoid travelling to Portland or Austin). This hue-filled aesthetic will service a dark plot involving a hotel concierge and his faithful bellhop assistant (surely Gene “Royal” Hackman can make an appearance? *snicker* sorry, just a little reference) who try to shake off the concierge’s framing of the murder of a wealthy woman. This will, no doubt, be filled with dry, subtle humor (a.k.a. the kind of humor you don’t gaffaw at but can’t help but quote endlessly because of it’s charm), and that strange yet affecting quirky Wes-brand of poignancy. Whatever I’ll be seeing on my birthday, not opening night, and enjoying it with my own hipster friends. Thank you, Wes.
The Director: Richard Linklater
The Players: Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Ellar Salmon
When Richard Linklater first began shooting Boyhood, I was a third-grader living one of those. I was still getting used to no training wheels (even at 8 I was never one for being a risk-taker). I liked to pick on girls (or follow around the tougher, more charismatic boys who enjoyed doing so) and looked at them as the opposing side in an ongoing civil war. I lived in a small Midwestern city where basically every character seemed well tailored to meet all my needs and comforts. I haven’t read much outside the Boxcar Children series, Tintin or the Hardy Boys.
By the time Richard Linklater had wrapped Boyhood, I was a college sophomore and a year-and-then-some finished with the concept that inspired the title. I was getting into driving and my opinion of the opposite sex had matured. I now saw some that I knew as best friends (!) and even happened to be dating one. I lived in a big, Northeastern, Rust-Belt town where not every character exactly treated me kindly. And I had gotten into Flannery O’Connor, Thomas Pynchon, CS Lewis, and had read some the usual Hawthorne, Huxley, Orwell, and Salinger read for high school English class (and loved each one).
That’s right, what Linklater, another favorite whether he’s an indie maverick or a studio funnyman, has done here is take a young actor at the age of 6 in the year 2002 and gave him a script, turned on a camera and turned it off again. He continued this as the boy grew, and by this past October Linklater and the now 18-year-old boy have finally wrapped. Other players are Patricia Arquette and Linklater pal Ethan Hawke, who play the boy’s character’s divorced parents.
I may have not taken many risks as a youth, but Rick has taken a monstrous risk with this film. The complete ambition sounds amazing to me. Why see such an audacious, ambitious, unconventional film like this? Because those are the films worth seeing. And as somebody who has experienced boyhood, I can’t wait.
The Director: Darren Aronofsky
The Players: Russell Crowe, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Jennifer Connelly
As a Christian who takes the faith (and the power of filmmaking on the zeitgeist) seriously, I do not allow a Hollywood blockbuster to be seen as a threat to my faith. The Ten Commandments took so many liberties in its portrayal of the Moses account, and yet it has gone down as a classic and a bright spot in Hollywood epics. I’m more concerned about whether or not it distorts the message rather than distorting the portrayal of events.
As a subgenre, I think that the Biblical Epic (and the Historical Epic in general) has been waning as of late. It is a shame because, despite some contextual things, it is in many ways an accessible genre. Battle scenes, natural disasters, swords, sandals, chariots. In real life, maybe having a Hans Zimmer score backing them up was the last thing on the minds of those warriors, but Hollywood has a way of making it popular. Hopefully, this film will give us all the feelings that our parents got when they saw Ben Hur.
You know the story, although other than the Bible this film was inspired by a graphic novel based on the account found in Genesis. Russell Crowe might not be the grandfatherly figure we are used to, but this is not the sunny, rainbow hued pictures that illustrated my Beginners’ Bible. The story of Noah is a messed up story, and Darren Aronofsky is good at directing those kind of things.
Plus, look at that trailer. Maybe not Sunday school material, but worthy of a Saturday afternoon matinee.
The Director: Christopher Nolan (!)
The Cast: Michael “Duh” Caine, Anne Hathaway, Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain
(NOTE: I did not place this in last place to tick off/make fun of my other kind of people, fanboys. I simply couldn’t choose where to put it.)
I like Nolan. I feel that he is the hero moviegoers deserve, and the hero that we need. A box-office friendly entertainer through and through, he is also a true thinker, and not afraid to incorporate brains into his stories that bemuses his audience, allowing them to think. Allowing them to think, that is, as much as they have to; if I do have a problem with Nolan, it is his style of dialogue. I understand that with concepts as complicated as the ones in Nolan’s head, you would be tempted to feed everybody the ideas through the words of your characters, but it makes the characters seem less human. Nonetheless Nolan knows not to abuse this in a way that makes the ending obvious, and always tends to leave the ending up to the viewer.
That and a few things about his Batman reinventions are the only problems I have with the filmmaker. I’ll save the latter for a future post so fanboys will have time to buy tomatoes and throw them at the screen. Or come up with counterarguments.
So with this new film you’ve got a team of explorers and scientists who go into space to travel through a wormhole. It involves alternate dimensions and other fascinating subjects. The stock-footage filled trailer, which looks like both an excellent teaser and a very well-put together commercial, gave us only a glimpse (and none of it was in space). No details concerning specific plot details have spilled. Good.
So much ambition. So much potential. I can’t wait.
X-Men: Days of Future Past—My early-Summer superhero blockbuster of choice for this year. I’m happy to be seeing Bryan Singer return to the franchise that was only he and Matthew Vaughn could effectively oversee. The fact that it’s based off of that limited series is also enticing.
Knight of Cups and Untitled—Terrence Malick is also a favorite, and apparently (we can never say for sure with that man) he has two films in post-production. Little is known about these projects, but that is what makes Malick Malick.
Gone Girl—Would have been my #6. A David Fincher film based on a murder novel? I’m game. While I haven’t read the novel, the words “mystery” and “Fincher” alone have me.