It's really funny how obsessed I can be with lists, then again I guess that's not so surprising as many movie geeks like myself consistently compile lists just for fun, Iit's just part of the culture. Take for example Roger Ebert who just unveiled the LIST he will submit to Sight and Sound for their prestigious poll of the greatest movies ever made, this poll gets done every 10 years, which means it was last done in 2002. This, of course, got me thinking of my own list of the best films ever made, which oddly enough I never really put much thought into, until of course I took a glance at Roger's list.
The Godfather Part 2
The Tree Of Life
12 Angry Men
2001 A Space Odyssey
A Clockwork Orange
You hear that sound? That's the sound of explosive bombs, superheroes, no character development and little to no substance. Yes, it must be summer and with summer comes loads of big, loud, abrasive movies. It's been like this for a good long time now. The studios release their biggest blockbusters, suited for hormonally raged teenagers that just want escapism. Hey, there's nothing wrong with escapism, I like the occasional movie that wants to do nothing but entertain and numb the sense but there's something very shallow and unmoving about a movie season that takes its pride in doing that. The following 10 movies are the ones to look out for this summer. These 10 movies don't just want you to forget and escape, they have something to say and directors that have a real conscience for feeling and character. As American Beauty once tagged in its promotional campaign, "look closer".
The Dark Knight Rises (July 20th)
Here's the big one. A superhero movie that might go all the way to Oscar glory. With 2008's The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan raised the bar for Superhero movies with a Batman that had deep, humane flaws in his tortured, dark soul. It was one for the ages and The Dark Knight proved to be the biggest blockbuster since Titanic. The anticipated sequel has higher expectations and no Heath Ledger as the Joker. Instead we get Tom Hardy as big, bad Bane and Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. If everything goes right and the film is just as good as its predecessor, Oscar might call for multiple nominations including a long overdue Director nod for Nolan.
Moonrise Kingdom (May 25th)
Wes Anderson is not one to abide by formula. His films are unique in tone, bold in look and original in story. Just look at his body of work (The Fantastic Mr.Fox, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Darjeeling Limited) an extendedly rich catalogue that will grow even further in the years to come. His latest, Moonrise Kingdom, stars Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton and an outstanding supporting cast. Details are hush hush about the plot but what we do know is that it centers around a pair of young lovers that run away from their New England town. Opening the Cannes Film Festival this May, Moonrise Kingdom should be way up in your must-see list.
Dark Shadows (May 11th)
Whenever Tim Burton releases a movie, we pay attention. No matter how disappointing his last few remakes were -Charlie And The Chocolate Factory? Alice In Wonderland?- his latest is nevertheless anticipated. Based on the 1960's Gothic soap opera of the same name, Dark Shadows casts Burton favorite Johnny Depp as a patriarchal vampire that wakes from a century long sleep. Leave it to Burton and Depp to bring dark humor to a film that most definitely needs it in loads. Although Burton is at his best when telling his own original stories (Edward Scissorhands, Sweeney Todd) here's hoping he nails it with this one.
The Dictator (May 16th)
Sacha Baron Cohen might just be the funniest guy in movies. 2005's Borat was not just funny, it's now a comedy classic. Expectations are high for Cohen's latest incarnation as an oppressive, western hating dictator. The trailer's jokes are hit and miss but one cannot discount Cohen's ability to provide humor with scathing satire. Although the movie might look brain dead, it looks to be painting a broad, scary picture of a society that's crumbling before our very eyes. Heavy stuff right? Leave it to Cohen to find the scary in the funny just like he did in Borat and Bruno.
Magic Mike (June 29th)
Does anybody want to watch a movie about the life of a veteran male stripper? I do. Especially when Steven Soderbergh (Traffic) directs. Channing Tatum stars as the stripper and to makes things even more interesting, Tatum started out his pre-Hollywood career as -you guessed it- a male stripper. Matthew McConaughey co-stars as the strip clubs sleazy owner. It's the sort of personal autobiography that I look forward to in a summer of muck. It could hit all the right notes, especially with Soderbergh at the helm of this one.
Brave (June 22nd)
The folks over at Pixar (Ratatouille, Finding Nemo, WALL-E, Up, Toy Story 1,2,3) rarely hit a false note. Their tales are filled with deftly handled characters, adult oriented themes and storytelling that's just bliss. So it's with great anticipation that we look forward to their latest original tale, Brave. In fact it is the first Pixar film to feature a female heroine, Merida. A redheaded Scotswoman that can throw a fiercer bow than Katniss Everdine ever did. Although Cars 2 was an immense disappointment, I wouldn't count Pixar out just yet. Judging by the trailer, Brave has the potential to do big things
Prometheus (June 8th)
One of the most anticipated movies of the year, Ridley Scott's Prometheus is a prequel to his sci-fi classic Alien. Not much is known about the movie, and the teaser trailer doesn't help any further in trying to assemble the missing pieces of the puzzle. What we are left with is a scat amount of images involving the cast (Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron) as they suit up for a space mission that looks scarily bleak. In an age where the entire movie is revealed in the trailer, Scott is trying to defy the odds and have you go along with him for a ride that is riddle with questions. Isn't that how movies were supposed to be in the first place? mysterious?
To Rome With Love (June 22nd)
Woody Allen's follow-up to last year's successful Midnight In Paris has another stellar cast at its disposal. This includes Jesse Eisenberg, Penelope Cruz, Alec Baldwin and Allen himself . Expectations are at their highest for the Woodman's 43rd film, which follows the same formula he used in Midnight In Paris. To Rome With Love is a love letter to a city he has always adored. Will it be another successful artistic achievement or will it fall in the same routine trap as his latter career films (Scoop). No matter, if we've learned one thing about Woody Allen over the years, it's that you never count him out.
The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3rd)
The Bourne Legacy (August 3rd)
Two movie franchise reboots. If there's anything we can learn from Summer 2012 it's that fresh, new ideas are not seen anywhere. In The Amazing Spider-Man Andrew Garfield takes over the Tobey Maguire role and Marc Webb takes over Sam Raimi's directorial duties, yet there's hope. Webb directed the awesome 500 Days Of Summer, Garfield is a talented young actor and the trailer looks like it won't be the same old story. This could be a major surprise. In The Bourne Legacy Matt Damon is replaced by Jeremy Renner yet there is no Jason Bourne in the movie, it's a new agent and a new setting. Tony Gilroy, who directed the great Michael Clayton, takes the helm of the franchise and I'm betting he's going to do a solid job.
Vanity Fair's James Wolcott had a piece the other month on Television's quality compared to that of the movies these days. Which got me to start thinking about the state of cinema as we speak. Is there anything as good as Breaking Bad out there right now? I don't really think so. Vince Gilligan's series is so breathtaking and intense that I just wish there was a film half as good as it out there. Name me one great American movie you've seen in 2012. Yeah, that's what I thought and we are almost halfway through the year. 21 Jump Street was funny but really just funny and The Hunger Games had a bite that was lacking throughout its running time. Breaking Bad on the other hand is incendiary stuff. It chronicles Chem teacher/turned meth maker Walt White and the nervous breakdown he gets once he learns that he has lung cancer. It's a jumpy, flashy, exuberantly alive series that deservedly won Emmy's for Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul. It's precisely what cinema has been missing for the past 5 months.
Want comedy? Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm is as snappy and comic as any movie out there. Having just completed its 9th season in 2011 and about to debut its 10th this August, Curb continues the ironic humor David started with Seinfeld in the 90's. The series hit its peak in an episode called "The Palestinian Chicken" in which Larry has to choose between a sexy Palestinian chicken restaurant owner or his neurotic Jewish friends. Sadly the cinema can't replicate the political incorrectness David does on HBO. It's as if movies are too scared to think outside the box whereas its cousin -Television- is no holds barred and ready to take on anything.This is the Golden Age of television and Hollywood is watching it carefully. Yet one thing Wolcott forgot when writing his article is the fact that the year's best movies still triumph over the year's best TV shows.
Maverick directors such as Terrence Malick, Nicolas Winding Refn, David Fincher and Darren Aronofsky are not on TV, they are in cinema and they are there to stay for now. If ever directors such as these make the leap to Television then maybe we can start comparing more seriously the artistic merits of both mediums. However, for now it is too early to compare. Yes, Breaking Bad is mesmerizing stuff and the best show on TV but it can't achieve the cinematic nature of a masterpiece such as last year's The Tree Of Life or the year before with Black Swan. Those films took leaps and risks that I have not yet seen on any TV show. Their cinematic languages are as strong as anything on HBO or AMC. It's as simple as that. Although for the time being I'm more hooked on watching HBO's new series Girls - a Judd Apatow created treat that brings you into the lives of 4 new york city girls. The show isn't afraid to show these girls and all their flaws, it's a scathing, penetrating look at a subject that might be too taboo for Hollywood. Go for the ride.
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