Obligatory Summer Wish List
As I plow through the constant barrage of summer movie round-up articles, the one thing I’ve noticed is I’m genuinely stoked for very little that is major. This, admittedly, has frequently been the case since receiving my cineaste carrying card almost a decade ago, but it seems more pronounced than it’s ever been -- unless I feel this every May and manage to forget when it swings around again. War of the Worlds, for starters, should elicit foam from the mouth: Spielberg, Kamiski, yet another case of vague topicality. And yet...and yet. I feel like I’m obliged to see it (and I will), and this shruggy feeling extends to the likes of Batman Begins, Nolan behind the lens or no. So it looks like a priggish summer for me yet again. To wit:
Title Howl’s Moving Castle (Hayao Miyazaki)
Reasons for piquancy After a bit of a false start, I’ve grown to relish Miyazaki’s worlds, particularly their daffy, nigh-Svankmajerish logic. And unlike everyone else, he hand-draws, and well. Plus, the premise is crazy enough to avoid auteuristical repetition. A castle on legs? Sign me the fuck up.
Reasons my hopes may be dashed No one seems terribly excited. Miyazaki’s aforementioned logic also has a tendency to get lost in pretzelly nonsense (e.g., actually, the kid’s a dragon...no, wait! he’s a river!).
Title Land of the Dead (George A. Romero)
Reasons for piquancy George A. Romero, basically. Always loved the blunt satire hidden in his zombe pics, and a trip through points in the rest of his catelogue last year revealed a wily thinker -- The Crazies especially -- while a revisitation of Day of the Dead showed a person thinking outside the box. Day isn't even a zombie movie till the final stretch, instead focusing on the further crumbling of society -- taking a logical step forward rather than churning out more of the same. Where will the human race wind up this time? In an ideal world, Romero will effortlessly locate the balance between 28 Days Later’s obvious hectoring and the Dawn of the Dead remake’s willful shallowness. That, and the long-awaited union of Asia Argento and Dennis Hopper. Stills look nice and retro, too.
Reasons my hopes may be dashed Romero’s been rather AWOL lately, no? Though trailers are by no means accurate salesmen, their abudance of zombie porn -- combined with Romero's doubtless shakiness with studio heads -- suggests he could’ve simply fallen in line. Not bloody likely, though.
Title Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Tim Burton)
Reasons for piquancy Burton and Depp meet Dahl. This could find the director returning to the chaos of Mars Attacks! Good job, buds, going with the title of the source.
Reasons my hopes may be dashed That one is almost nine years old. In the interim, he’s churned out a visually ravishing, sporadically inspired Murder, She Wrote episode, an incoherent remake of straightforward material, and a wad of bathos that suggested he's now ashamed of being a crazed imagist. Placing bets.
Title Rock School (Don Argott)
Reasons for piquancy Civic pride, of course. From the looks of the trailer -- and from the stories I’ve heard -- Paul Greengrass could probably devour the planet if he wanted to, then set his choppers on the Milky Way.
Reasons my hopes may be dashed A doc being a hit at Sundance ain’t always the bearer of good tidings. Many of them -- Murderball, Lipstick & Dynamite, presumably Mad Hot Ballroom -- tend to favor entertainment over insight, taking all the wrong lessons from Spellbound. Speaking of which, really oughtta get crackin’ on that essay about how reality TV is destroying documentaries.
Title The Bad News Bears (Richard Linklater)
Reasons for piquancy Smart guys working on dumb material is one of my secret pleasures. Billy Bob is perfectly cast. At worst, it’s a breezy delight.
Reasons my hopes may be dashed Both Linklater and Thornton have visited this well before. On the other hand, there’s a rising rebellion against those who deride terrific filmmakers for repeating themselves (cf. 2046, L’enfant.) Then again, with Linklater, you at least get to ask which film he'll be repeating. My plan, meanwhile, on how not to get sick of the season’s spate of sports-related comedies: don’t see any of the other ones.
Title The Brothers Grimm (Terry Gilliam)
Reasons for piquancy Gilliam, basically. The studios haven’t been doing much advertising, which may mean his blending of biopic and flights o’ fancy may be tenacious enough to be interesting.
Reasons my hopes may be dashed Gilliam, basically. Seven years away could result in a mushroom cloud of oppressively unchecked ADD. Is Heath even funny?
Title Saraband (Ingmar Bergman)
Reasons for piquancy The reviews have been hyperbolic, and after 2046 and Before Sunset, I’m a fan of revisiting brutal love stories. Eternity and a Day of the Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, anyone?
Reasons my hopes may be dashed The release date may be a tease: Bergman has infamously withheld the high-def shot sequel to Scenes From a Marraige for the last year or two. All the more time to actually rent -- and actually trawl through -- the first one’s Criterion set, it appears.
Title Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog)
Reasons for piquancy Strong word of mouth, bizarre premise, plus Herzog’s latest in his return to docs. Can’t wait to see how he arranges someone else’s footage into one of his inscrutable meditations on social outcastdom.
Reasons my hopes may be dashed Herzog has a tendency for bullshit, whether he acknowledges it or not. Or rather he doesn’t -- what hasn’t hit me the first time usually does so on subsequent gos.
Title Broken Flowers (Jim Jarmusch)
Reasons for piquancy Bill Murray headlining Jarmusch. Is everything this easy?
Reasons my hopes may be dashed Word from The D’Ange is that Murray’s weariness hits somnombulent lows here, something which has increasingly become a threat since he became an international icon of ze ahrtistic gzeen-yus. Jarmusch is capable of autopilot Warholian nothingness...though what the fug's this with Jarmusch “spelling things out for us” this time?
Title Pretty Persuasion (Marcus Siega)
Reasons for piquancy Skander Halim wrote it, and his newsgroup posts and former critic site both provide/d guaranteed yuks update-to-update. James Woods being crazy. Over-the-top Heathers-esque set-up.
Reasons my hopes may be dashed None of Skander's closest chums have flipped, not even out of disingenuous journalistic respect.
Title The 40 Year Old Virgin (Judd Apatow)
Reasons for piquancy The Freaks and Geeks man going the feature-length route, with Steve Carrell in tow. Strong premise. Catherine Keener not playing the bitch (presumably) and still being funny a welcome move.
Reasons my hopes may be dashed Television to the silver screen is rarely a smooth move...and really, that vague fear is it. This, along with Bad News Bears, seems to be the big lock of the season.
Title 3001 (Mike Judge)
Reasons for piquancy Judge doing Sleeper. The very idea of laid-back Luke Wilson being the smartest person on earth may prove comic gold...
Reasons my hopes may be dashed ...unless it doesn’t. Sometimes Luke just doesn't give a shit. I have yet to become a convertee on Maya Rudolph (even if catching Amy Poehler on Upright Citizens Brigade alerted me to her (Amy Poehler’s) potential).
Title 2046 (Wong Kar-Wai)
Reasons for piquancy Saved this for last as I’ve already seen it. Just haven’t seen it on the big screen is all, which should be the best place to eyeball the most visually ravishing movie since Wong’s last.
Reasons my hopes may be dashed Allegedly (and is this true?) this is the second re-cut since the notorious Cannes one. I have the first. This one should be significantly shorter than the 129 minute cut I gawked at, thus turning Wong's most slackly paced film into another (brilliant) jumble. A pox on you distributors.
Wait. Did I say “priggish?” Clearly not. More like “mildly alternate.”