The Calm Before the Storm

Looking towards this weekend, we’ve clearly reached one of the Dead Zones of the year in terms of movies.  The Summer blockbusters are fading and we’re gearing up for the big awards push portion of the season.  I’ve long wished distributors didn’t clump everything into these groups, as if we’re just not capable of enjoying artistry when the humidity’s up.

Regardless, there’s a whole lot to look forward to this Fall and Winter.  With a number of great directors putting out strong work in a short period of time, it’s difficult to imagine how to squeeze them all in.  Priorities clearly must be set, so I’m identifying the top five on my list.  I’ve put these in order of release date, because they’re a bit over the map and comparing them feels a little futile until I’ve seen them.

The Master is the first out of the gate, and probably the one I’m most excited about, if forced to pick.  I saw Hard Eight and Boogie Nights on video, being too absorbed in finishing school to get to them in the theater.  By the time I saw Magnolia I was completely locked in on Paul Thomas Anderson’s movies.  He once said “sometimes it’s better to confuse (the audience) for five minutes than let them get ahead of you for ten seconds.”  He can be confounding, but so far he’s always been compelling.


Argo drops next, and I’m pulling for a Ben Affleck hat trick.  Gone Baby Gone was a taut, authentic movie brimming with excellent performances.  He raised the stakes with his follow-up, The Town, proved the first wasn’t a fluke, and deserved every word of praise heaped upon it.  Now Affleck’s found an intriguing true story about an attempt to rescue US diplomats trapped in Iran under the cover of a phony Canadian Science Fiction movie.  This is definitely bigger, and you have to appreciate a director who keeps pushing himself in terms of scale.

Next up is Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, starring Daniel Day Lewis.  On the poster Day Lewis looks uncannily like the 16th President, and the script is drawn from Doris Kearns Goodwin’s impressive Team of Rivals.  It’s hard not to have high expectations given who’s involved.

Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit adaptation brings us into December.  His Lord of the Rings film were certifiable masterpieces, and all early indicators (the trailer, the cast, the pedigree) lead me to believe this trilogy will stand right next to those.  I’m a little disappointed Guillermo del Toro wasn’t able to stay on as director, his take on Tolkien’s world would have been interesting to see.  At the end of the day, though, Middle Earth has become Jackson’s playground.  My son is excited to see this as well, and now that he’s read the book with his mom, I’ll be interested to see what he thinks of the movie.

Rounding out the  list is Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow’s latest film.  There’s been controversy surrounding this look at the mission to get bin Laden, but I expect once the election passes and we drop our hair trigger tendency to frame everything in terms of politics, this will end up impressing a lot of people.  She is hands down one of the most talented directors working today, easily matching and at times exceeding every other director on this list.

This doesn’t even include strong possible entries from David Chase, Robert Zemekis, Tom Hooper, Ang Lee, and Quentin Tarantino.  That’s a big part of why having so many movies packed into a short stretch is so frustrating.  With a son and a job the first five is an ambitious list, and the next five a pipe dream.

As a fan of movies, however, I’m very happy.  This year has one of the strongest slate of quality movies, by some of the most talented writers and directors working today.  I’m looking forward to seeing as many as I can, hopefully that goal isn’t derailed by Here Comes the Boom.

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