Originally Posted in Creative Loafing.
2009 is already halfway over, and the fall movie season (with all the originality and Oscar-bait it has to offer) is just around the corner. What follows is my list of the 25 films I’m most interested in seeing in the second half of 2009. Read all the way to the bottom for some honorable mentions and films that flat out didn’t make the cut, despite the big-name talent behind the production. (I’m looking at you Scorsese and Apatow.) Then let me know in the comments what you’re looking forward to seeing in the next six months.
Read on for the my 25 most anticipated films of the rest of 2009.
25) Big Fan (August 28)
I know the Sundance hit wasn’t praised for its production values, but The Wrestler scribe Robert D. Siegal looks like he has written another winner about a loser. Patton Oswalt plays a very big New York Giants fan who, though a misunderstanding, is beaten up by his favorite player. From there his life goes into emotional turmoil, and Oswalt is said to give a fearless dramatic performance.
24) Nine (November 27)
I’m a sucker for Musicals and anything Fellini so here we are with Nine. This is another in a series of film-to-stage-to-film adaptations: In this case the movie is Federico Fellini’s 1963 classic 8 ½, about a film director dealing with an artistic crisis and all the various woman in his life simultaneously. The cast consists of six Oscar winners (Nicole Kidman, Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz, Marion Cotillard, Sophia Loren, and acting God Daniel Day Lewis) and Fergie.
23) Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench (TBA)
Touted as the “first Mumblecore musical” David Chazelle‘s debut feature has delighted audiences on the festival circuit. The film (shot on 16mm black and white) follows the lively romance of a jazz trumpeter and a tap-dancing beauty on the streets of Boston. The film looks like the perfect blending of old and new.
Davis Russo’s feature film debut has turned heads at festival circuits all year. The film is about bizarre experiments involving janitors and deliciously addictive cookies. These cookies, as it turns out, cause strange visions, wild mood swings and some quasi-male pregnancies. The janitors band together as they become midwives for one another, each man giving birth to a small blue fish. Oh, what a beautiful synopsis.
21) The Lovely Bones (December 11)
Peter Jackson’s long awaited adaptation of Alice Sebold’s novel is almost here. The story is about a young girl who has been murdered and watches over her family and her killer from heaven, observing how their lives have changed. Jackson looks like he is returning to the kind of supernatural drama of Heavenly Creatures (my favorite film of his).
20) Ponyo (August 27)
It’s Hayao Miyazaki, so how could one not be excited. With this feature he has gone for a more old school look with a water color and pastel-like animation style and using as little CGI as possible. The story is a take off on The Little Mermaid, but this time it’s a goldfish princess who longs to be human.
19) The Princess and the Frog (December 11)
Disney’s long awaited return to hand drawn animation had me hooked five years ago when the project was announced. Featuring Disney’s first African-American princess, the film takes place in the beautifully detailed New Orleans’ French Quarter during the Jazz Age.
18) Agora (December 18)
Alejandro Amenabar‘s latest may have gotten mixed notices at Cannes, but I must say the film looks spectacular. This uncommonly high-minded epic set in Roman Egypt’s famed city of Alexandria concerns a slave who turns to the growing surge of Christianity to pursue freedom while falling helplessly in love with his master, famous atheist philosophy professor Hypatia (Rachel Weisz).
17) Life During Wartime (TBA)
Todd Solondz has always made polarizing films and dealt with the most taboo subjects. This film is said to be a loose sequel to his 1998 classic Happiness. Many of that film’s characters now inhabit what seems to be about a war-torn world. Unfortunately I don’t think Paris Hilton is in this one as was originally reported. But it should be interesting nonetheless.
16) Cold Souls (August 14)
Sophie Barthes debut feature has already been compared to the work of Charlie Kaufman. The wacky post-modern comedy is set in the not too distant future where corporations can extract human souls and sell them as commodities. The story centers on Paul Giamatti (playing himself) who decides to try the procedure to help him get into a soulless character for the stage. His plan backfires when he tries to retrieve his soul and learns it has been sold on the Russian black market.
15) The Road (October 16)
This post-apocalyptic tale looks depressing as hell, and I can’t wait. We could either have another Children of Men on our hands (which is good btw) or another Blindness (not so good). There is The Proposition director John Hillcoat helming the adaption of Cormac McCarthy‘s Pulitzer-Prize winning novel and starring Viggo Mortensen, Robert Duvall, Guy Pearce and Charlize Theron. I think were in good hands.
14) Where the Wild Things Are (October 16)
I would have put Spike Jonze‘ latest higher on the list if not for the current post-production hell it’s currently in. The trailers look spectacular, but the test screenings have been near-disasters and I’m a little worried on how the overall product is going come out. Will it pander too much to younger audiences or will it be a tedious art film? But we do have hipster novelist Dave Eggers involved, and the vocal talents are outstanding.
13) World’s Greatest Dad (August 21)
Robin Williams looks as if he could actually be good here. He plays a sad sack of a high school poetry teacher with an insufferable sex-crazed jackass of a son. But when a tragic event occurs, Williams’ character turns it into an opportunity to make his long-crushed dreams come true. Vulgar comedy extraordinaire Bob Goldthwait looks like he could have a crossover hit on his hands.
12) Beeswax (TBA)
Andrew Bujalski‘s follow up to 2005’s Mutual Appreciation was a hit at South by Southwest along with Joe Sawnberg‘s Alexander the Last. The film will follow the complicated lives and loves of two identical twin sisters, one of which is a paraplegic.
11) Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (TBA)
In a bizarre choice of material, film-making icon Werner Herzog has made a remake (or sequel) to Abel Ferrara‘s Bad Lieutenant. This time out, Nicolas Cage stars as a crooked, drug-addicted cop whose life spins (somewhat hilariously) out of control. The film also stars Eva Mendes, Exhibit and Val Kilmer — and already feels like it could be a cult classic.
10) Thirst (July 31)
Oldboy auteur Chan-wook Park enters the lucrative world of the vampire genre with his latest film. The film follows a small town priest who, during a failed medical experiment, becomes a vampire. This, of course, leads him down the road to anguish and depravity — but he still struggles to maintain his humanity.
9) Broken Embraces (November 20)
Pedro Almodovar‘s latest looks like his most gorgeous film yet, and it’s lovely to see Penelope Cruz in an assortment of dazzling wigs. The film tells the story of a blind filmmaker (Lluís Homar) and how he lost not only his sight but love of his life (Cruz).
8 ) The Illusionist (TBA)
This is the new feature from France’s new animation king Sylvain Chomet, his first since the Oscar-nominated Triplets of Bellville. Another exciting element is the fact that the film’s screenplay was written over 30 years ago by the legendary comic filmmaker Jacques Tati. This means we may very well catch a glimpse of the iconic Monsieur Hulot once again (in animated form of course).
7) In the Loop (July 24, VOD: July 15)
Based off the British TV series The Thick of It, this comedy has been described as “Dr. Strangelove meets The Office.” The political farce centers on a British Secretary of State and his entourage trying to halt a war they may have accidentally started, through any means necessary. The reviews for this one have been enthusiastically positive.
6) Humpday (in limited release now)
The Bromance to end all bromances. Lynn Shelton‘s latest was a sensation at Sundance with many critics citing it as the first Mumblecore film that could crossover into the mainstream. Two old buddies go to a party at a sex positive commune, get wasted and dare each other to enter a gay porn contest. The next morning the two find themselves unable to back down from their bet. But how is the wife of one of the guys going to take this turn of events?
5) Antichrist (October 23)
I’m so up for the bat-shit craziness this film has to offer. Who doesn’t want to see a NC-17 horror film that looks like a perfume ad? Ok, maybe not as many as I think, but I’m there. What if I told you there is supposedly a talking fox and the mutilation of Willem Dafoe’s little man? Lars Von Trier‘s (or “the greatest director in the world” as he likes to call himself) film centers on a grieving couple who retreat to a mysterious cabin in the woods. Then some bad things happen.
4) The Hurt Locker (in limited release now)
What else can I say about this one? Kathryn Bigelow‘s film is the most universally acclaimed so far this year (along with Up) and the #1 art house event of the summer. We follow an elite Army bomb squad in a city in Iraq in brilliant uncompromising detail. Just watch this clip and you shall see what everyone is talking about.
3) The Tree of Life (TBA)
It’s still up in the air whether the film will be released this year or next, but I have my fingers crossed. Director Terrence Malick is notorious for his long post-productions, but any Malick film is a huge event. (This would be his fifth film of his 40 year career). The descriptions I’ve heard about this one are mind-blowing, and Malick has reportedly been planning this film for over 30 years. Life will follow the evolution of an 11 year old boy. The audience will see the world through his eyes, full of beauty and love and his visions of history. But as the boy gets older, he gets his first glimpses of death and sickness and parental conflict (Brad Pitt will play the father). The world then becomes a harsh unforgiving place. Sean Penn is will play the boy as a disillusioned adult yearning to find meaning in his life again. There will also supposedly be a time-line of the history of the world that goes back far enough to include the dinosaurs. Talk about ambitious!
2) Avatar (December 18)
James Cameron’s “cinema changing” film is so close. The buzz I’ve heard from all around has been uniform ally great. (Sample buzz: “Avatar will change movie industry forever. Thank you Jim” … “It’s nothing you can imagine, it’s real. Cameron made a new planet and took a cam there.” … “THIS WILL CHANGE MOVIES FOREVER. Trust me, it will.” All I can say is that the film stills are simply mind blowing.
1) Inglorious Basterds (August 21)
Well what did you expect? I’m a Quentin Tarantino fanatic (yes, I even loved Death Proof) so how can I not be excited? The lukewarm Cannes reception, mediocre trailers and the supposed reediting haven’t deterred me one bit. The complex “Nazi scalping” plot looks ingenious, and the international cast doesn’t look bad either: Brad Pitt, France’s Melanie Laurent, England’s Michael Fassbender, The Office‘s B.J. Novak, Diane Kruger, and even Mike Myers. Then there’s Germany’s Daniel Brühl, Til Schweiger, and major Oscar contender Christopher Waltz.
Now, I did leave off some notable films. Scorsese’s latest Shutter Island just does not look interesting to me, and Judd Apatow’s Funny People has a surprisingly unfunny trailer. (But I’ll see it anyway, simply for Leslie Mann.) I guess I just don’t know enough about the Coen brothers’ latest A Serious Man to get excited about it. For honorable mentions I would put Soderbergh’s The Informant!, Ricky Gervais’ The Invention of Lying(the trailer makes the film look to slight to me). And Richard Kelly may have actually made a film I give a shit about with The Box.