Old MCN Blogs
David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

The Reeler's 2006 Fall Movie Preview Review

As you may have discovered last year, after a long, sluggish summer, few things appeal to me more than parsing the scads of fall movie previews rimming the inbred gene pool of New York media. Laced with Oscar hype, wordy oneupsmanship and the legal limit of aesthetic supposition about films that, in many cases, are still in post-production and will not be seen for weeks or months, the FMP is a fine art of its own anchored in the glorious tradition of “public service” and advertiser mating call.
And as far as traditions (and public service) go, I am proud to reaffirm my own early September ritual of reading these occasionally interminable packages so you do not have to. Thus, without further delay, The Reeler’s second annual Fall Movie Preview Review:

New York Daily News
FOCUS: The Daily News features a little more diverse than usual cut-and-paste of big-name titles organized by theme–or something. Family films and indies overshadow Jack Mathews’ somnambulent mish-mash of titles warranting awards consideration; the release calendar is tabloid twee if not terribly thorough (e.g. the lone endorsement for the animated film Happy Feet: “It’s penguins!”).
HIGH POINT: “High” might be stretching it, but Elizabeth Weitzman issues fair warning for anyone interested in approaching The Last Kiss as a “date movie”: “In this case, a hip soundtrack, a few laughs and a triangle between reluctant grownup Zach Braff, pregnant girlfriend Jacinda Barrett and temptress Rachel Bilson do not a romantic comedy make.” This is about as service-oriented as the NYDN preview gets.
LOW POINT: In a stunning tour de force of cliché, Mathews invokes Alexander Pope, two sports metaphors and the phrase “Oscar buzz” in his lead paragraph. I hate these previews, too, Jack, but come on.
BEST LINE: Weitzman again, writing about Martin Short in The Santa Clause 3: “Short looks to be the biggest Yuletide scene-stealer since the Heat Miser and the Snow Miser faced off on TV in 1974.” Somehow that turns me on.
EGREGIOUS HYPE: Mathews: “(Stephen) Frears (Dangerous Liaisons, Mrs. Henderson Presents) is the most consistent British filmmaker of his generation.” I like Frears just fine, and maybe this is just me being contrarian, but last time I checked, Mike Leigh does not have a Hero or Mary Reilly on his resume.
VALUE BEYOND FILLER: Virtually nil. It is just too… nice: Every entry on the calendar warrants “Reason for Hope,” when it might just be all right to throw in a “Reason Why our Civilization Will Implode in a Storm of Bloodmist and Fire” vis a vis The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning or The Santa Clause 3. This preview is not film writing; it is family counseling.

Entertainment Weekly
FOCUS: A quintessentially middlebrow forecast of the fall movie season, with its usual top 10 list of most-anticipated films and dozens of quips and quotes from filmmakers and stars. And this year brings the revolutionary, real-time “Countdown Clock,” which comes in handy when you run out of fingers to assess the days remaining until The Guardian emerges fully formed from Disney’s lower intestine.
HIGH POINT: Who else? Dito Montiel makes the most of his EW debut in the all-too-brief “preview” of A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints: ”I wanted to make a movie that would make me miss drinking a 40-ounce and pissing on the corner,” Montiel begins before digressing, ”F— that guy [James] Frey!” Cuh-lassic.
LOW POINT: The presence of Warner Bros. films in their cousin publication is unavoidable, but the Top-10 praise for Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain (above)–“Will the big-studio production values and A-list cast help the cult-fave director break through to the mainstream?”–is a distressingly fulsome hard sell, even for EW.
BEST LINE: ”We have a monster penis and things like that. You know, it’s a different approach.” — director John Gulager on his horror film, Feast.
EGREGIOUS HYPE: EW’s press release for preview of All the King’s Men reads in its entirety: “The star-studded cast, including Sean Penn and Jude Law, boasts 15 Oscar nominations (and two wins), while Oscar-winning screenwriter Steven Zaillian makes his directing debut with this adaptation of Robert Penn Warren’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. It all adds up to a must-see political drama positively oozing with prestige.” That’s not all it’s oozing with, say those who have checked out ATKM‘s Toronto screenings.
VALUE BEYOND FILLER: Moderate. As I have said before, sprawling, skin-deep issues like these are just what Entertainment Weekly does; for better or worse, you cannot really get this scope anywhere else. Nothing Sylvester Stallone says is ever going to incline me to see Rocky Balboa, but it is somehow comforting to know he has a voice amid the pitched, roaring swirl of Oscar-prep PR.

Time Out New York
FOCUS: A mildly surprising blend of highbrow and lowbrow for the short-attention-span crowd, featuring a handful of tiny profiles and a few dozen plot synopses distilled to about six syllables.
HIGH POINT: Page 50, with a nifty-if-superficial bit on Almodovar legend Carmen Maura and Anthony Kaufman’s chart outlining some of the fall’s best film series and retrospectives. All news you can use.
LOW POINT: Joshua Rothkopf’s assholish note: “(I)t’s likely that by the time you read this, The Illusionist will have vanished into thin air, leaving the season’s real magician film, The Prestige, plenty of room to wave its wand.” Actually, by the time you read this, The Illusionist will have made more than $18 million in two weeks of domestic release, with more to come. The film’s a hit. Do your homework.
BEST LINE: Despite its overall serviceability, nothing here is the best of anything.
EGREGIOUS HYPE: Writing about Forest Whitaker’s performance in The Last King of Scotland, Rothkopf notes, “It’s a passion that has translated not just into some of the year’s best acting, but into a timely movie about political naïveté, crafted by (director Kevin) Macdonald with a keen eye for ensnaring the audience in its own complicity.” Theoretically, I suppose this may be true, assuming the audience is not first ensnared in a nap through most of the film’s second hour. Seriously. Maybe Rothkopf only got a look at the trailer?
VALUE BEYOND FILLER: Below average, but not a lost cause. The calendar is sparse and messy but yields some diverse selections (Jonestown, Confetti). TONY is what it is–a listings magazine–and you cannot be too hard on it for not stretching beyond its realm.

The New York Times
FOCUS: A sophisticated pastiche of in-depth profiles, critical essays and reporting on upcoming films and DVD’s, with Dave Kehr’s exhaustive, “we’ll show you how it’s done” calendar of this fall’s new releases anchoring the 30-page package. France might be slightly overrepresented with pieces exploring Marie Antoinette, Indigenes and Le Petit Lietenant (with Nathalie Baye, right), which I will mostly overlook–the other previews would hardly consider footnoting two of those three films, let alone featuring them.
HIGH POINT: Among the scores of golden-throated and purple-prosed critics who drove me to question why I never quite got Film Forum’s summertime revival of Pandora’s Box, few inspire the type of fevered second-guessing aroused by Stephanie Zacharek, the Salon critic who breaks loose with a modest yet unequivocally powerful reading of the 1929 Louise Brooks classic (to be released on DVD in November): “We have seen how frivolous and thoughtless she can be, and we have witnessed her gentle treachery, but judging her is unthinkable. We can’t trust Lulu; we can only believe her.” James Ulmer’s story about Dreamgirls‘ path from stage to screen also makes for consistently revealing reading.
LOW POINT: For the second straight year, Stephen Holden farts out an afterthought about an acclaimed new film, comparing Todd Field’s Little Children to its source novel, muttering something about arrested development and apparently falling asleep at his deadline.
BEST LINE: “You have to allow yourself to be stolen from,” Baye says of the restrained approach to her role as an inspector in Xavier Beauvois’ Le Petit Lieutenant.
EGREGIOUS HYPE: To be honest (and to my astonishment), I could not find any.
VALUE BEYOND FILLER: Quite high. Even more than 2005, The Times’s fall preview feels like an authentic service–intelligent enough to know what to look for when surveying the season’s landscape and diverse enough to make surprising choices (Point Break on DVD, anybody?) pay off. The paper rarely takes itself this seriously without ejaculating all over its own belly, but hey, miracles happen every day. I will take it.

New York Magazine
FOCUS: Primarily a breezy, over-designed, high-profile who’s-who of “The Brilliant Season” (not to be confused with The Times’s “New Season”), with studio and mini-major releases overshadowing indies like Shortbus and Sherrybaby. The local angle is downplayed more than last year’s preview, unless you count Jack Nicholson rhapsodizing over the Yankees. For the most part, it is the preview with which you can be on a first-name basis: Cate, Maggie, Nicole and, again, Jack are all here.
HIGH POINT: As noted here last week, Emma Rosenblum’s chat with Maggie Gyllenhaal, however brief and heavily edited, makes for a dynamite 60-second read.
LOW POINT: Nicholson’s “Fuck ’em, kill ’em, you know …” aside about his sex scenes in The Departed–however ironic or tongue-in-cheek–is just kind of gross, like a visiting uncle asking where you stash your KY Jelly.
BEST LINE: Rosenblum again, conversing with The Good German‘s Cate Blanchett:

CB: The performance style was utterly pre-Method, very front foot, and, to our perception now, quite declamatory.

ER: Huh?

CB: The introspective qualities of the character were very much projected outward.

EGREGIOUS HYPE: Nicholson again, telling Logan Hill, “‘This could be the one for Marty,’ though he admits he doesn’t know much about his (Oscar) competition this fall.” Really, though, I guess I don’t know what else I would expect the guy to say. And it is better than “Fuck ’em, kill ’em, you know …”
VALUE BEYOND FILLER: Low, and frustratingly so. As per usual with an issue like this, smart writers like Hill and David Edelstein get squeezed into insubstantial assignments writing around films that, for the most part, they have not seen. Bloomingdale’s gets a four-page foldout ad in the middle of it all. I get the economics here, but Edelstein’s Infamous vs. Capote comparison was on a roll before someone amputated it at the pelvis. Futhermore, while cleverly written (49 Up is “a landmark film, squared”), the calendar feels a little too selective to yield any surprises. Maybe next year–I will be watching.

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One Response to “The Reeler's 2006 Fall Movie Preview Review”

  1. Vladimir says:

    “Oscar-winning screenwriter Steven Zaillian makes his directing debut with this adaptation of Robert Penn Warren’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel”

    The only two ways this could be true:

    1. Both Searching for Bobby Fischer and A Civil Action spontaneously disappeared from the face of this planet;
    2. The line above means that this is the first time Zaillian is directing this particular adaptation of this novel. This, technically speaking, is true, and I can’t wait for his second and third versions.

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon