MCN Columnists
Noah Forrest

By Noah Forrest

10 Movies To Keep An Eye On This Fall

Like most lovers of quality films, I love turning the calendar page from August to September.  I love to say goodbye to the big-budget behemoths that had crowded the multiplexes for the past four months and say hello to the movies that have something to say.  As the weather gets cooler and cooler, the films get better and better (until of course, we get to January and dipping our heads into a bucket of ice water is often more pleasurable than going to the movies).

My preliminary list of all the films that I absolutely must-see that are currently scheduled for release in the last four months of the year and the number topped fifty films.  These are only the films that I know about, of course, because there are sure to be any number of films that are not being discussed right now that we’ll probably all be talking about come next February.

What follows is my list of the ten films that I think will be worth seeing, for one reason or another  (in order of release):

Eastern Promises (September 14th) – David Cronenberg’s follow-up to A History of Violence -starring Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts and Vincent Cassel – is about a Mafia guy who encounters a midwife.  To tell you the truth, the only reason I even know that much about the film is from reading IMDb right now.  So why am I excited about this film?  Well, it’s David Cronenberg. I didn’t think A History of Violence was as amazing as a lot of folks did, but I enjoyed it quite a bit, but this is the guy who directed The Fly andScanners and Dead Ringers and, of course,Videodrome.  You know this film has to be something different than the norm, something just a bit off-center and filmmakers who are willing to tell unconventional stories in unconventional ways that are entertaining and exciting are quite rare and always worth supporting.

Another plus for this film is that it was scripted by Steven Knight, who wrote the fantastic Dirty Pretty Things. If one were to watch that film and then watch A History of Violence and then read the logline on Eastern Promises, one couldn’t help but be excited by this marriage of material and filmmakers.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (September 21st) – First of all, this might be one of the greatest, most evocative and haunting titles in film history.  Second, the cast has Brad Pitt as James,Casey Affleck as Ford, along with Sam Shepherd, Zooey Deschanel, Mary Louise-Parker, Sam Rockwell, Paul Schneider and Jeremy Renner. And third, it’s the second film from Andrew Dominik, the director of the marvelous film Chopper. That’s some pedigree.

If that wasn’t enough to get you revved about the film, the advance word has been fantastic.  It’s supposed to be extremely long and has garnered comparisons to the works of Terrence Malick. Some people tune out at the thought of seeing a three hour film but for some reason it gets me excited.  I love the idea of bathing in a film, letting it consume me and long movies tend to do that.  Of course, as the saying goes, no good movie is ever long enough and no bad movie is ever short enough.  Still, the cast, director, subject matter, it’s all enough to ensure that I will be in line on opening day.

The Darjeeling Limited (NYFF on September 28th) – I have a love/hate relationship with Wes Anderson.  AfterBottle Rocket and Rushmore, I thought this guy was someone to watch.  After The Royal Tenenbaums, I thought he was a genius.  As soon as I heard about The Life Aquatic, there was nothing anybody could say that would make me not like the film.  I was so convinced that no matter what people were saying about it that I would wind up loving it, that somehow everyone else just “didn’t get it.”  Well, I was wrong.

Wes Anderson has always been on the precipice of style and substance, straddling that fence.  With The Royal Tenenbaums, I felt he had found the perfect vehicle to marry his offbeat style with a substantial human story.  With The Life Aquatic, it is clear he had fallen in love with his style.  A key difference (spoiler warning) is in the treatment of death in both of those films.  When Richie Tenenbaum (Luke Wilson) cuts his wrists to the strains of Elliott Smith’s “Needle in the Hay”, it is haunting, shocking and poignant.  When Ned Plimpton (Owen Wilson) dies in The Life Aquatic, with The Zombies’ “The Way I Feel Inside” playing, it feels cold, distant, unearned.  The scenes are similar, but the former has heart, the latter looks and sounds cool.

This is a pivotal film for Wes Anderson. It is written with Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman, who co-stars as one of three brothers (along with Adrien Brody and Owen Wilson) who are traveling on a train through India.  We’ll find out what means more to Mr. Anderson with this film, whether he cares more about making a “cool” movie that loves its own style or making one that cuts to our core, aided by its style.

Funny Games (October 26th) – Anyone who has not seen Michael Haneke’s original version of this film should rent it and watch it tonight.  I saw it not that long ago and remember shrugging it off and going to bed.  But it stayed with me.  I’m still thinking about it and what it says about you, me, us, culture, etc.

Michael Haneke is remaking his own film about a home invasion, this time starring Tim Rothand Naomi Watts as parents of a young son who visit their summer home only to be tied up and tortured by two young, charismatic men (this time played by Michael Pitt and Brady Corbet).  It sounds like a simple enough premise, maybe even something that Eli Roth would make, but it has much larger issues in mind.  The original film is existential in the way it folds in on itself and the way it questions the viewer for watching this film.  At a few points during the original film, the young men look directly into the camera, at you the viewer and ask what should happen next.  Haneke is telling you that if you don’t like what you’re seeing, simply walk out of the film and if you stay then you should not expect him to play fair.  Movies, after all, are about putting yourself in somebody else’s hands, letting them help you navigate through this new world.  But what if that navigator doesn’t want to show you what you want to see?

I’m not usually a fan of remakes, but the fact that Haneke has written and directed this remake himself makes me curious about what he has added to this version or what he has left out.

No Country For Old Men (November 9th) – The Coen Brothers are back.  At least, that’s the word from Cannes where the latest flick from brothers Joel and Ethan wowed the audiences on the Croisette.  It didn’t win any awards, but it garnered rave reviews.  The film is an adaptation of a Cormac McCarthy novel about a guy (Josh Brolin) who finds two million dollars near the Rio Grande.  Javier Bardem plays the man who wants that money andTommy Lee Jones is the Sheriff who is trying to piece things together.

I have never read the novel, but I am a fan of the Coen Brothers and Javier Bardem. The last two Coen films, Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers, were unbelievable disappointments to me, but it seems like they are working more in their wheelhouse with this film, which seems to be a return to their Blood Simple or Miller’s Crossing days.  Tommy Lee Jones is my generation’s John Wayne, it seems, since he is playing the same character in every single film he has ever been in, but we don’t seem to mind.  In fact, I don’t want to see Tommy Lee Jones playing anybody but Tommy Lee Jones, it’s what he’s good at.  Bardem is a marvelous actor and early word is that his performance is both hilarious and chilling, a combination that always make me think of Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet, and that’s a good way to make me stoked to see a film.

Margot at the Wedding (November 16th) – This is Noah Baumbach’s follow-up to The Squid and the Whale, a film that completely floored me with its poignancy, honesty and heart.  Based on Baumbach’s previous two films (as well as his co-writing credit on Life Aquatic) I never would have expected him to create eighty minutes of perfection like he did with his last movie.  Later on, I would check out his short film Conrad and Butler Take a Vacation, and realize that he’s had this talent in him all along.  Hopefully his latest film, starring Nicole Kidman, Jack Black, and Jennifer Jason Leigh (Baumbach’s wife) will be just as great as his previous outing.

The plot has Kidman playing Leigh’s sister, who doesn’t approve of Leigh’s impending nuptials to Black.  WASPy chaos, I assume, ensues.

To be honest, the trailer for the film didn’t really do it for me, but now that I know what Baumbach is capable of, I can’t help but feel like his films are must-sees from now on.

Cassandra’s Dream (December 14th) – This is the latest Woody Allen film, it stars Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell and is his third film set in England.  It’s a drama, similar in tone, I suppose, to Match Point, about two brothers who become involved in crime.  As with most of Woody’s movies, it is a mystery until it is seen.

In the future, you can expect a much longer article from me about how unappreciated Woody Allen is, but for now I will just say that any film he makes is worth seeing.  With Berman and Antonioni now gone, he is one of the few masters of cinema we have left and we better appreciate him while we still have him.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (December 19th) – This is an interesting one.  It is Julian Schnabel’s third film and I was a big fan of both of his previous films, Basquiat and Before Night Falls, both of which contain career-making lead performances by Jeffrey Wright andJavier Bardem, respectively.  With The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, I am already an enormous fan of Mathieu Amalric, the star of Kings and Queen and My Sex Life – he may be more familiar to American audiences for his small role as Louis in Munich. He is unbelievably charismatic and endearing, able to convey so much pathos using his eyes and his mouth.  He is perhaps one of the finest actors working today and hopefully this latest film will expose him to a larger audience.

This film is based on the true story of the editor of Elle France, Jean-Dominique Bauby, who suffered a stroke at the age of 43 that wound up paralyzing his entire body except for his left eye, which he was able to use to communicate.  The material sounds familiar (like The Sea Inside, starring Bardem), but in the hands of a true artist like Schnabel and an unbelievable actor like Amalric, I am sure this will be different than most biopics.

Charlie Wilson’s War (December 28th) – The pedigree on this thing is insane.  It’s directed by American master Mike Nichols, written by Aaron Sorkin and it stars Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Emily Blunt, Amy Adams and a handful of others.  So what could a film that is starring the biggest male and female stars of the last two decades possibly be about?  What could be the film that finally got both Hanks and Roberts to co-star?  The answer is Afghanistan.  The two biggest stars in this country are acting in a film about the United States’ ties with Afghanistan pre-9/11.  Yes, Tom Cruise is starring in Lions for Lambs, but this film is being directed by Mike Nichols and sounds a bit weightier.

This is a film that has been on everyone’s Oscar watch since the day it was announced, so it’s got an uphill battle ahead of it.  Everyone is going to be expecting gold and if it winds up being just “okay”, it will be a tremendous disappointment to everyone.

Hanks is playing the titular congressman, who aided the Afghani rebels against the Soviets and it’s a huge risk for both him and Roberts to take.  These two are “America’s Sweethearts” and they risk turning off half the country by starring in a film that points out the United States’ culpability in the current war on terror.  The same people who would rush to see them star in a romantic comedy might not want to see them star in a film that discusses in a roundabout way how 9/11 happened.

Either way, the film sounds interesting enough to me that I will be there to see if it really pushes the envelope or if it plays it safe.  Perhaps the real political firecracker film to look forward to is Gavin Hood’s Rendition (Oct. 19) with Jake Gyllenhall and Reese Witherspoon, or perhaps it’s Lions for Lambs (Nov. 9) with Cruise, Meryl Streep andRobert Redford, or perhaps it’s Paul Haggis’ In the Valley of Elah (Sep. 14) with Tommy Lee Jones and Charlize Theron. I only wanted to put one of those films on my list and I decided that the pedigree on Charlie Wilson’s War was enough that if I had to pick only one to see based on advance knowledge, it would be this one.

There Will Be Blood (December 26th, limited) – This is the one that I am most excited for and I decided to save the (hopefully) best for last.  This is the fifth film from Paul Thomas Anderson, his first in five years.  To put it bluntly, I think the man is a fucking genius.  If this film is as good as his previous four, then it will firmly entrench him – in my mind – as the finest young filmmaker.

This film stars Daniel Day-Lewis who is, without question, the best living actor.  I don’t think there is anyone who comes close.  In fact, I am so sure of this that I don’t even think of it as opinion.  It is a FACT that Daniel Day-Lewis, now that Marlon Brando has passed, is the best actor that is currently alive.  The man has never given a performance anything less than extraordinary.

Daniel Day-Lewis stars as a prospector at the turn of the century, mining for oil.  It is based on an Upton Sinclair novel called “Oil.”  And, to tell you the truth, I’ve tried to avoid reading anything about this film because I want to go into it blind.  I know that Paul Dano co-stars and I watched that amazing internet preview that makes it look like a Terrence Malick film and I was sold.  I’m convinced that this film can’t possibly be bad.

Based on what I know (which is nothing), I would say that if you can only see one movie this year, it should be this one.  I hope that Paul Thomas Anderson, the man who gave us the brilliance of Boogie Nights and Magnolia, delivers.  There are some folks who wish that the best directors would make films more often, but I would argue that if Anderson delivers with this film then that would be evidence that perhaps one should only work when one is motivated to work towards greatness.  Wonderful filmmakers like Wes Anderson, David Fincher, Sam Mendes and countless others will forever have black marks on their filmographies because they made films they shouldn’t have.  Paul Thomas Anderson seems to be an artist who cares about his oeuvre and his place in history.  If he knocks this one out of the park, like I know he’s capable of doing, then I’m pretty sure his place in history will be secure.

Films that missed the cut that I’m still stoked about or at least mildly interested in checking out: 3:10 to Yuma, Across the Universe, The Brave One, Into the Wild, The Kingdom, Feast of Love, Grace is Gone, My Kid Could Paint That, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Michael Clayton, Lars and the Real Girl, 30 Days of Night, Reservation Road, Gone Baby Gone, Rendition, Wristcutters: A Love Story, Things We Lost in the Fire, American Gangster, The Kite Runner, Lions for Lambs, Fred Claus, Southland Tales, Beowulf, Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, The Mist, I’m Not There: Suppositions on a Film Concerning Dylan, The Golden Compass, Atonement, Leatherheads, I Am Legend, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, The Savages, The Water Horse: Legends of the Deep.

I’m sure I’ve left out a bunch of films and probably at least half the films that will wind up in my year-end top 10 list, but that’s the fun of going to the movies; it’s not about the ones you expect to be good, it’s about the ones that take you by surprise.

– Noah Forrest
August 21, 2007

Noah Forrest is a 24 year old aspiring writer/filmmaker in New York City.

The opinions expressed in these columns are the writers and do not neccessarily reflect the opinions of Movie City News or any of its editors or other contributors.

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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