MCN Columnists
Noah Forrest

By Noah Forrest

Frenzy on the Wall: 10 Movies to See This Fall/Winter

I write this column every year. In fact, I write this column three times a year, with the changing of the movie seasons. The interesting thing about writing this particular column at this particular time in this particular year is: 1) this has been such an unfathomably terrible year at the movies that the fall has never been more important and 2) never has a fall/winter movie season looked so appetizing from afar.

What’s most astounding to me about this year’s fall crop is that there are movies that I couldn’t fit on this list that I’m still dying to see; movies like Woody Allen’s You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, Ben Affleck’s The Town, Casey Affleck’s I’m Still Here, the documentary Catfish, Stone, Red, Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter, Todd PhillipsDue Date, Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours, Doug Liman’s Fair Game, the new Harry Potter movie, Love and Other Drugs, Julie Taymor’s The Tempest, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s The Tourist, Julian Schnabel’s Miral, and Blue Valentine.

These are all movies I cannot wait to go see, yet none of them cracked the top ten list of the movies I most want to see before the year is over.

So without further ado, these are the ten movies that I am most excited to see this fall:

Never Let Me Go (Dir. Mark Romanek) – September 17th

Considering that Romanek has only directed one feature previously – the underrated One Hour Photo – it might be somewhat surprising for me to include his sophomore feature on this list. But when one looks at the music videos he’s directed, it’s clear that this is a man who has a distinct vision and a unique way of bringing that vision to life. I’ll always remember the scene in One Hour Photo when Robin Williams is running through a parking structure and the way the camera follows him, creating a sense of uneasiness in the viewer just by the way the camera tracks him down the parking garage as he runs in circles.

Here, Romanek is working with a peculiar storyline that follows three young people (played by Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, and Keira Knightley) as they grow up in a very different kind of school. Based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro and adapted for the screen by Alex Garland, this promises to be something like a Michael Bay film (like The Island) as filtered through the lens of a Merchant-Ivory sensibility. I don’t know about you guys, but that definitely has my interest piqued.

The Social Network (Dir. David Fincher) – October 1st

I’ve made no secret of my love for David Fincher throughout my years writing this column. I put him on a pedestal with a handful of other directors across the world as one of the visionaries of cinema. I just find that Fincher never takes the easy approach and has a very particular vision that never ceases to amaze me. The way that Fincher handles the mise-en-scene of his films is always just a little bit off-kilter, just like his camera and the lighting; he is one of the best in the business at creating a certain mood and sustaining it throughout the running time of the film.

Here, Fincher works from a script by the Aaron Sorkin, who has such a great sense of dramatic tension and who writes dialogue better than almost anyone. To have Fincher’s visuals matched up to Sorkin’s dialogue sounds like a such a treat that I can barely contain myself. And that was before watching one of the best trailers that has ever been cut before. If you haven’t watched the preview for The Social Network, do yourself a favor and watch it now.

Anybody who refers to this film as “the Facebook movie” is someone who clearly doesn’t have a strong interest in film. For us geeks, we call it “the Fincher film.” He’s reached that echelon for me where it really doesn’t matter what the subject matter of his film is, I know he will elevate it to something of merit artistically. I also think that Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield are going to smash it out of the park playing the Facebook founders. And being a fan of Justin Timberlake’s work on SNL, I’m excited to see what he can do in the hands of a master filmmaker. This is my number 1 must-see film of the year.

Jackass 3-D (Dir. Jeff Tremaine) – October 15th

Lest you think I’m some kind of film snob, this is the comedy I’m most excited to see this year. I don’t know what to tell you; you either love this stuff or you hate it. All I know is that the first two installments in this franchise had me crying with laughter. Comedy is such an instinctual thing and I will never be able to explain to you logically why I find it hilarious to watch a man get hit in the face by a giant hand. What these sick bastards do just entertains me to no end, but I understand completely why someone would be off-put by their antics.

But I’m going to be there opening night and I imagine I’ll laugh til’ I cry once again.

Black Swan (Dir. Darren Aronofsky) – December 1st

I wasn’t the biggest fan of The Wrestler. I mean, I thought it was fine and I enjoyed it for the most part, but I thought it was a bit of a let-down from what I had come to expect from Darren Aronofsky. The three features he had directed previous to that film were complicated and implored the viewer to open their minds and think long and hard about the narratives presented. I felt like The Wrestler was Aronofsky recharging his batteries after the difficult – and beautiful – The Fountain. He was trying to go back to telling a story that had a very clearly defined beginning, middle and end. While I enjoyed seeing Aronofsky tell a more conventional story, I longed to see him tell a story that engaged my brain a bit more.

Well, it seems like that’s exactly what Aronofsky has in store for us with Black Swan, a thrilling tale of ballet and horror starring Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis. Portman is one of the most talented young actresses of her generation, but it seems like she’s been a bit stuck as of late. I admire that she’s taken risks in films like Brothers and The Other Boleyn Girl, but it seems like she’s been trying a bit too hard to break away form a certain kind of mold and has been miscast in films where she’s been forced to be a too…adult. Despite the fact that she’s now 29, she still looks so young that it’s hard to take her seriously as the mother of two young children (as she was in Brothers).

But as a young ballet dancer who’s beset by psychological turmoil when a rival joins the company, I think she could potentially hit that out of the park. Portman was never better than she was in Closer, playing up a mixture of vulnerability and sexual empowerment, and it seems like Black Swan might present her with a role that straddles that same line. I’m excited to see what kind of magic Aronofsky and Portman can bring to the table.

The Fighter (Dir. David O. Russell) – December 10th

I just re-watched I Heart Huckabees later and I still feel, six years later, that it is one of the most underrated films that has been released in the past decade. Never before (or since) in my lifetime have I felt like the critical community so missed the mark when it came to reviewing a film. I hate to be one of those assholes who says, “well, they just didn’t get it!” but when it came to that particular film and the critical community…well, they just didn’t get it!

It is such a funny film in a deadpan way, yet it speaks to a lot of the existential issues we all face on a day to day basis. Namely, it deals with a specific feeling that a lot of youth faces today: how do we make a difference and can we make that difference without sacrificing our ideals? More than that, it’s about how we navigate the murky waters of today and how people that seem to be our polar opposite are, in the end, exactly the same as us.

If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m a pretty big David O. Russell fan (and I haven’t even gotten into the brilliance of Three Kings!) and I think Mark Wahlberg has done a lot of his best work while being directed by Russell. Here, Wahlberg plays a real-life boxer named Mickey Ward and Christian Bale plays his trainer and half-brother Dickie Eklund, who was an addict. Bale playing an addict, Wahlberg playing a boxer, directed by the great David O. Russell? I mean, who isn’t excited about this project?

How Do You Know (Dir. James L. Brooks) – December 17th

Spanglish was awful (except for the scene where Adam Sandler makes that delicious looking sandwich) and the trailer for this film looks absolutely terrible. But this is James L. Brooks we’re talking about. The man makes a movie every six years if we’re lucky and more often than not, he’s hit the mark.

Brooks tries to make a very specific kind of film each time out: films that defy conventional plot descriptions and deal with adult themes that are tonally difficult to figure out. In other words, he makes films that are neither comedies nor dramas, but contain elements of both. Some weirdos call these films “dramadies” but I don’t think Brooks’ films can be labeled so easily.

This latest film involves a love triangle between Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, and Owen Wilson. Jack Nicholson plays Rudd’s father. There’s some kind of accounting scandal and at least one of the leads is a professional baseball player. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what the film is “about” because James L. Brooks films are all about the how rather than the why.

Sure, if you boil down most of his films to the bare essentials, they are about a boy and a girl and falling in love and yadda yadda yadda. But, the emotions and themes are never that shallow and even when he stumbles, he always makes something that is worth considering.

Somewhere (Dir. Sofia Coppola) – December 24th

I think Sofia Coppola is capable of being one of the best filmmakers alive. I think her first two films (Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation) are about as close to perfect as two films can be. I also think that her last film (Marie Antoinette) was one of the most disappointing that I’ve ever seen – beautiful to look at, to be sure, but interminable and without a plot. I think Coppola made a mistake in trying to make a film that was outside her comfort zone before she had truly mastered her particular milieu. In other words, I think she tried to stretch before she was ready. Perhaps she’ll never be ready, but I do know that he first two films had a wisdom to them that cannot be learned.

With this film, it seems like Coppola is returning to Lost in Translation territory in that we have a movie star – this time played by Stephen Dorff – lounging around a hotel and trying to find himself. The catalyst for his potential change comes in the form of his daughter (played by Elle Fanning).

The few clips I’ve seen have made the film feel very familiar and a bit derivative of Coppola’s own work. But I have more faith in her than that and I’m hoping that this film is as good as I expect all of her work to be. It won’t be a comeback film if it’s as excellent as it should be because Coppola has never been anything less than brilliant. But even brilliant artists make mistakes. Here’s hoping this isn’t one of them.

True Grit (Dir. The Coen Brothers) – December 25th

I have no feeling one way or another for the original film version of True Grit, starring John Wayne. I thought it was fine enough, but not exactly a scared cow of cinema. So it doesn’t bother me that much that someone decided it might be a good film to revisit and remake. And it certainly doesn’t bother me that the Coen Brothers are the ones who decided to remake it. And it CERTAINLY doesn’t bother me that Matt Damon, Jeff Bridges, Josh Brolin, and Barry Pepper decided to join the cast.

The crucial role in the film will be played by newcomer Hailee Steinfeld, as the young girl who enlists the aid of a US Marshall to track down her father’s murderer. That man is, of course, Rooster Cogburn – originally played by Wayne and now played by The Dude himself, Jeff Bridges.

Honestly, if you’re a film fan at all and you’re reading this column, do I really have to give you reasons to see the newest Coen Brothers flick?

The Way Back (Dir. Peter Weir) – December

This one doesn’t have a firm release date yet, but when I hear the name “Peter Weir,” I instinctively know that it’s going to be an expertly made film, from the hands of a true craftsman. What I find most fascinating about Weir is that I don’t know that I’d call him an “auteur” because each of his films feel so different. I can’t say that there’s a definitive “Weir style” or that he’s explored a specific theme and returning to it many times over the course of his career.

Instead, Weir has been a bit of a chameleon. He doesn’t work that often, but when he does, he makes films that cause me to say, “wow, I need more Peter Weir in my life!” Whether he’s making Fearless, Green Card, Witness, The Mosquito Coast, Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Truman Show, or Master and Commander, he’s always delivering something astounding.

With his latest film, The Way Back, he’s making a film that has perhaps one of the most fascinating premises of the year: it’s the true story of a group of soldiers who escaped a Siberian gulag in the 1940s and walked 4000 miles to freedom in India. It stars Colin Farrell, Ed Harris, Jim Sturgess, Mark Strong, and Saoirse Ronan. It’s the first script written entirely by Weir since Green Card, so we know it must be an important story for him to tell.

Whenever it winds up being released, I’m sure we can count on it being gorgeous to look at and thoroughly engaging at the very least.

Tree of Life (Dir. Terrence Malick) – ?Who Knows?

I’ve put this on every damned list for the last two years. It’s the latest Terrence Malick film, it’s got Brad Pitt and Sean Penn and potentially dinosaurs. It’s shrouded in secrecy despite the fact that it stopped shooting two years ago. It’s about a family in Texas as well as the creation of the world we live in and somehow, those things will merge or run parallel to one another or something. It will be the most beautiful film we’ll see all year and it’ll most likely blow our minds…

…if Malick stops cutting it and lets it get released.

This used to be the one film I was most excited to see. After having waited for it for so long, it seems even further away. It doesn’t even seem realistic that I’ll see it anymore, like it’s a specter or a mirage. It’s somewhere in the distant at all times, taunting me with its beauty and brilliance. Please, Terry Malick, stop playing games with my heart and let me see this damned thing already!

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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