MCN Columnists
Noah Forrest

By Noah Forrest

Frenzy on the Wall: Looking Forward to a New (Hopefully Better) Year

2010 was not my favorite year at the movies. There were certainly films that I enjoyed and ones that I expect to own and revisit more than a few times, but there wasn’t a single film that made me shudder or give me goosebumps or to even make me gasp aloud. In other words, while there were a couple of great films in 2010, there was only one or two that made me say, “Yes! That is why I love cinema.” But the great thing about life is that every time the year changes, it’s a clean slate, and there’s always something to look forward to.

For me, every time the calendar flips and I see a new year in front of me, my first thought always races to which great filmmaker is releasing another movie and which films I’m most excited to see. I’m a nerd like that. But since I’ve started working at MCN, there’s also this pervading thought: which films will make for a great story to write about? I still go to the movies primarily for my own enjoyment – a big reason why I refuse to classify myself as a “critic” and try to limit the amount of press screenings I go to – but I also have to think about which movies will make for interesting stories for my dear readers. And so, because of those disparate reasons, these are the films and stories I’m most looking forward to covering in 2011:

The Tree of Life

Yes, it seems that Terrence Malick’s long gestating project is finally upon us. It feels as though this project has been finished shooting forever, but considering the fact that this is apparently Malick’s dream project, I’m glad he has taken all the time he wanted to make sure it was perfect. The Tree of Life is allegedly the same project as a film Malick wanted to make over 30 years ago called Q. That film was supposedly about a modern day story that also dealt with the creation of the universe, especially this planet we call Earth.

Malick has never worked in a science fiction genre before, but it sounds like what he had in mind was more of a “science fact” film that had parallel stories about how our world was created and how this person’s identity was formed. The film stars Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, and Jessica Chastain and will most likely be a delight for anyone who admires Malick’s vision.

However, it should be made clear that Malick is not for everyone and is an acquired taste. His films are deliberate and methodical and usually involve breathtakingly beautiful imagery that substitutes for what most people would expect from a “narrative.” However, he usually also employs voiceover in his films, which doesn’t necessarily aid in your understanding of the film on a logical level, but almost always gives the viewer a visceral and emotional understanding of what he’s aiming at.

In other words, despite the fact that the film stars some notable actors and supposedly has CGI dinosaurs roaming about, this will probably not appeal to fans of Transformers. But, that is of course, music to my elitist ears.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo?

I really did not like the Swedish film version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and I’m even less fond of the book that it’s based on. These works are really not much better than your average Sue Grafton thriller. However, when I heard that David Fincher was stepping behind the camera for an English language adaptation, I perked up because, as you must know by now, I think Fincher is one of the very best filmmakers working today.

But it upset me a great deal that to hear that Fincher is adhering closely to the details of the book, instead of using this as an opportunity to correct some of the mistakes of the narrative. It gives me pause to learn that the film is still set in Sweden. I understand the nature of the narrative makes it so that it would be difficult to change settings, but it wouldn’t be impossible. A few tweaks here and there and it would be relatively simple to set the film in America or Canada. The mere fact that the film is shooting in Sweden makes me nervous that we’ll be seeing essentially a better-looking version of the original film.

When I heard Fincher was attached to the film, I thought, “Oh, he’s going to knock that out of the park.” But I’m certainly a bit wary because there is a cult of Stieg Larsson that might make it difficult for changes to be made. I just hope Fincher follows his instinct rather than the cult.

Cameron Crowe Returns?

It’s been over a decade since Cameron Crowe made Almost Famous, which is one of the seminal movies about music and growing up and how those two things are not mutually exclusive. In the decade since, Crowe has only made two films: the remake Vanilla Sky and the original Elizabethtown. Neither one of those movies were high points on Crowe’s resume.

When Crowe made Jerry Maguire – one of the most underrated Hollywood films of the last twenty years – I thought he was morphing himself into the next James L. Brooks (the producer of his first few movies). However, with Almost Famous, I felt like he was something different entirely – someone who had a deep understanding of the history of film (Billy Wilder is a big influence), but who was willing to break certain rules and conventions. But, the overarching theme with Crowe’s work – going as far back as Say Anything – is that no matter how far outside of the box he went, he had a Capra-esque mentality. In other words, he made films that were odd but yet always had a happy ending.

Vanilla Sky was an interesting step outside of his comfort zone, even if it wasn’t entirely successful, but Elizabethtown was almost a caricature of Crowe’s earlier work. It was almost like he decided to make Jerry Maguire over again, but with a younger cast – disgraced employee tries to rebuild his life in the wake of a major upheaval.

This year Crowe has the film We Bought a Zoo, based on the memoir of the same name. Matt Damon has the lead role. I think it’s an opportunity for Crowe to reshape someone else’s work into something that fits his mold. The logline sounds like something Crowe could fashion into a real winner, but more than anything I hope it gives him the confidence to write an original script once again. Crowe is one of the few original and exciting voices in Hollywood and it would be a shame if he didn’t bring that unique voice to the screen once again.

Scorsese and Kids

I have to say that I wasn’t that excited about the idea of Scorsese making a 3-D kids film called Hugo Cabret, but then I thought about it for a little bit and the idea appealed to me a bit more. You see, a lot of folks go crazy for Scorsese’s “mob” flicks, but my favorite Scorsese films are the ones where he steps outside of that comfort zone. My favorite Scorsese films are the following: After Hours, Age of Innocence, and The Last Temptation of Christ. Not a mob flick in the bunch.

So, with that in mind, I have to say that I’m a bit intrigued to see Scorsese make a film that is outside of his supposed “comfort” zone. I know that he makes really good films about gangsters, but I don’t know if he makes good kids movies. Maybe he makes the best kids movies ever; maybe he makes 3-D films better than anyone has ever made 3-D films. I think with a filmmaker like Scorsese, it’s important to give him the benefit of the doubt considering he’s never really failed before (I’m ignoring New York New York and Bringing Out the Dead).

The plot of the film sounds a bit like Louis Malle’s Zazie Dans Le Metro, but with Scorsese and Chloe Moretz, I’m excited to see what happens.

Spielberg Double Whammy

One of my very first columns that I wrote for MCN three years ago was a defense of Steven Spielberg. I mean, I don’t think the most successful filmmaker in film history really needs a defense for the benefit of the general public, but he’s become a bit of a pariah for film geeks. And after he made the last Indiana Jones film (a movie, like the above Scorseses, that I’ve tried to pretend doesn’t exist), I started to see why so many people were disappointed with what he had become.

I think the most upsetting thing is that he doesn’t need to make blockbusters; this is a man who has made enough money for himself and others that he could literally make anything he wanted. And it’s upsetting that with that kind of power, he decides to cash in on a needless sequel to Indiana Jones.

However, he’s also the same director who makes a ballsy film like Munich and brings a kind of vitality to it that other filmmakers would be unable to. What makes Munich an amazing film is that Spielberg saw the blockbuster potential in a film like that (even if it didn’t make blockbuster money) and brought out the elements that would make it accessible to a wider audience. Not everyone is interested in making “art” cinema and Spielberg has done more good for the global audience than bad.

This year, Spielberg has two films coming out: War Horse, which seems to be a “one for me” kind of film about a boy and his horse during World War I. And then there’s The Adventures of Tintin, a classic “one for them” film that he co-directed with Peter Jackson and employs the kind of technology James Cameron used for Avatar. However, the biggest news Spielberg made was casting the genius Daniel Day-Lewis in his Lincoln biopic. Spielberg has two chances this year to restore my faith in him, but I’m already convinced that his Abraham Lincoln movie will make me forgive him even if he fails in 2011.

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8 Responses to “Frenzy on the Wall: Looking Forward to a New (Hopefully Better) Year”

  1. movieman says:

    I think with a filmmaker like Scorsese, it’s important to give him the benefit of the doubt considering he’s never really failed before (I’m ignoring New York New York and Bringing Out the Dead).
    WTF, young Noah?!?!
    I’ll give you “Bringing Out the Dead” (and “Casino,” “Kundun,” “Cape Fear,” “Shine a Light” and maybe even the overrated “Departed” if I’m going to be perfectly honest), but “New York, New York”!?
    “NYNY 1981” (i.e., the reissued “director’s cut”) is one of Scorsese’s enduring masterpieces, and no finer example of a great director stepping out of their perceived comfort zone. Btw, “The Age of Innocence” is my personal favorite Scorsese, and I’ve always loved how its ending quotes the last scene of “NYNY.”

  2. Hopscotch says:

    Shine a Light is an abysmal movie experience. Rich rockers performing for rich people. There’s nothing at all interesting about it. Comparing it to The Last Waltz is like comparing Star Wars to The Phantom Menace. One feels authentic and vibrant, one sucks. New York, New York, Bringing out the Dead and Kundun are major snoozers. Gangs of New York and The Aviator are interesting failures, but bloated films beyond belief. Particularly Gangs. However, I agree for the most part Mr. Scorsese’s films are at least interesting visually, or offer throwbacks to films he (and most of us) deeply admire.

    I too am very curious what is up Mr. Spielberg’s sleeves. I’m not as dismissive of his work the way many people our age are (I’m 29). I thought Munich was much more interesting and deep than many give credit for, it’s got it’s problems but there are some terrific sequences in it.

    I also fell in love with Cameron Crowe with Almost Famous. It’s a very important film for me too. But dammmnnnn Elizabethtown is awful. Really awful.

  3. Proman says:

    What a dumbass a column written by a dumbass. Indy 4 fucking rocks. An excellent take on 50s paranoia sci-fi and an excellent extension of the serial inspired early installments.

    And let’s spread lies, a-la Jackson is a co-director for Tintin despite Spielberg being the sole credit or that Spielberg didn’t plan his “one for them” for over two decades.

  4. Noah Forrest says:

    Proman, thanks for your thoughtful response.

    Movieman, I guess I need to see New York, New York again (it’s been a while), but I can’t say I’m anxious to revisit it. I love when Scorsese ventures outside his perceived comfort zone, but that one just didn’t work for me.

    Hopscotch, you’re absolutely right: Shine a Light is terrible, not just musically either. It just feels like a mess of a documentary that doesn’t really bring anything to the table.

  5. established 1962 says:

    war horse is going to be such a perfect fit for spielberg. my uncle saw iton stage in london and said it was just fantastic. i can’t wait to see what they do in place of the mechanical puppetry of the horses in the stage version (I hear it is so integral to the play).

    re: Cameron Crowe— I gotta say, I am a fan, but I just thought this story sounds so milquetoast. the zoo could be a boon visually for crowe, but i’m not convinced it’s going to be anything special. it’s just too friendly. i want cameron crowe to not be a nice guy and to make something like black swan but starring an aging keith richards character. or a remake of crossroads.

    no doubt it’s going to have an awesome soundtrack though. (eh, I’m not even convinced of the relevance of his music taste anymore)

    but tree of life is in 2011 so… WHATEVER!!! movies could end forever after that and I would be satisfied with 2011. I have seen people of every walk of life gasp at that trailer. Hopefully it’ll breakout and be a movie we can all share.

    (then mabye brad pitt can do that remake of the weatherman he’s been trying to get funded for years)

  6. Jeremy says:

    I’m a fan of the millennium trilogy and I’m interested to see what Fincher’s take on it is going to be–however, I’ve noticed the phenomenon that every other Fincher movie, for me at least, tends to be just OK, while the one before it is great. Fight Club precedes Panic Room, and Zodiac precedes Benjamin Button, and there’s no argument as to which are the better films in those cases. He just peaked brilliantly with Social Network, so…what now?

    As for Spielberg, I’m most looking forward to the Lincoln film, since I’ve heard the script is genius. And Tree of Life is going to be something miraculous to behold.

  7. movieman says:

    I think my favorite ’00 Scorsese is actually “No Direction Home” from 2005.
    What an amazing journey; and such an extraordinary piece of documentary filmmaking! I’d love Scorsese to do a follow-up focusing on the post-’66 Dylan, but that’s probably never gonna happen, alas.
    Probably one of the reasons I was so disappointed in “Shine a Light” is because I naively hoped that it was going to do for the Stones what “Home” did for Dylan. If only. Instead, “Shine” came across as perhaps Scorsese’s only purely “director-for-hire” gig.

  8. Keil Shults says:

    Let us not forget that Alexander Payne will be delivering his first film since Sideways (The Descendants, starring George Clooney).

    I, too, am worried about Fincher shooting a film in Sweden about Swedish characters (who will apparently speak primarily English). I will say that the first book is easily the best of the trilogy. Hopefully he’ll leave the final two installments to other filmmakers so that he can move on to something else.

    There is no need to defend Spielberg. The man is a legend and has done more good-to-great films than seems humanly possible, not to mention constantly pushing the medium while also bridging art and commerce when he can.

    I’ve read the book for Hugo Cabret, and I can certainly see why Marty would have been attracted to it. I’m hoping for the best. As for your favorites, I don’t quite agree, though my favorite is also not a mob film (Taxi Driver).

    And yes, let’s hope Crowe can deliver his first great film since Almost Famous (one of my favorite of the past decade).

    And yes, Tree of Life is easily one of my top 2 or 3 must-sees for the year.

    Now if only Paul Thomas Anderson would have something in the works…

Frenzy On Column

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