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fall films

zack_and_miri.jpgThe Vancouver International Film Festival is in full swing, but I’m giving it a miss this year. You need to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy the festival, and as of late, my filmgoing has been more about catching up with things I think I’ll like, more than exploring great swaths of unknown movies in the hope I’ll stumble on something exceptional.

And so, in that spirit, I sat down this evening and did a little counter-programming: putting together a little list of the “prestige-season” movies I want to check out. As usual, I’m a total auteur groupie. Finding out a director I like has a new and promising film gets me way more excited than who’s in it, or even what it’s about. Though I also follow the buzz from the Toronto Film Festival and Cannes, just to be enervated by the rush of being swept up in new hype cycles.

Anyway, here are the movies I’m most excited about:

  • Synecdoche, New York (oct 24). The directoral debut of Charlie Kaufman, who wrote Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Being John Malkovich, two of my all-time favourite movies. Advance word is that it’s prickly, hard to connect with, and a walk-out-magnet, all of which makes me want to see it even more.
  • Zack & Miri Make a Porno (oct 31). It’s cool these days to hate on Kevin Smith for his cult of personality and continuing anti-style, but fuck it. Even when they’re not very good, the man is making the movies he wants to make, the way he wants to make them. And Clerks II was damn entertaining. So suck it, haters. Advance word from TIFF is very positive, with not a few comparisons to Judd Apatow, so I’m doubly there.
  • The Road. (nov 26). Based on a novel by Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men), directed by John Hillcoat (The Proposition), and starring Viggo Mortensen. Plus, I’m a sucker for grim post-apocalyptic movies, which is probably why I got sucked into seeing Waterworld. Twice. My only question is whether or not to read the novel before seeing the film. That, and how much like killing myself the movie will leave me feeling.
  • The Wrestler (dec 19). Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream) apparently told Micky Rourke that he had an idea for a movie that would get Rourke an Oscar nomination, and then clinched the deal by telling him, “You have to listen to everything I say. You have to do everything I tell you. You can never disrespect me. And you can’t be hanging out at the clubs all night long. And I can’t pay you.”
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (dec 26). Brad Pitt ages backward! Now that is a high concept I can get behind. David Fincher’s lesser films are still pretty good, and his best are Fight Club and Zodiac, two of the best films of the past decade. So there’s that.
  • Frost/Nixon. (dec 26). This is the one movie I’m not seeing for the director (Ron Howard, who I see as more of a competent craftsman than director I get excited about). I’m seeing it because since reading Nixonland, I’ve become mildly obsessed with the character of Richard Milhous. Plus the trailer looks pretty great.

Other movies I’ll be keeping an eye on: W. (Oliver Stone biopic of the president), Rachel Getting Married (Johnathan Demme in Mike Leigh country), How To Lose Friends & Alienate People (for the great Simon Pegg), City Of Ember (I’m not sure what to make of the trailer, but it has Bill Murray and Tim Roth), RocknRolla (I just keep giving Guy Ritchie chances, in the hope that he’s got some spark of talent left), Changeling (Clint Eastwood directing a J. Michael Straczynski-penned historical thriller, starring Angelina Jolie and John Malkovich), Milk (Gus Van Sant film about murdered politician Harvey Milk), Slumdog Millionaire (Danny Boyle film about a street kind in India who wins a game show — I’d be more excited if the advance publicity didn’t make it sound so saccharine), and The Brothers Bloom (con man story from Rian Johnson, who directed Brick, which I didn’t love, but admired a lot).