March 26, 2011

On the Horizon: Movies in 2011

Foreboding weather again for movie fans?
Although I've yet to finalize my best films of 2010, mostly because I'm still slowly catching up to all that I've missed, it's already well into 2011 and thus time to take a look at what's ahead.

People have defended 2010 as a solid year in film, but I'm afraid I just haven't seen (at least not yet) much to write home about, or write here about, as it were. Compared to the upcoming year, however, 2010 may end up being considered a golden year to be remember. I'm not going to break down specific titles by month as I have in past years; rather, I'm going to lift from Mark Harris' instantly classic article in the February issue of GQ (which I now realize has been lauded all over the place for weeks, but which I only discovered in the hard copy of the magazine that I stole borrowed from the YMCA).

I think this is all that needs to be said, and I think that aside from MSPIFF 2011 this spring, I probably shouldn't worry about the many new movies that I'm likely to miss this year as well:
"...let's look ahead to what's on the menu for this year: four adaptations of comic books. One prequel to an adaptation of a comic book. One sequel to a sequel to a movie based on a toy. One sequel to a sequel to a sequel to a movie based on an amusement-park ride. One prequel to a remake. Two sequels to cartoons. One sequel to a comedy. An adaptation of a children's book. An adaptation of a Saturday-morning cartoon. One sequel with a 4 in the title. Two sequels with a 5 in the title. One sequel that, if it were inclined to use numbers, would have to have a 7 1/2 in the title.

...Right now, we can argue that any system that allows David Fincher to plumb the invention of Facebook and the Coen brothers to visit the old West, that lets us spend the holidays gorging on new work by Darren Aronofsky and David O. Russell, has got to mean that American filmmaking is in reasonably good health. But the truth is that we'll be back to summer—which seems to come sooner every year—in a heartbeat. And it's hard to hold out much hope when you hear the words that one studio executive, who could have been speaking for all her kin, is ready to chisel onto Hollywood's tombstone: "We don't tell stories anymore."


  1. I feel the same way you do about the upcoming year. I would even embrace a big noisy blockbuster summer movie - if it told a relatively original story and wasn't a sequel! But I don't see anything out there.

  2. The year has actually started off in spectacular fashion, though some will argue (with some merit) that most of these films are from the previous year. This always seems to happen with foreign-language films with the overlap. Hence, here is the way I see the buffo opening:

    Of Gods and Men *****
    Win Win *****
    Uncle Boonme *****
    Poetry *****
    Winter in Wartime **** 1/2
    Certified Copy **** 1/2
    Jane Eyre **** 1/2
    I Saw the Devil **** 1/2
    The Last Lions **** 1/2 (documentary)
    Nostalgia For the Light **** (documentary)

    I trust all is well with you and your lovely wife Dan.

  3. (I'm posting this comment from my friend Tom via email, as it didn't post here):

    Meh. I feel like you've written this before, and that people have written similar things to Harris' article bemoaning the state of movies. Ever since they started doing the big comic books and the sequels, which by the way wasn't the first time they've done either.

    It reminds me of the music thing, as you get older you tend to prefer the music of your youth and "what the kids are listening to these days" is racket. Or the whole, "we are living in an important period of humanity" thought that every generation has.

    Harris alludes to it in his article "'The scab you're picking at is called execution'" and that essentially the studios don't bet on execution. The fact that they have a word for it that "legendary producer Scott Rudin" uses tells me the idea has been around for a while. The fight between what sells and what "needs execution" or has more "quality" or whatever the criterion that we are mourning, has been going on forever and it's just the two sides that are changing. I'm sure there was hesitation to make important films in every era of film's history because of the same "party lines" that Harris discusses. This isn't a new problem with the film industry because like any business they will continue to make what sells and they will continue to use their experience to make that determination.

    I know the line "if you don't like it, stop buying it" is obtuse and slightly aside the main point so I'll end on a positive note.

    We have so much good film coming out, much more than I, and sounds like increasingly you, have time to see. MSPIFF 2011 this spring, I just heard over the weekend about the Jewish and Italian film festivals in town. The Trylon, Heights, all the documentaries and other independent films you mention. The directors he mentions (among a slew of others), Fincher, the Coens, Aronofsky, Russell in their arguable primes (and making studio movies) suggests that film is in fine if not great shape for 2011 and beyond. It's possible I'm just missing the point, but either way I hope I have time to watch half of the movies I'd like to see in 2011.

  4. Hokahey, that's a bit disconcerting as I think you actually have a much higher tolerance for those blockbusters than I do! Maybe I'm being a little premature, but heck, at least last year we had an original blockbuster like Inception to look forward to. There are a couple worth considering this summer (maybe something like Super 8), but even those few seem to be retreads of older movies.

    Thank you, Sam, we're doing very well and catching up slowly on some of the good ones from 2010 via Netflix. I can't argue with the number of good to great films that you may have already seen this year; of course, a good half of those haven't made their way here from NYC yet, if they will at all. In any case I think you are right the foreign film overlap from 2010 is providing a few promising options right now (Of Gods and Men is one I'd like to see), but the interesting American films are really few and far between. Win Win arrives this week and that could be a winner (...), but beyond our festival here in April I don't see as much on the way as I usually due that piques my interest. Hopefully I'll be pleasantly surprised.

    Tom, no doubt Harris is recycling accepted thought these days (I'll plead guilty as well), but the timing and the way he expressed it I think hit a nerve with a lot of people for some reason. Perhaps there is a little bit of fatalistic generation-based depression as well, like we're all "maturing" out of the appeal of blockbusters and action movies, etc. I mean I'll be the first to admit that there is a contradiction to me loving a movie like True Lies because it somehow came at a time when it appealed to me, whereas I would likely scoff at anything resembling True Lies this year. And for that matter True Lies was simply the latest version of the same kind of movie that had been made for decades. So, yes, those of us at the tail end of Generation X are, on balance, probably whining a lot more than Baby Boomers (who have already been through this cycle) or Millennials (who will be complaining the way we are in 15 years). I get that, and it's a fair criticism of the criticism.

    That said, I do think the sheer number of sequels and the sheer number of genre blockbusters (i.e., is there a Marvel character without its own movie on the way?) needs to be considered evidence of a pretty pathetic creative industry (if not at the same time an incredibly shrewd business plan). And that's where I think my disappointment really lies - the lack of creative effort. In other words, the Inception example as it's described in Harris' article. I don't think Inception was nearly as good as the hype that surrounded it last year, but I'll give Christopher Nolan all due praise and more for actually trying something new. Similarly, I saw The Adjustment Bureau recently, and while I thought it was a fairly cliched execution of a suspense thriller, the story underpinnings felt fresh to me and kept me engaged. That's really what I'm looking for - something to sink my teeth into, even if the flavor isn't perfect.

    As far as our local scene goes, yeah, it's enough to make you forget about new films in the first place. If I made my way to half the Trylon showings in a given month or saw a dozen movies at MSPIFF, I'd probably give no thought to the "downfall" of cinema.

    So that's what I shall (try to) do: see more and complain (a little) less.


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