It’s fall preview season â€” and where to even begin summing up the flood of special sections centered around the same damn list of films? Well, probably with The Reeler, whose "Fall Movie Preview Review" is a far, far wittier thing than anything bouncing around in our caffeine-addled head at the moment. The Reeler‘s S.T. VanAirsdale runs through all of the New York-based round-ups, citing high points, low points, "Egregious Hype" and an estimate of the actual worth of bothering to read any of these preview packages. The always-wise David Hudson at Greencine Daily adds his thoughts on the New York Times‘ section.
Said section, crowned "The New Season" by the paper of record, is definitely the best of the bunch, solely on the basis of Manohla Dargis and A. O. Scott‘s dueling, ambitious thematic overviews (Stephen Holden, covering Woody Allen’s "Match Point," gets banished to the bottom of the page, which only enforces for us that, despite all the Cannes hype, no one cares that much about the film â€” we’ve just been hurt waiting for a recent quality Allen film too many times before.).
Ms. Dargis approaches the season by way of "A History of Violence," "Dear Wendy," "Where the Truth Lies," "Manderlay" and "Don’t Come Knocking" â€” films she sees as "holding up fun-house mirrors to America" (particularly to our fascination and fetishization of violence), as well as signs that we’ve finally passed beyond the moratorium on film’s criticizing the US following 9/11:
In these films, the focus isn’t on quiet and ugly Americans doing their lethally secret business abroad. Instead, these are films about ordinary Americans – fathers and mothers, sons and daughters – whose hands are dirty and sometimes covered in blood. Ordinary, smiling, guilty Americans.
A very worthy read, and one that adds to the growing hype surrounding "A History of Violence," which the Village Voice, in the wee fall preview we didn’t both linking to before (but will now: Michael Atkinson does his film round-up, the staff weighs in on the top ten fall movie-going highlights), breathlessly called "a brilliantly directed psychological thriller/neo-western that more than fulfills the philosophical and political dimensions of its titleâ€”and confirms its maker as the greatest director working in the English language today."
Scott tackles American film, something in general he finds is failing to engage with, as he puts it, "the realities of American life." He sees the awards season as a parade of safe, distancing biopics and period pieces, as well as (yes!) the ubiquitous navel-gazing Sundance "dysfunctional suburban teenage drama-satire":
Again, the point is not to indict particular movies…but to wonder why the themes they explore are so dominant. Uncomprehending parents, awakening sexuality, the stultifications of school and the inchoate longing for freedom – these problems are sufficiently ubiquitous as to make your local art house look like the young-adult section of your local bookstore. Except that the teenage-angst movies frequently come with R ratings and marketing campaigns aimed more at graduate students than at high school kids.
We are frequently needlessly snide about films of this ilk, regardless of their quality, and we apologize, but it’s because of similar sentiments to Mr. Scott here. God, for a young up-and-comer with ridiculous, impossibly broad ambitions! Screw "write what you know," Sundance Lab rats, no one cares about your thinly disguised adolescence â€” try harder, for chrissakes.
Anyway, lots of other good stuff in the that section. Also worth a look is the LA Times‘ "Fall Movie Sneaks," which includes a massive amount of interviews with various stars and directors of scattered upcoming titles, along with Kevin Thomas rounding up highlights of LA-area foreign film screenings: "As has been increasingly the case over recent decades, many of the season’s new foreign films will be available only as one-time screenings as part of special series presentations at institutional venues."
Stephen Hunter in the Washington Post sees this upcoming fall as particularly literary adaptation-heavy, and advises us, film by film, as to whether or not we should bother reading the source book before heading to the theater.
Wesley Morris and Ty Burr at the Boston Globe disagree with A. O. Scott on the relevance issue â€” they see this as a particularly issue-heavy fall:
What’s exciting is that many of these movies are set in the present or recent past. They’re not allegories or full-on satires, which might leave us desperate for a film with a sense of farce — ”The Producers," say. But some have the potential to resonate with our current social and political climate. Of course, if that’s not to your liking, we’d like to guide you straight to ”Saw II."
For those of you as exhausted as we are by the above endeavor, we direct you to Heather Havrilesky‘s fall TV round-up at Salon, which is funny, smart, and blessedly not about film (plus it comes with a handy chart, and we â™¥ those!).
+ The Reeler’s Fall Movie Preview Review (The Reeler)
+ NYT. Fall preview. (Greencine Daily)
+ The New Season: Movies (NY Times)
+ Fall Movie Sneaks (LA Times)
+ Hollywood Follows the Reader (Washington Post)
+ Tough Stuff (Boston Globe)
+ White-knuckle TV (Salon)
+ Fear factored (Salon)