2009 Fall movie preview

seriousmanThe year in movies so far has been quite solid. We’ve had an instant Pixar classic, the thrilling reinvention of a beloved series, a thought-provoking sci-fi thriller, a charming showcase for the industry’s finest actor and one of the most inventive romantic comedies I’ve seen in years — and that’s just my top five.

But if the lineup of movies yet to come comes close to living up to its promise, we ain’t seen nothing yet. The list that follows is a veritable roll call of my favorite directors (only Paul Thomas Anderson, Steven Spielberg and Alfonso Cuaron seem to have taken the year off), with a few Jason Bateman appearances to boot.

Here are the ten films I’m most looking forward to, in order, followed by an alphabetical list of runners-up:

1. A Serious Man (Oct. 2)
Three films in three years from the Coen Brothers is almost too good to be true, and if A Serious Man approaches the quality of No Country For Old Men and Burn After Reading, I’ll be a happy man. I don’t know much about this film — which is how I like to go into the Coens’ movies — except that it’s based on their father and promises to be their most personal work yet. That prospect has me doubly excited.

wildthings2. Where the Wild Things Are (Oct. 16)
Director Spike Jonze adapts Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s book (he wrote the screenplay with Dave Eggers). Jonze has made only two feature films — Being John Malkovich and Adaptation — but they’re two of my favorite films of the past ten years. I’m curious to see how he’ll do apart from screenwriter Charlie Kaufman. If the trailer is any indication, he done good.

3. Broken Embraces (Nov. 20)
Speaking of winning streaks, Pedro Almódovar has barely missed a step in the 20+ years he’s been directing films. His string over the past decade — All About My Mother, Talk to Her, Bad Education and Volver — is simply astonishing. His love of cinema seeps through the pores of every frame. His latest is another showcase for Penelope Cruz, who should have won the Oscar for Volver.

fox4. Fantastic Mr. Fox (Nov. 13)
Here’s another celebrated indie director tackling a famous children’s book — Wes Anderson taking on the Roald Dahl tome (which I’ve never read). Anderson’s last film, the uneven The Darjeeling Limited, found him a little too entrenched in his comfort zone. Perhaps working in stop-motion animation will set him free.

5. Up in the Air (Dec.)
Strong word of mouth about the script and early screenings of this Jason Reitman dramedy have pushed it up this list. Reitman is coming off an Oscar nomination for the delightful Juno and seems like a good fit for this tale of a corporate downsizer (played by George Clooney) who has a crisis of conscience. Bonus points for the first Jason Bateman appearance on the list.

6. The Informant! (Sept. 18)
Steven Soderbergh continues his “one for me, one for them” pattern, following the epic Che with this knee-slapper of a true story about a complete idiot (Matt Damon) who conspires with the feds to turn in his crooked bosses. The exclamation point in the title is a perfect touch that captures the zany atmosphere promised in the trailer.

extract7. Extract (Sept. 4)
Writer/director Mike Judge returns to the workplace after 1999’s cult classic Office Space, this time focusing on a beleaguered middle manager (Jason Bateman sighting number two!) and a cast of wacky characters surrounding him. The trailer promises a lot of laughs, including a potentially scene-stealing turn by the underrated Ben Affleck. And bonus points for the casting of drop-dead beauty Mila Kunis.

8. Nine (Nov. 25)
Director Rob Marshall’s last stab at a Broadway musical (Chicago) raked in a boatload of Oscars. The cast of Nine brings their own boatload of Oscars to the table. Daniel Day-Lewis, Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Marion Cotillard, Judi Dench and Sophia Loren have all won the little golden guy at least once. Kate Hudson must have felt quite intimidated, and Fergie seems to have wandered onto the wrong movie set (but we’ll see how that goes). Seeing all of these people sing and dance is a fascinating prospect.

zombieland9. Zombieland (Oct. 9)
All I know about this film is that the trailer makes me want to see it tomorrow. If Zombieland hits a nerve, I predict Woody Harrelson’s character will emerge as a cult favorite on par with Kurt Russell’s Snake Plisken.

10. Me and Orson Welles (Nov.)
I’m interested in anything director Richard Linklater releases, and this low-key tale about a young man (Zac Efron) who breaks into the theater world under the tutelage of Welles seems promising. Claire Danes plays the love interest.

Honorable Mention (alphabetical):

Avatar (Dec. 18) – James Cameron’s first feature film since Titanic

Couples Retreat (Oct. 9) – Jason Bateman sighting number three, with a Vince Vaughn chaser.

The Invention of Lying (Sept. 25) – Jason Bateman yet again (in a small role); Ricky Gervais wrote this film about a world where he’s the only person capable of lying. Jennifer Garner is the woman he woos.

It’s Complicated (Dec. 25) – Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin in a romantic comedy for adults. Lots of potential there.

The Lovely Bones (Dec. 11) – Peter Jackson tackles Alice Sebold’s wonderful, haunting novel. I have doubts about whether this book can translate to the screen but if they pull it off it could be powerful.

The Men Who Stare at Goats (Nov. 6) – George Clooney and his Good Night and Good Luck writing partner team up for a film about military men who conduct telepathic experiments on animals.

The Princess and the Frog (Nov. 25) – A return to hand-drawn animation by Disney, featuring the studio’s first ever Black princess.

Shutter Island (Oct. 2) – Not the sort of film I ordinarily watch, but this creepfest is directed by Martin Scorsese and stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo and Ben Kingsley.

Whip It (Oct. 9) – Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut follows a young woman (Ellen Page) who finds her calling in the roller derby.

4 thoughts on “2009 Fall movie preview

  1. Amy says:

    Where the Wild Things Are, Couples Retreat, and It’s Complicated are the three to which I’m most looking forward, though I’ll likely see many of the films on this list. Where the Wild Thins Are is the only one I imagine could move its way into my all-time favorite lists, which, of course, sets it up to be the one with the biggest potential to disappoint. I expect spectacular (wild) things from that one.

  2. Clay says:

    Interesting question… how many of our all-time favorites started out as movies we thought might be just that? How many were total surprises? I’m guessing most of mine fall somewhere in between… movies I expected to like, or even love, but not necessarily join the pantheon.

  3. Kerrie Rueda says:

    Well, I expected to like Julie and Julia and I wasn’t disappointed. I look forward to owning and watching it – over and over!
    In general, though, I think I’ve mostly been surprised by the films that have ended up as my all time favorites. Of course, with Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Roman Holiday at the top of that list, I suppose I could have made the prediction. Still, it wasn’t until I had seen the former that I understood the wonder that was Audrey Hepburn. Still in a class by herself (but I digress…)

    Cool list, Clay. I hadn’t heard about most of them and now I have an idea of what to keep an eye out for. I’m also looking forward to your review of Inglorious Basterds – I hope to see it soon but I know you’ll beat me to it. 🙂

  4. pegclifton says:

    Looks like some good stuff is coming our way! I was always a huge fan of Audrey Hepburn’s Kerrie, my wish (as a young woman) was to be her. It’s nice to see that you are a fan too!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.