Whew! Part One can be found here.
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu) - Depressing Romanian cinema is certainly a hot property these days, yes? This Palme-D'Or winning film follows in the steps of The Death of Mr. Lazarescu and 12:08 East of Bucharest as a most-probable critical darling (I bet you ten bucks it will show up in the top ten on an upcoming Village Voice critics' poll.) But will it release this year? The last two films to win Best Picture at Cannes showed up the following year (L'Enfant, The Wind that Shakes the Barley.) Anyways, I'm so there whenever the distributors get their priorities straight.
Be Kind, Rewind (Michel Gondry) - Unfortunately, the only Gondry film I've seen is Eternal Sunshine..., so I don't have a strong opinion of him as a director yet. I have to admit, the premise sounded a lot better on paper than it does in this trailer released recently (but then again, how is that indicative of anything?) There are a lot of likely plot holes that I hope the screenplay is able to adequately explain (why don't they just buy the erased titles again? Is this set in the pre-DVD era? How long can one sustain a concept like this?), but I'm keeping an open mind despite my nitpicky points. Yay for Mos Def. And Mia Farrow! Looks fun, even if it ends up being overall unsatisfying
The Stone Angel (Kari Skogland) - Margaret Atwood's devastating book of the same name about regret and lost faith is a personal favourite, so the upcoming film adaptation appears here only on that basis. I have no expectations that a film version will successfully master the difficult time shifts, nor the complexity of main character Hagar's interior monologue. Still, I'm intrigued to see what it Skogland's screenplay is able to translate successfully, and Ellen Burstyn in anything is a definite plus. It's a great, great part, so she could get some awards play if the release is handled properly (as a Canadian production, a Genie nomination looks very likely. Unless Academy rules disqualify non-Canadian actors... I should look that up.)
And the others: Silk (Michael Pitt and Keira Knightley = either sensational casting, or zzzz-inducing), Lars and the Real Girl (shifty premise, but Gosling and Mortimer = good) Savage Grace (Miss Julianne doing some naughty comedy; Glenn thought it had some merit), Things We Lost in the Fire (love Susanne Bier of Brothers brilliance and Benicio; don't disappoint me Halle!), Lions for Lambs (eeehh for Redford... but Meryl!), Rob Zombie's stab at Halloween (come on, I just had to!) and Aaja Nachle (Madhuri Dixit's long-overdue comeback Bollywood vehicle; her first role since 2002's Devdas.) Plus Becoming Jane and Two Days in Paris (they've already opened here in Toronto, but I haven't been to the theatre yet.)
THE TOP FIFTEEN
15. The Assassination of Jesse James... (Andrew Dominik) - Another troubled holdover from last year's list, this one could go either way. And as far as gritty Westerns go, it could get squashed with the much more accessible-looking 3:10 to Yuma releasing a month earlier. It's launching at TIFF this year, so that could definitely help quell the negative word-of-mouth. Or just perpetuate it (see All the King's Men.) Either way, I can't wait to see Mary-Louise Parker in her first on-screen role since... forever (2004?), and although I still haven't seen Dominik's Chopper (the only other feature to his name), I've only heard good things.
14. Margot at the Wedding (Noah Baumbach) - The trailer looks icky and dull (ill-timed editing is probably more to blame than anything), but I wasn't quite convinced by the pre-release word-of-mouth for Squid either. And we know how that turned out. Nicole Kidman is tipped as an awards player again (then again, isn't she always?), and perhaps even Jennifer Jason-Leigh could get enough attention for a long-deserved career nod. I still don't think Jack Black is the perfect fit here, even though I love him, but I think Baumbach knows what he's doing. Plus, I've heard great things from an insider at TIFF (apparently the best of the lot he has seen.)
13. Fugitive Pieces (Jeremy Podeswa) - I read this Anne Michaels book for my Grade 12 English class, and it made a major impact on me (I ended up doing a presentation the dense figurative language, and it was one of the most difficult projects I worked on that year.) I highly recommend picking it up, but if you're not the most voracious reader, hopefully this adaptation starring Stephen Dillane (Leonard Woolf in The Hours) will live up to the (read: my) high expectations and do some of the work for you. It opens TIFF this year.
12. No Country for Old Men (Coen Bros.) - I go back and forth on the Coens. I like Fargo well enough, but not on the same level that its most ardent supporters do; I even like the ones that those same fans outright dislike (Intolerable Cruelty). But I'm not particularly passionate about them either way... perhaps I should catch up on their early stuff before passing judgment so readily. But back to the film - I've heard good things about the Cormac McCarthy book though; perhaps I should give it a look before the film hits the screen.
11. My Kid Could Paint That (Amir Bar-Lev) - D'Angelo loved it, and even if he didn't, this still looks pretty damn fascinating (trailer here.) And while this kind of documentary is becoming kinda stale at this point (raising more questions than solid answers... maybe she does, maybe she doesn't - oooooh), I'm a big sucker for them.
10. Nothing is Private (Alan Ball) - I no longer love American Beauty as much as I once did, but "Six Feet Under" is mostly brill, and I largely gel with Alan Ball's bleak outlook on life. Looks provocative and incendiary, but that's a good thing... isn't it? Plus Maria Bello and Toni Collette in one film? *explodes*... *explodes again*
9. This spot was originally reserved for Kimberly Peirce and her new film Stop, Loss (took her long enough!), but it's been pushed back to March 2008. So let's talk about...
The Golden Age (Shekhar Kapur) - I love Elizabeth. I love Cate Blanchett in it. She should have won the Oscar. I've been salivating at the thought of a sequel for yeeaarsss. So why is this situated at #9? Truthfully, it probably would have landed the #1 spot if it weren't for that depressing, pitched-to-the-rafters trailer. I can't even watch it the whole way through anymore. Hopefully the finished product won't be this hysterical, cheesy and bombastic (what is with that "I'm a hurricane" nonsense? I'm mean, really now.) It just doesn't sit well with me at all, even if I'm a major fan of everyone involved with this project. As much as I'm a fan of Cate, lately she's just not doing it for me. After last year's depressing output (that nomination belongs to EMILY BLUNT), I'm scared to believe, lest I am burned again. Okay, enough of my bitching. The good? Samantha Morton as Mary, Queen of Scots is brilliant casting; I can't wait to see what she does with role. I'm also excited to see how the much-hyped Abbie Cornish fares up against all these acting titans. Oh yeah, and apparently Clive Owen is in this. Okay, I'm ready. Bring it on.
8. Paranoid Park (Gus Van Sant) - Not much in the way of advance word from Cannes, where it was quietly and very politely received. If it's anything like Gerry, Elephant or Last Days (making up his stellar "Death trilogy"), I'll probably adore it. No release date yet, so I'm trying not to keep my hopes high... but IFC Films is listed as a theatrical distributor on IMDB. Maybe they're readying it for 2008 sometime?
7. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Julian Schnabel) - Best Director prize at Cannes aside, this would still appear as high on account of Schnabel's excellent Before Night Falls (perhaps best-known as the film which earned Javier Bardem an Oscar nod and featured Johnny Depp in drag... again.) And if you add these personalities to the mix: Ronald Harwood (screenwriter), Janusz Kaminski (DP), and actors Mathieu Amalric and Marie-Josée Croze = yummy. This adaptation of the memoir by Jean-Dominique Bauby (Amalric), a magazine editor who developed locked-in syndrome as a result of a paralyzing stroke, could prompt (unwarranted) comparisons to The Sea Inside, but hopefully will be considered on its own terms.
6. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson) - Fine, I'll come right out and say it: I don't like Boogie Nights or Magnolia. I just can't get behind either of them, despite several repeat viewings. Each time, my opinion remains unchanged: both are bloated and overlong, peppered throughout with some inspired moments and bolstered by very strong ensembles. But then again, I loooove the hell out of the loony Punch-Drunk Love, which was half the length of its predecessors and twice as effective and inspired. P.T.A. now turns toward an Uptown Sinclair novel to explore oil, empire and Christianity in turn-of-the-century Texas, with Daniel Day-Lewis (!) and Paul Dano in tow. The teaser trailer looks particularly gorgeous, even if it doesn't really give a lot of plot detail away (which is probably a good thing, right?).
5. Jodhaa-Akbar (Ashutosh Gowariker) - The talented director of the Oscar-nominated Lagaan and the equally-strong Swades brings together Bollywood hotties Aishwarya Rai and Hrithik Roshan as the well-known Mughal figureheads. Not only is the hotness potential off the roof, this will serve as both history lesson and full-scale eye candy entertainer. Plus, it features a score and soundtrack composed by God (that is, A. R. Rahman.)
4. Eastern Promises (David Cronenberg) - This could not come at a better time for me. Not only does it reunite Viggo and David after their 2005 knockout (*hyperventilates*), but it conveniently opens following my Naomi Watts reappraisal, who finally lives up to the hype post-Lynch (re: last year's The Painted Veil - see it for her, among a few other pluses.) It will probably have to compete with the biggie American Gangster for mafia-related picture of the year (*shrug*); hell, it will certainly draw comparisons to A History of Violence, which itself dealt with grisly secrets and shadowy mobsters. But whatever, it's Cronenberg. How will this not be gross, stomach-turning, brilliantly acted (Viggo with a hot accent!), subversive, sexy and all those things you expect from the master?
3. Atonement (Joe Wright) - I have not read the novel by Ian McEwan, but it's supposed to be one of the better ones; I haven't heard one negative reaction by a reader so far. So we already have great source material on the table, plus a clearly-capable director and delicious cast on top of it all. And if one person can get a great performance out of Keira "I'm usually a blank slate" Knightley, it's Mr. Wright (see Pride and Prejudice), and we already know that James McAvoy is a most dependable actor.
2. Lust, Caution (Ang Lee) - I watched the trailer a couple of days ago and then died of excitement. I'm consciously not reading much about the film to keep my movie-going experience as virginal and untainted as possible. All I know it has Tony Leung and Joan Chen, which will be... I can't even finish that sentence.
1. I'm Not There (Todd Haynes) - I tried to leave substantial comments for this selection many times, but words continue to fail me. Are they even necessary at this point? How can I adequately explain why an upcoming Haynes film is always cause for celebration... Even if the film doesn't end up working in the end (which I highly doubt in the first place), you've got to give him props for being so experimental and original with his cinematic projects. If only all directors thought this "out-of-the-box". Either way, I'm excited to see what looks like a dismantling of the biopic structure (among other things), and that cast looks pretty damn fine to these eyes (Bale! Ledger! Williams!). Even my now-estranged Blanchett seems to be in top form, and when was the last time I felt that way?! One word seems apt in this case: meep!
Anyone else notice how this year's crop features a lot of directors following up on their acclaimed 2005 films? Cronenberg, Lee, Wright, Van Sant, Baumbach, Clooney, Burton, Jordan, Ridley Scott, Hood, Allen and Bier (well, Brothers was *technically* 2004, but released here the following year.) Very interesting - how will their newest projects compare? Can't wait to find out.
EDIT: The only reason Michael Haneke's remake of his own Funny Games wasn't included is that I had heard it was pushed back to April '08. Now I'm reading it's back on for a limited late October release...