Big 2009 Preview Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
Performances to Watch
Matt Damon - The Informant: Seriously, when is Matt Damon's mid-career surge going to be rewarded with an Oscar nomination? Maybe right here, in this Steven Soderbergh movie about a whistle-blower with an agenda.
Meryl Streep and Amy Adams - Julie & Julia: In what is fast becoming the Annual Meryl Streep Summer Movie, she plays Julia Child (or perhaps the restless spirit of Julia Child, depending on how weird Nora Ephron is willing to go), as Adams plays a contemporary woman who tries to cook every dish in the Child cookbook. Could be the rare mainstream movie that allows two female leads without requiring them to be feuding brides.
Joooey! - 500 Days of Summer: Yay, my favorite made-up celebrity coupling! Though I suppose it'll be harder to pretend Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are together now that she's engaged to Ben Gibbard. No matter! Joooey forever!
George Clooney - Up in the Air: The role seems like it splits the difference between Adam Sandler in Punch-Drunk Love and Jack Nicholson in About Schmidt. Probably slicker than that, since it's Clooney, but ever since Michael Clayton, I have faith in him beyond the shiny movie star stuff.
Vera Farmiga - The Vintner's Luck: Farmiga's been on the brink of breaking through for three years now, and director Niki Caro is two-for-two in directing her female leads to Oscar nominations (Charlize Theron in North Country and Keisha Castle-Hughes in Whale Rider). Not saying a 19th-century French winemaker is a slam dunk of a role, but it's worth watching out for.
Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman, Tobey Maguire (Brothers): Mentioned this in the Top Ten; it's a trio of the best actors of their generation getting good dramatic material.
Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Colin Farrell (Crazy Heart): Great mix of actors I love, or want to love (...Colin). And hey, this gives Bridges and Gyllenhaal a chance to come back from their crappy performances in 2008 summer blockbusters.
Harrison Ford - Crossing Over and Morning Glory: It's a dicey proposition, but I wonder if this doesn't become a comeback year for Harrison Ford. He's reached that point in his career where people are going to want to like him in something again, and with a Big Important Drama like Crossing Over and a showcase and media-friendly role in Morning Glory, that just might happen.
Nicole Kidman, Naomi Watts - Need: The Australian BFFs will play opposite each other as a shrink (Watts) and her patient (Kidman), the latter of whom starts sleeping with the former's husband.
James Franco - Howl: This would be the Allen Ginsberg bio-pic, which means, yes, Franco's going queer again. He's also got a hell of a supporting cast to play off of (Paul Rudd, Mary-Louise Parker, David Strathairn).
Jeremy Renner - The Hurt Locker: I really like this guy, and he's been getting my attention more and more lately (he was great in The Assassination of Jesse James). The movie is supposed to be excellent.
Rachel Weisz - Agora: It's not every movie that gives an actress the chance to play ancient Egyptian philosopher/atheists, but that's just one of the many reasons why I love tiny, adorable director Alejandro Amenebar.
Neil Jordan Cockteases
Here's the thing with Neil Jordan. Every time I say I'm looking forward to something of his, it's either underwhelming (The Brave One; Breakfast on Pluto) or it never actually gets made (the umpteen times I believed he was making a movie about the Borgia dynasty). This time, there are two Jordan movies dangling on the line. One, A Killing on Carnival Row, is a supernatural/historical detective story that sounds like it was written by Neil Gaiman. It doesn't even have an entry on IMDb yet, so don't get excited. The other, Ondine, is about fisherman Colin Farrell, who discovers a mermaid in his net. This one is listed as "filming" and has Stephen Rea in the cast, so I guess it's happening. And who doesn't want another version of Lady in the Water?
The White Tape (Michael Haneke)
The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick)
Antichrist (Lars von Trier)
I lump these three together, even though "audience-hating" only truly applies to one of them. That'd be Haneke, whose upcoming film takes place at a school in Germany during World War I, but of course that's not what it'll be about. It'll be about our own depravity and bourgeois complacence. Malick is probably more of an "audience-punisher" than a hater. At least when that audience is me. Loved Badlands a lot, but The Thin Red Line was a chore and a half to sit through. This new film -- starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, so get ready to hear about it -- will hopefully try to be more like the former, but I'm not too optimistic. That title already sounds ponderous. I talked about Von Trier's film earlier, but I should mention that he hates his characters (particularly his lead actresses) more than hating the audience.
Jennifer's Body (Karyn Kusama)
Fighting (Dito Montiel)
Love Ranch (Taylor Hackford)
"Filthy" is the only way I can describe my feelings for these movies. Like guilty pleasures with an extra layer of grime on top. I'm psyched to see them, but I feel kind of gross about it. Jennifer's Body was written by Diablo Cody (umm) and stars Megan Fox (yikes), but it also stars Amanda Seyfried and Adam Brody and Allison Janney and it's about demonic possession and zombies 'n' stuff. If you know why I saw Never Back Down with Sean Faris and Cam "Hatchet-Face" Gigandet in theatres, you'll know why I'll be seeing Fighting with Channing Tatum. Love Ranch starts out all respectable-like, with Helen Mirren leading the cast. But then you find out it's about the people who opened the first legal brothel in Nevada, and it also stars Joe Pesci, Gina Gershon, Bai Ling, and Taryn Manning. Fil-thy!
The Accursed Ones
Nailed (David O. Russell)
Margaret (Kenneth Lonergan)
Spring Breakdown (Ryan Shiraki)
The Brothers Bloom (Rian Johnson)
I'm not even sure if Nailed is still coming out, with all the stops and starts of production. It's probably David O. Russell's big karmic payback for being such an a-hole, but I've loved his movies (and it stars Jake Gyllenhaal, James Marsden, and Catherine Keener), so if it makes it to a screen, anywhere, I'm in. Bloom got pushed back to May, from like three different '08 release dates, so lord only knows if Rian Johnson's Brick follow-up will open on schedule. If I had to guess, I'd day that Spring Breakdown will end up getting released direct to DVD, but it's a shame that an Amy Poehler, Parker Posey, Rachel Dratch comedy won't get its due. As for Margaret...well, I'm no longer fool enough to think we're ever going to see Kenneth Lonergan's loooooong-finished follow-up to You Can Count on Me. Not even with a cast full of Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo, Anna Paquin, Matthew Broderick, Olivia Thirlby, Allison Janney, and Rosemarie DeWitt. I've even given up seeing it on DVD. I just figure I shouldn't let another year go by without mentioning that it's out there, on a shelf, unseen. At least some things will be unchanged.
One more part to the big '09 preview coming next week, as I foolishly try to peg next year's Oscars more than a year ahead of time. Yipee!