After identifying the 10 movies I'm most looking to AND the 10 performances I'm most looking forward to, here are a baker's dozen reasonably high-profile projects that are currently leaving me cold. [Fair warning: here's where I get to be grumpy, all at once. Please refer to all my other generally-positive 2011 posts before calling me a hater.]
1 - Am I the only one not crazed with anticipation for Tree of Life?
I know, I know. It's lonely over here on this side of the Terrence Malick divide. I'm going to do my best to remain pleasant and unobtrusive while everybody loses their collective damned minds over Malick's latest ponderous pondering on ... I guess the nature of life? Fatherhood? Wrinkly baby feet? Whatever, wake me when you've regained control of your senses.
2 - Are David Gordon Green and James Franco over-relying on weed humor?
I have to admit, I'm not feeling the enthusiasm for Your Highness. The cast is full of people I really like -- Franco, Natalie Portman, Zooey Deschanel, Justin Theroux. (Danny McBride also co-stars.) But I can't help but feeling like my reticence with this one is that it feels so much like A Pineapple Express in King Arthur's Court.
3 - Why are there so many Parisian circus movies this year?
I don't mean that literally, exactly, but the tonal and topical similarities between Martin Scorsese's Hugo Cabret, Steven Spielberg's War Horse, Francis Lawrence's Water for Elephants, and Cameron Crowe's We Bought a Zoo are hard to ignore. Sure only some of them take place in France, and maybe only one of them at an actual circus (though is a zoo that different from a circus?), but they all seem to be very glossy, precious, whimsical projects of a very similar type. Maybe I'm tarring everyone with the same unfortunate brush after seeing the equally unfortunate Water for Elephants trailer. I'm certainly not ruling out fantastic films from the likes of Scorsese, Spielberg, and Crowe. But this sure seems like the perfect storm of hollow prestige to me. Prove me wrong, auteurs. Prove me wrong.
4 - Are we really in for a rebirth of The Muppets?
Hey, they're adorable and all, and I sure loved The Muppet Show back in the day. But I guess I was alone in finding Jason Segel's puppet-musical portions of Forgetting Sarah Marshall to be an indulgent chore to sit through? (Also, between this and Get Him to the Greek, has a more mediocre movie ever spawned so many unintended spinoffs?)
5 - Am I looking a gift Soderbergh in the mouth?
At this point, I feel fairly confident in saying that I tend to enjoy Steven Soderbergh's more commercial efforts and find his artsy side a little much to endure. So why am I not more excited that he seems to be delivering two crowd-pleasers this year? Maybe because Contagion feels like such a typical disease-outbreak story (if the most dazzlingly cast one ever -- Matt Damon, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow, Marion Cotillard, holy crap). Haywire at least seems interesting in that it stars mixed martial artist Gina Carano and surrounds her with Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, and Channing Tatum. But you get the sense Soderbergh (who has talked about retiring before) is bored and is repeating old gambits -- Carano is no more a wild card as a lead than Sasha Grey was in The Girlfriend Experience, after all.
6 - Can I continue to support Anna Faris as she takes the roles Ari Graynor should be getting?
It's not very fair to pit two actresses who are wonderful against each other ("Fight the real enemy!" *Tears up photograph of Jessica Biel*). But if the upcoming What's Your Number? does anything, it puts in stark relief the fact that Faris is getting roles that I increasingly want Graynor to get. And I feel like I need to mention, once again, the lineup of dude that awaits the female lead in this movie: Chris Evans, Ryan Phillippe, Mike Vogel, Chris Pratt, Joel McHale, Zachary Quinto, David Annable, and Andy Samberg. ...Wait, why didn't this make my Top 10 again?
7 - Am I incredibly shallow or naive for finding pretty young things a trend in 2011?
To paraphrase Janeane Garofalo, "As opposed to last year, when ugly actors had a free ride?" But seriously, it does seem like an odd number of movies in 2011 are dealing explicitly with the aesthetics of their stars. First there's Beastly, which: we've already talked about how awesomely awful/awfully awesome that one looks. Then there's Now from Andrew Niccol, who has already dealt with the societal implications of physical perfection in Gattaca. In this one, breathtaking specimens like Cillian Murphy, Amanda Seyfried, Matthew Bomer, Justin Timberlake, Olivia Wilde, and (Beastly connection alert!) Alex Pettyfer inhabit a future where nobody's allowed to age. And then there's Immortals from celebrated weirdo Tarsem Singh, which tells the tale of Theseus with a cast of Greek gods like Henry Cavil, Kellan Lutz, Isabel Lucas, and Freida Pinto. This one's not explicitly about the physical beauty about the gods ... but in a way, aren't they all?
So, yes, newsflash: Joe's gonna see some movies for no other reason than the pretty, pretty movie stars. Maybe 2011 won't be so bad after all.