It’s that time again; time to rattle off a list of anticipations for the 2007 film awards season. Starting with August releases and moving forward, I came up with only 17 films that have me chomping at the bit. A small number, but I’m picky. There are other interestes, but these are the only ones I’d jump at the opportunity to screen tomorrow.
Let’s get into this…
10. “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”
Warner Bros. Pictures; Directed by Andrew Dominik
This was high on my list of anticipations in 2006, its original year of release. But with every new bump down the schedule, every new bit of distressing information and the increasing likelihood of a studio hack job on the final cut of the film (word is director Andrew Dominik has been going back and forth with Warner Bros. on this very subject, holding up release as a result)…I have to say I’m having my doubts. But being a massive fan of the western genre and the Shakespearean power of this story, I still find myself hoping – and anticipating – this troubled project.
Warner Bros. Pictures; Directed by George Clooney
There’s something rose colored and endearing about George Clooney’s tackling such homely subject matter as the world of 1920s football. When I talked to film editor Stephen Mirrione last year about the project, he was visibly excited at the day-to-day work he was doing at the time. So color me sentimental, I’m looking forward to “Leatherheads.” And I’ve found myself more and more in line with Clooney’s school of thought behind the camera, so any time he offers up a new vision, I’m sure I’ll be there.
8. “Charlie Wilson’s War”
Universal Pictures; Directed by Mike Nichols
I wasn’t anticipating director Mike Nichols’ latest until I read Aaron Sorkin’s lascerating screenplay. Now I can’t wait to watch what can only wind up becoming an awards hog with teeth take hold of the Oscar season later this fall. Some might say, with reason, that Tom Hanks is a bit miscast in the lead role of a Texas Congressman footing the bill to arm Afghani troops against Soviet encroachment in the mid-80s, but I’d stand in line just to see what Phillip Seymour Hoffman will do with the role of Gust Avaraktos. And, personally, I can’t get enough of Sorkin.
7. “The Savages”
Fox Searchlight Pictures; Directed by Tamara Jenkins
There aren’t a lot of comedies I’m holding out for this season, but the Fox Searchlight awards hopeful “The Savages” staked a claim pretty early for me. I didn’t attend Sundance but was happy to hear the positive reaction, and of course, the trailer released a couple of months back really piqued my interest. It looks like Phillip Seymour Hoffman will have a solid year, what with a lead turn here and a supporting riff in “Charlie Wilson’s War.” But I’m most looking forward to stage actor Philip Bosco’s portrayal.
6. “Elizabeth: The Golden Age”
Universal Pictures; Directed by Shekhar Kapur
To my mind, one of the great Oscar tragedies of the 90s was Cate Blanchett’s losing the 1998 Best Actress prize to Gwyneth Paltrow for what had to be one of the great performances of that decade. Shekhar Kapur’s “Elizabeth” was a towering achievement and a surprising introduction to the director. In the nine years since, Kapur has only offered one other piece of work, 2002’s woeful “The Four Feathers.” But tackling some of the most exciting and juicy material from the life of Queen Elizabeth I in “The Golden Age” should put him, and Blanchett, right babck in the groove.
5. “Youth Without Youth”
Sony Pictures Classics; Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Some negative early word isn’t enough to kill the anticipation of Francis Ford Coppola’s first film in a decade. Indulgent or not, “Youth Without Youth” should be high on the list of any cinephile’s expectations. Based on a short story that seems to beg for creative expansion, I have to expect Coppola at least has the opportunity to offer his A game, but we’ll have to wait and see. A solid performance from Bruno Ganz is certainly expected, after a dazzling portrayal in 2004’s “Downfall.”
Paramount Pictures; Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Robert Zemeckis is one of the last couple of filmmakers actually pushing the boundaries of the medium’s technical possibilities. Along with Steven Spielberg, he seems to share the desire to put an audience in the middle of a film. His work seems to exponentially hint at this with every passing picture, the last dazzler being 2004’s “The Polar Express.” This time he takes on the legend of Beowulf and Grendel in a film cast to perfection. The technical showcase is there to be had, but let’s simply hope the legend shows through as the great story that it is, without too much unnecessary finagling.
3. “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”
Warner Bros. Pictures; Directed by Tim Burton
I will forever consider Tim Burton one of the singular talents of the filmmaking medium. I will forgive a “Planet of the Apes” here, a “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” there if it means we get “Batman,” “Edward Scissorhands,” “Ed Wood” and a host of others as the payoff. And even with his failures, Burton is a director undebniably personal in his approach each and every time, for those willing to look beyond his bogus “style over substance” classification. “Sweeney Todd” is pegged as an Oscar contender in many quarters, but beyond looking toward the Oscar season, this looks like yet another genre twist up Burton’s sleeve, and a likely cinematic feast for us all.
2. “There Will Be Blood”
Paramount Vantage Pictures; Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
I’m quite proud of filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson and the choices he’s made in his career thus far. All too often can a writer/director get locked into the “me” mentality that spells disaster on the screen, films succeeding in the head of the creator alone. (I suddenly find myself considering that other Anderson). But after coming close to insularity with 1999’s admittedly brilliant “Magnolia,” P.T.A. took a radical departure in 2002 with a 90 minute romantic comedy, “Punch-Drunk Love.” And now, he takes up the reins of an adaptation – blasphemy! You mean to say a level of security exists in the writer/director lot that will permit creativity from without rather than within??
1. “No Country for Old Men”
Miramax Films; Directed by Ethan Coen & Joel Coen
My Most anticipated film at the start of the year remains as much, especially after such high marks at the Cannes International Film Festival. I’ve been high on “No Country for Old Men” ever since I discovered it to be the Coen brothers’ next venture. With added personal endearment for author Cormac McCarthy, on whose book the film is based, I find myself counting down the days until I can finally sit down and screen this film.
“Across the Universe”
Julie Taymor is a visual genius and this is one of the most ambitious cinematic projects I’ve heard of in a long time.
Ridley Scott is on more often than off, and working from a hell of a true story his latest promises to be an awesome ride.
“Gone, Baby, Gone”
Ben Affleck has been working to get back in the saddle, and following a great performance in last year’s “Hollywoodland,” he takes a stab behind the camera in what could be another great Dennis Lehane adaptation.
“I Am Legend”
I’m a major fan of the novel (which contains perhaps the most intellectually exciting closing paragraphs in science fiction literature). I consider myself a fan of Will Smith. And – shockingly – I found some room to forgive director Francis Lawrence’s “Constantine.” This could be a good time.
“Into the Wild”
Sean Penn tackles subject matter that could lift an audience out of its seat with idealistic wonder. Or not.
More Clooney, this time under the guidance of “The Bourne Supremacy” and “The Bourne Ultimatum” scribe Tony Gilroy, a wonderful new talent stepping out from behind the laptop and behind the camera for the first time.
There’s something imminently appealing about Woody Harrelson in the role of an aging gigolo, in a Paul Schrader film, no less.