Saturday, January 31, 2009

50 Anticipated Movies for 2009 {{PART ONE}}

I finally got around to doing this! Give me a round of applause, please. I've been putting this off for weeks for reasons that I can't remember, but I thought I'd go ahead and do it today whilst I had nothing better to do.

Now, this list isn't my "fifty most anticipated movies of 2009" purely because I can never know what movies are going to actually be released in any given year, but I've done my best to work it out. Of course, I'm sure at least a well-sized swag of these will end up being either a) moved to 2010, b) look bad, c) pass me by or d) do not live up to the hype, but as of right now these are 50 movies I am going to be paying close attention to throughout 2009.

Of course, many of these movies will stretch into 2010 - we're still getting movies that are technically 2008 releases and we will be for a long time coming - and there will be titles that appear out of nowhere to get everybody (myself included, obviously) in a lather. And you just never can tell when a movie that looks unappealing in every way possible could suddenly pop up with a classic poster or amazing trailer and start to look mighty fine.

Before we take a look at what I think 2009's finest will be some brief honourable mentions. I think Joe Johnston is a great action director and it will be interesting to see what he and Benicio del Toro do with The Wolfman. Richard Curtis' The Boat that Rocked sounds quite interesting, surprisingly (I didn't care for Love Actually). State of Play and Duplicity could have some great mainstream big star thrills from Kevin Macdonald and Tony Gilroy respectively. Patrick Lussier's My Bloody Valentine 3D is sure to be a hoot and Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes will be... interesting to say the least.

Aussie filmmakers Kriv Stenders, Rowan Woods and the Spierig Brothers take on Lucky Country, Winged Creatures and Daybreakers respectively while Paul Weitz's Cirque de Freak could be good if done right. Tomas Moodysson's Mammoth, Andrew Jarecki's All Good Things and Tokyo! by Michel Gondry, Boon Jong-ho and Leos Carax all sound like fascinating arthouse experiences.

50. I Love You, Phillip Morris (dir. Glenn Ficarra & John Reque)
Because it looks absolutely insane and I can't quite fathom how it exists (since it stars Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor), which makes me intrigued beyond belief. But, then again, queer cinema hasn't exactly been bursting at the seams with great quality lately and it could very easily explode in all of our faces. Proceed with caution!

49. The Box (dir. Richard Kelly)
Still living off of residual Donnie Darko love (there will be no mention of that movie's quasi sequel S. Darko on this countdown) after his sophomore effort, the misguided Southland Tales, imploded between moments of brilliance. The Box is a horror tale starring Cameron Diaz and James Marsden so I really have no idea what to expect, but I like to imagine it's something akin to the blue box storyline from David Lynch's Mulholland Drive extended to 100 minutes. Or we may never know, considering how many times it has been shifted around.

48. Confessions of a Shopaholic (dir. PJ Holden)
Perhaps the most likely title on this list to be skipped at the cinema. I probably wouldn't have taken much notice of this movie if it weren't for the fact that it stars the effervescent Isla Fisher and is directed by PJ Holden (Muriel's Wedding, My Best Friends Wedding) so I have a slight hunch that there's fun to be had. Even if the critics dismiss it, which you know they will.

47. Visages (dir. Ming-liang Tsai)
A French and Taiwanese co-production that sounds fascinating and could be a great festival title. Follows a Taiwanese director making a film in the Louvre.

46. Green Zone (dir. Paul Greengrass)
Will be nice to see Paul Greengrass back in non-Bourne territory with this Matt Damon vehicle. It is a Middle Eastern war film so I'm sure there will be people out there criticising it and it may very well flop, but whatever. Also stars Brendan Gleeson, Amy Ryan, Greg Kinnear and Jason Isaacs.

45. Hurt Locker (dir. Kathryn Bigelow)
I'm pulling for this movie to succeed despite having many ticks against it. It's an Iraq-set war film, directed by a woman and doesn't star anyone who can sell a movie purely on their name (Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes, Jeremy Renner). It got great reviews out of Toronto and Venice and Bigelow has always been a great action director - no matter the quality, it should at least be more coherent than Greengrass' Green Zone - so here's hoping it doesn't suffer.

44. The Illusionist (dir. Sylvain Chomet)
I was a big fan of Chomet's The Triplets of Belleville so I'm looking forward to this animated adaptation of an unproduced Jacques Tati screenplay about a magician.

43. Drag Me to Hell (dir. Sam Raimi)
It will very interesting to see what Sam Raimi (director of the Spider-Man films of late) does with his first horror film as director since The Evil Dead 2. Was originally to star fresh-out-of-Juno Ellen Page, but she was replaced by Alison Lohman who showed great promise a few years ago (particularly in Ridley Scott's Matchstick Men) but seemingly disappeared without a trace.

42. Ponyo on the Cliff (dir. Hayao Miyazaki)
It's Hayao Miyazaki, folks. Do I really need to say anything more? The English language version will feature the voices of Cate Blanchett, Tina Fey, Matt Damon, Liam Neeson, Cloris Leachman, Lily Tomlin and the one and only Betty White omg!

41. Closed for Winter (dir. James Bogle)
I am a big fan of Bogle's In the Winter Day so it's good to have him back making films again after years of TV work. This one stars Natalie Imbruglia and while I don't know much about it, what I have heard is enough to intrigue me muchly.

40. Bright Star (dir. Jane Campion)
Anything by Jane Campion is cause to stop and look. I was a bigger fan of the Meg Ryan-starrer In the Cut than most people were at the time - has it held up well? I don't know - and this is Campion's first film since that one. She's gone with Abbie Cornish to star and an assortment of Aussies and Brits for this Aus/UK/USA/France co-production.

39. Funny People (dir. Judd Apatow)
Taking time out from his busy producing schedule (lol) is Judd Apatow, directing Funny People after the hits 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up. While I generally recoil from Adam Sandler movies, I'm intrigued by this one because Apatow has had the foresight to cast Eric Bana is his first comedic Hollywood role, which makes me think Apatow has something up his sleeve with this one. Bruce Springsteen even shows up in another High Fidelity-style cameo! Lovely.

38. (500) Days of Summer (dir. Marc Webb)
Joseph Gorden-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel acting cute together.

37. Brüno (dir. Unknown)
Time will tell whether Sasha Baron Cohen's shtick has passed it's use by date. Will it be as good as Borat? I don't think so, but I do hope it's funny. We need something hysterically funny again.

36. The Informant (dir. Steven Soderbergh)
Soderbergh returns to the land of the normal (after movies like Che, The Good German and that movie starring a porn actress) with The Informant, which stars a tubby Matt Damon (who will surely have yet another big year - Oscar conflicts abound). The second name mentioned on the film's IMDb profile (click the title above) is Melanie Lynskie, who I thought was spending the rest of her days alone in a dark room cursing Kate Winslet.

35. Bran Nue Day (dir. Rachel Perkins)
I have been a big fan of Perkins' films in the past (Radiance and One Night the Moon) so I can't wait to see what she makes of this indigenous road trip musical starring Jessica Mauboy, Deborah Mailman, Geoffrey Rush, Missy Higgins, Ernie Dingo, Tom Budge and Magda Szubanski. Was previously discussed here as it's a title I've been monitoring for a while now.

34. Observe and Report (dir. Jody Hill)
What is it about mall cops in 2009? How strange that there should be two movies about them. Never mind that one starring the fat guy from King of Queens (gross, right?) because this one looks better. I admit to being a Seth Rogan fan (why do I have a lil bit of a crush on him? I blame his police uniform and handlebar from Superbad), but - HELLO - the film also stars Anna Faris. The greatest cinematic comedienne of all time (...) and she makes everything, at least initially, worth looking forward to.

33. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (dir. Terry Gilliam)
Despite being Heath Ledger's final film, this new Terry Gilliam also features Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, Jude Law (as Ledger's character in differing incarnations), Christopher Plummer and Tom Waits and looks visually brilliant.

32. Watchmen (dir. Zach Snyder)
Probably too low for a lot of people, but while I remain intrigued and I will definitely be seeing it (if, for nothing else, but the visual look of it all) but as much as I loved Snyder's Dawn of the Dead I loathed his 300 and this latest film looks more in line with the latter, unfortunately. We'll see if it at all just goes down the gurgler, shall we?

31. Friday the 13th (dir. Marcus Nispel)
Don't hate me, but god daaaamn this looks good! Despite looking like a complete ripoff of Nispel's last horror remake (that'd be The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) the trailer sure did the trick in convincing me that it was maybe worth it to go back to the beginning.

30. Forgiveness (dir. Todd Solondz)
For all the developments on this new film (a quasi sequel/thing of Happiness and Welcome to the Dollhouse) you should probably be reading My New Plaid Pants. The latest from provocateur Todd Solondz (also of Storytelling and Palindromes) stars Shirley Henderson, Paul Reubens and, er, Paris Hilton. I really need to rewatch Happiness. That movie was brilliant.

29. Van Diemen's Land (dir. Jonathan Auf Der Heide)
This movie wasn't anywhere on my radar until I came across the terrifying teaser trailer. *shudder* That thing is creepy I tellsya! Watch it now.

28. The Lovely Bones (dir. Peter Jackson)
Who can really tell how Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Lovely Bones will go. It's all a bit of a mystery and up in the air at the moment and until we start seeing some publicity for it we'll continue to be in the dark. Here's hoping it's similar in tone to Jackson's Heavenly Creatures.

27. Balibo (dir. Robert Connelly)
Connelly's (The Bank) retelling of the famous "Balibo Five" tale, the Australian journalists who were murdered in East Timor. Stars Anthony LaPaglia.

26. The Road (dir. John Hillcoat)
John Hillcoat definitely got the right people to see his 2005 Aussie film The Proposition as he is now directing a big budget Oscar hitter in The Road. Adapted from a Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men) novel and starring Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee (another Aussie from Romulus My Father) as travelers in a post-apocalyptic society. It was originally slotted for 2008, but was pushed back by the Weinsteins. Even so I still have hope for the movie. I wasn't the biggest fan of The Proposition but it has it's staunch admirers as does Hillcoat's Ghosts... of the Civil Dead. Austraian muso Nick Cave is again doing the music and the likes of Charlize Theron, Robert Duvall, Garret Dillahunt and Guy Pearce appear in parts of unknown size.

Tomorrow I count down the top 25. You can probably predict some of the names that will show up (Cameron, Marshall, Jonze), but not all. 'til then...

You Know What I Realised?

The same people that are criticising the Academy for nominating The Reader over The Dark Knight and complaining that they snubbed an of-sorts genre movie (in this case a comic book action movie) in favour of yet another WWII Holocaust movie are probably the exact same people that complain - and continue to complain to this very day, ugh - about Saving Private Ryan losing Best Picture to Shakespeare in Love in 1998. You know, the WWII Holocaust movie losing to an of-sorts genre movie (in this case romantic comedy).

Or is it not allowed when the WWII movie in question is filled with action and violence and is male-oriented and directed by a safe heterosexual man who makes movies for the masses and when the other film in question is a "girly" movie? Oh I think it is. And it still baffles me why nobody is upset at Frost/Nixon for cruising like a cheap hustler into the Oscar race. Did that movie do anything?

The Women of Revolutionary Road

~Warning - Spoilers involved for Revolutionary Road. Sorry, but it was essential for the entry~

Sam Mendes' Revolutionary Road doesn't exactly paint any of its characters with flattering colours, but I thought it was particularly strong when it came to the female characters, didn't you? Oh sure, the men aren't the loveliest creatures but Leonardo DiCaprio's Frank is angry and has violent outbursts are all down to be merely naive and under the desire to give his family a better life. Oh sure, Michael Shannon's John is on day release from the loony farm, but he's "the only one" who actually understands it all. The crazy one is the sanest of them all as they say. And Richard Easton's Mr Givings is nothing more than a result of his tumultuous home life.

The women of the film, however, don't get off so easily. Take Kate Winslet's April Wheeler. She comes off as incredibly selfish, eternally miserable and mentally unstable (but in an unglamourous way, unlike Michael Shannon) in her feverish determination to move to Paris whilst uprooting her entire family due to her unending unhappiness. She portrayed as manipulative and always (deliberately, I felt) misinterpreting the childish defensive arguments of her husband Frank (DiCaprio).

The final scenes of the movie where she performs her own abortion - an act she seems to know will be the death of her - are particularly cruel towards April. Mere minutes after dying in a strangely anticlimactic hospital sequence between DiCaprio and David Harbour, Frank is seen taking dutiful care of the children that he not once even looked at when Winslet was around. It wasn't their suburban life that was keeping him down, but was her!

Or what about Kathy Bates' Helen Givings? Throughout the movie, whenever she sporadically appears, she comes off as loopy and - oh dear - quirky. Even when her son is nearly attacked all she can come up with is a relatively weak "he's not well!" That she was the one who turned her son into a crazy person is underlined in the final scene, I felt. Not even her husband can stand to be around her, tuning her out (literally and figuratively).

Kathryn Hahn's Milley Campbell is a strange character indeed. She is the stereotypical 1950s housewife, much like her husband is the stereotypical 1950s husband, but where they differ is that Milley is laughed at for being a ditzy and hysterical dolt. Her perma-smile fronting the fact that she has no opinion on anything whatsoever. And Zoe Kazan's secretary character of Maureen Grube doesn't come off as anything but a gossiping idiot.

I just found it all incredibly strange. The men weren't portrayed well - Dylan Baker's character comes off particularly bad - but their actions feel like mere shrugs compared to the daftness of the women. Does one of them have any positive aspect about them? I don't think so. Winslet's April doesn't even seem like a good mother and her philandering seems particularly more spiteful than Frank's (surely the point).

You probably think that I didn't like the movie. Not the case. While I think the portrayal of its characters is bizarre and I'm not exactly sure why we're meant to care about any of them in the slightest, I did think Mendes did a good job of somehow making them palatable (well, except for Bates. That was just strange.) The film looks gorgeous - that shot of Winslet disappearing into the forest, and later the shot of Winslet in the window are particularly memorable - and the acting definitely helps the film's cyclical pattern work. I feel positive towards the film, if negative towards some of the aspects that, perhaps, were not the filmmaker's fault. Does that make sense? B-

I'd also like to mention that I saw this in cinema three at Kino in Melbourne. I make special mention of the cinema because I think the speakers are busted. As repetitive and perfunctory as Thomas Newman's score was, it was made worse by the distortion that all-too-frequently crept in during moments of bass. Poor form, Kino!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Stop Me If You Think That You've Heard This One Before

Readers, where have you seen this new State of Play poster before?

Oh, that's right. It is almost an exact replica of the poster for Frost Nixon.

Somebody at that ad agency needs a new template.

Poster(s) of the Day: Hot Hot Hot

Today is a nigh on insufferable 44 degrees Celsius (that's equates to something over 110 degrees Fahrenheit I think) around these parts of Australia so my desire to blog is fairly minimal right about now. It's a heatwave doncha know. And for anyone who knows Melbourne, know this - I just walked through all of Royal Park (and then some) because my tram broke down (and I was only on the tram because the trains weren't running). Note to Connex - It negates the point of having a free fare day - only brought on by your incompetence - if there aren't any trains to catch!

Nevermind, here are some posters to while away a few precious seconds of your time.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mad Max

As we've already established there are actually a few promising Australian titles coming our way in 2009. Taking a break from movies about drug dealers, drug users, wife abusers, crooked cops and philandering husbands (five of Australian film's favourite topics) is Mary and Max, a claymation film from Adam Elliot, the director of Oscar-winning Harvey Krumpet. It debuted at the opening night film at Sundance recently. Wallace & Gromit this is not. From the film's IMDb plot outline:

A tale of friendship between two unlikely pen pals: Mary, a lonely, eight-year-old girl living in the suburbs of Melbourne, and Max, a forty-four-year old, severely obese man living in New York.

And that's just the beginning! It features the vocals of Phillip Seymour Hoffman (as Max), Toni Collette (as adult Mary), Barry Humphries, Eric Bana plus several others that only Australians will recognise (Renee Geyer and Ian 'Molly' Meldrum, anyone?) I, for one, can't wait to see what Elliot does and the trailer (below) looks wickedly dark and funny. I wonder if the animation branch would respond to it like they did Harvey Krumpet or if they would pass by it for, oh I dunno, Lame Dreamworks Cartoon 7.

It's out on April 9.

This Week on Australian Screens

Cinema Releases for the Week 29/01/09
Can I just point out that JANUARY IS ALMOST OVER! How did that happen?

Milk - Gus Van Sant's retelling of Harvey Milk's life. My full review within the coming days, but it is very good indeed.

The Spirit - Not that you'd know it, but this movie directed by Frank Miller and starring Samuel L Jackson, Scarlett Johansson and Eva Mendes is out this week.

DVD Releases for the Week 29/01/09

er... apparently there are no new releases for DVD this week. What's up? Did they anticipate a heat wave and expect people would rather go to the beach? DOES NOT COMPUTE!

TV Screenings for the Week 29/01/09

29/01/09, Read My Lips (2001), SBS, 10.00PM - French film starring Emmanuelle Devos and Stale Popcorn mistress Vincent Cassel.

30/01/09, Arch of Triumph (1948), ABC1, 12.45AM - Ingrid Bergman film.

31/01/09, Quigley Down Under (1990), C7, 12.05AM - Hahahah aww. No.

31/01/09, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988), SBS, 1.05AM - One of those titles that my DVD service just never seems to be able to send me. Last time it aired on SBS my DVR broke so here's hoping it's not cursed!!

31/01/09, How the West Was Won (1962), C9, 1.30PM - Not to be confused with How the West Was Fun starring Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, natch.

31/01/09, The Caine Mutiny (1954), ABC2, 8.35PM - A Best Picture Oscar-nominee starring Humphry Bogart.

31/01/09, Out of the Past (1947), ABC2, 10.40PM - Classic noir starring Robert Mitchum.

05/01/09, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005), SBS, 10.00PM - Such an excellent movie from Chan-Wook Park. Definitely worth catching if you can.

06/01/09, Joe Versus the Volcano (1990), C9, 12.00AM - If you're interested in seeing the only other film that the director of Doubt, John Patrick Shanley, has made then check out this Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan... thing.

My Jamie Bell is In a New Steven Spielberg Movie

What part of that blog entry title do you think gets me more antsy with anticipation? That Jamie Bell is in a movie or that Steven Spielberg is? Hmmm. One look at the blog and you should know your answer. It's fitting that while I had indeed heard the news (I just hadn't had the chance to post about it) I received blog comments, emails and SMS text messages telling me about it. Nice to know I'm so predictable.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm glad that somebody like Steven freakin' Spielberg likes my Jamie enough to cast him in a new blockbuster, but why oh why did he have to cast him in Tintin? I liked the books and I enjoyed the television series when I was a lil tyke, but... really? They're making a Tintin movie? It's been discussed a lot over the last few years, but I never actually though it would come to fruition. Is there a childhood hero as uncool as Tintin? I know he went to the moon and all, but yeesh. NERD ALERT (/primary school).

It's been filmed in motion capture 3D, which I think implies it will be like Beowulf...? If somebody can be bothered reading about this movie once it gets past the cast (Jamie, Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Toby Jones - lovely) and it mentions anything then let me know. If it does follow the path of Beowulf does that mean we should expect Tintin to come out looking like this?

If so, I approve!

And because we can't go through this entry without a picture of the man in question:


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Please Stand By: Technical Difficulties

Sorry about the sudden disappearance, but my apartment has been experiencing a weirdly slow Internet connection for the last two days and today I had none at all (I'm on somebody else's laptop, lovely) so I'm not entirely sure what's up with it. Hopefully it will be back up within a day or two. When it does return I plan to have write-ups about Milk, Revolutionary Road, Love the Beast and plenty of other goodies. Hold tight my pretties, Stale Popcorn will return soon enough.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

All the Rage

As, I imagine, every single Australian has done at least once in their life I got stuck watching Rage last night until 3.30 in the morning. Rage is an all-night music program that runs from around 11pm until some time in the late morning. It plays all sorts of great and not-so-great music, features guest programmers and special theme nights. Occasionally they feature Countdown episodes though, which are a total treat. Countdown itself was another ABC music program that featured the latest hottest music videos, live in house performances (including everyone from The Uncanny X-Men to Divine, no kidding) and countdowns of the music charts from all over the world. It ran from 1874 - 1987, but remains a vital fixture in the landscape of Australian music to this very day.

"Last night I experience the greatest rock and roll concert I have ever experienced ... Last night in front of 20,000 at the Civic Auditorium people I saw Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band put on a concert of rock and roll that just left everyone breathless" - Amen Molly Meldrum!

Rage was kind enough to program the episode from September 30th, 1984 last night, and what an episode it was! To just further prove why the 1980s were the greatest decade known to mankind, some of the video clips they featured were:

Helen Terry, "Now You Are Mine"
Cyndi Lauper, "She Bop"
Phil Oakey, "Together in Electric Dreams"
Tina Turner, "Better Be Good to Me"
Deep Royal Blues, "God Save Me"
Prince, "Let's Go Crazy"
David Bowie, "Blue Jean"

Unfortunately Prince and Cyndi Lauper are unable to attend this party right now, but these five are still amazing. And, by the way, the songs by Phil Oakey (of Human League) and Helen Terry are both from the soundtrack to a 1984 movie I had never of called Electric Dreams, which I absolutely MUST see. If these are on the soundtrack then it can't be all bad. Plus, the plot is described as "a love triangle between a man, a woman, and a personal computer" so what could go wrong? NOTHING!

The top ten countdown for that week was:
10. Pointer Sisters, "Jump" (literally brilliant)
9. ZZ Top, "Legs" (absolutely brilliant)
8. Dan Hartman, "I Can Dream About You" (well...)
7. Stevie Wonder, "I Just Called to Say I Love You" (how brilliantly retro, an Oscar winner in the top ten!)
6. Bruce Springsteen, "Dancing in the Dark" (by far one of the most brilliant songs ever recorded)
5. John Waite, "Missing" (surprisingly very brilliant)
4. U2, "Pride" (it's U2, okay)
3. Tina Turner, "What's Love Got to Do With It?" (the epitome of brilliant)
2. Ray Parker Jr, "Ghostbusters" (very very brilliant, but not as brilliant as "I Want a New Drug" by the brilliant Huey Lewis & The News)
1. George Michael, "Careless Whisper (brilliant, duh)

Wasn't that brilliant? Yes. Yes it was.

The Australian Films of 2009

Hey guys, I thought I would bump this entry back to the top. It proved to be quite popular - I'm still getting emails from people asking about certain titles - and new information has come to hand in relation to release dates and title changes for certain movies listed below (thanks mostly to immeasurably helpful Inside Film).

At the start of this new year I thought I'd put together a list of the Australian films that may be coming our way (and if they're good enough, your way too!) in 2009. Australian film production is iffy though, and distribution is even worse. Films can be announced and then not a word is heard (Cedar Boys) until they magically get released into cinemas to the cries of "how did it fail?" (2008's The Tender Hook etc), while others are filmed and then not a single word is heard about them for months or in some cases up to a year (Long Weekend, In Her Skin, Beautiful Kate). And then there are titles that just don't get released at all outside of festivals (Corrobboree). It seems that unless you're Rolf de Heer (Ten Canoes) no Australian filmmakers is capable of making more than one film every few years and there's no guarantee even the most successful debut director will be able to get a greenlight for a second picture. Lack of funding is generally a key reason, but there is more to it.

So while a lot of these movies may indeed be finished this year, they could take anywhere up to three years to even see the light of day! I did, however, try and choose titles that are towards the end of production or already in post and have sites that imply they will be coming out soon. You can bet ya bottom dollar that a few will go direct-to-DVD (I'm looking at you Crush), but thankfully there are quite a few promising titles from high profile directors such as Sarah Watt, Fred Schepisi, Ana Kokkinos, Scott Hicks, Bruce Beresford and Adam Elliot while notable Australian performers like Eric Bana, Radha Mitchell, Anthony LaPaglia, Geoffrey Rush, Miranda Otto and Melissa George have all "returned" to Australia to make Aussie films. I routinely say that more "average movie-goers" would be more willing to see the films our industry makes if the filmmakers went to any effort at all to get people to go and getting somebody of relevance in your cast if probably the next best thing to actually having a movie people might want to see. We may just see a few box office hits this year! And, yes, a whole lot of these titles will probably appear next year if I do this list then, too. Oh well. Such is life.

$9.99 (dir. Tatia Rosenthal) - Australian/Israeli co-produced animated title. Already shortlisted for the Academy Awards' Best Animated Feature category. Only an unforeseen distribution disaster could prevent it from being seen in 2009.

Accidents Happen (dir. Andrew Lancaster) - Geena Davis stars in this Australia/UK co-produced comedy. Australians like comedy. Has had test screenings so should be coming out way later in the yeah.

Acolytes (dir. Jon Hewitt) - Aussie teen thriller that is apparently gunning for a March release and has already won prizes at MUFF. I can't see Aussie kids planting down $12 for this, but stranger things have happened. My MIFF review can be found here.

Animal Kingdom (dir. David Michôd) - Sounds like it could be impressive and has a good cast, but will probably not be ready until 2010.

Balibo (dir. Robert Connolly) - One of my regular gripes about the Australian film industry is that it is, for some reason, incredibly reluctant to revisit our history as a means of film ideas. Sure, there have been movies about Gallipoli and Kokoda and Ned Kelly gets repeated again and again, yet for a country that had a hand in so many important moments in history all filmmakers seem to want to do is make yet another movie about miserable lower-class drug users and the like. Hopefully this one is good and a hit and maybe they'll cotton on.

Beautiful (dir. Dean O'Flaherty) - A thriller that I think is being aimed at teenagers, but I'm not entirely sure. I recently loved the poster. Has screened for media and will be out in the first half of 2009.

The Beautiful and the Damned (dir.Richard Wolstencroft) - Based on a book by F Scott Fitzgerald (he's popular lately, isn't he?) this movie stars nobody you have ever heard of and I have no idea about a release.

Beautiful Kate (dir. Rachel Ward) - Has a great cast - Ben Mendelsohn, Bryan Brown, Rachel Griffiths, Maeve Dermody - but the story sounds a bit on-the-nose. It's all very "when i was growing up my family was terrible, but now I must make amends because death is all around us" etc. Will get a release due to the cast and crew pedigree (it is Rachel Ward's first feature-length movie after a few shorts) and has been in post-production for a while now so it should arrive soon.

Belladonna (dir. Annika Glac) - An Australian/Polish co-production that I've been excited about for a while. It's apparently very "different" and will appeal to about five people total and has a sense of the avant garde about it. The official website offers a hint of how beautiful it may be. Screenings begin in February although I am unaware of a general release date as of yet.

Blessed (dir. Ana Kokkinos) - Deborra-Lee Furness, Miranda Otto and Frances O'Connor will probably do their best (and I do await Furness' performance especially) but Kokkinos' films generally aren't my cuppa either way so we'll see if this becomes a critical champ like the queer Head On or the overtly wanky pretentious arty claptrap like Book of Revelation. Kokkinos is one of those directors who will always get her movies released whether or not they're a) any good or b) make any money.

The Boys are Back in Town (dir. Scott Hicks) - Most likely a 2010 film, although it is being distributed through Miramax and BBC Films and, unlike many Australian production companies and distributors, they know how to get a film out on time instead of having it languish for anywhere up to three years. Stars Clive Owen.

Bran Nue Day (dir. Rachel Perkins) - Another likely 2010 title is this indigineous road trip musical starring Jessica Mauboy, Geoffrey Rush, Missy Higgins and Deborah Mailman. Recently discussed here. No way it won't go theatrical whenever it is available. Should pop up in 2009 thanks to it's place on the MIFF Premiere Fund.

Bright Star (dir. Jane Campion) - A title of great expectation. It's a co-production between Australia, USA, UK and France so it definitely has all bases covered and stars Abbie Cornish with Ben Whishaw, Kerry Fox and the wonderful Paul Schneider. Could be major and it has a cute website.

Cedar Boys (dir. Serhat Caradee) - I remember hearing about this title over a year ago - Rachael Taylor was riding high on the success of Transformers I believe - and yet nothing since. Haven't seen a poster or any promotion at all. Where has it gone? This IMDb forum entry is particularly funny for anybody who knows Australian culture.

Charlie & Boots (dir. Dean Murphy) - Gunning for an October release is this road comedy starring Paul Hogan and Shane Jacobson. Could be huge if it's any good, especially when you consider Hogan's last film was the dreadful Strange Bedfellows and even that was bonza at the box office.

Coffin Rock - Aussie/UK thriller. Sounds ridiculous.

The Combination (dir. David Field) - Sounds like it deals with very similar territory to Cedar Boys - rage-fueled ethnic violence in the Aussie suburbs - but this one is directed by the actor David Field so it piques my interest a little bit more. Has a great poster - even if it does glorify everything people complain about within the industry - and the trailer, below, is actually very good at getting me (at least) involved. And, no, it doesn't explain the title. IMDb claims a late February release so here's hoping they get a move on and crank out some mainstream marketing.

Corroborree - I am still hoping this film, which screened at MIFF in 2007, gets a release of some kind this year. I emailed the producer recently and he said there weren't any distribution plans as of the moment so things aren't looking too good, despite some great festival word-of-mouth.

Crush (dir. Jeffrey Gettison & John V Soto) - Teen-oriented thriller starring Christopher Egan and Emma Lung. It'll nice to see the very talented Lung in full on bunny boiler mode, but I have no idea why anybody would think tae kwon do is a cinematically friendly sport. Could easily go direct-to-DVD.

Daybreakers (dir. The Spierig Brothers) - Aaand yet another horror flick that has been completed filming for well over a year. It'll come out eventually as it has a great cast (Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill, Claudia Karvan, Ethan Hawke and Vince Colosimo). Hopefully the Spierig Brothers (Undead) haven't botched it up big time for their American financiers.

Devil's Gateway (dir. Alexander Herget) - Another one of those done-dirt-cheap horror titles that will most likely appear on DVD at some point with only the barest of theatrical releases if any at all.

Disgrace (dir. Steve Jacobs) - I'm anticipating big things for Steve Jacobs' (La Spagnola) adaptation of JM Coetzee's novel after it screened to great acclaim at Toronto. It could easily turn into a Ray Lawrence-size hit and I'm even going to go out on a limb and predict John Malkovich for an Oscar nomination. That poster, not sure what nationality it is, is gorgeous, isn't it?

Ektopos (dir. Ben Shackleford) - An Australian sci-fi film? I am so there. It's shocking how little the genre has been utilised here outside of Farscape and Rolf de Heer's Epsilon. Not sure when it'll come out though.

Closed for Winter [aka Elise] (dir. James Bogle) - Natalie Imbruglia is apparently impressive in this film, which is yet another title that I've read snippets about for a very long time, yet have never seen a shred of marketing material for. I am a big fan of James Bogle's last movie, the 1998 thriller In the Winter Dark so I look forward to this title. Has since changed it's title to Closed for Winter, the title of the book to which it is adapted from.

The Gates of Hell (dir. Kelly Dolen) - Yet another Aussie horror flick that seems to be languishing about not getting released. This time they all speak in American accents!

Lucky Country [aka Home] (dir. Kriv Stenders) - Director Stenders won me back a bit with Boxing Day after the torturous The Illustrated Family Doctor so I'll be very interested with what he does with this, apparent, western thriller. Screens at AIFF next month. Changed it's title from Home to Lucky Country, a good move I say. One must suspect that at least someone learned a lesson from the mistakes made by The Square.

The Horseman (dir. Steven Kastrissios) - I so hope this film manages to get a release. I definitely think it's worth it. If the film's only virtue was Peter Marshall's astonishing performance then it'd be worth it, but luckily there's more to it.

In Her Skin (dir. Simone North) - It's hard not to think this movie starring Guy Pearce, Sam Neill and Miranda Otto has been shelved. It's definitely been over two years since it was announced and yet not a single shred of publicity. I saw a still over a year ago, that was it. No, seriously!

The Last Confession of Alexander Pierce (dir. Michael James Rowland) - A big step up from the pleasant-but-dull Lucky Miles, Rowland's film detailing the infamous Tasmanian cannibal settler is actually airing on TV this month, but early word suggests it's cinematic in every way. Looking forward to it! Will hilariously go by the title Cannibal Convict in America.

Last Ride (dir. Glendyn Ivin) - Director Ivin won prizes at Cannes and the AFI for the short film Cracker Bag (although I really didn't like The Desert) and now moves into features with this film starring Hugo Weaving, who at least doesn't have to worry about too many people remembering his terrible performance in The Tender Hook since barely anybody even saw it. The trailer looks hypnotizing and it's looking promising. I believe this premieres at AIFF considering it was made through their development fund.

Long Weekend (dir. Jamie Blanks) - Having seemingly been in production for eons, surely Jamie Blanks' second Aussie horror flick in as many years will (after Storm Warning went direct-to-DVD in 2008) get a release of some kind.

Love the Beast (dir. Eric Bana) - Bana somehow gets Dr Phil and Jay Leno to talk about his car in this documentary that is set to come out in the first half of the year. Could give Bra Boys a run for its money in the Highest Grossing Australian Documentary stakes. Opens on March 12.

The Loved Ones (dir. Sean Byrne) - Horror flick with a great tagline - "You Don't Have to Die to Go to Hell" - and starring Victoria Thaine, who along with Emma Lung and Saskia Burmeister is one of this nations best up-and-comers, and Xavier Samuel, one of my favourite rising male talents. I guess it helps that he's definitely nice to look at, ey? Set to be released at the end of the year, but with so many fright titles popping up on this list it's not hard to realise some won't be making it. At least not theatrically, anyway.

Mao's Last Dancer (dir. Bruce Beresford) - Could be popular, an Australian production set in China by well-known director Bruce Beresford. Stars Kyle McLachlan, Bruce Greenwood, Joan Chen and Amanda Schull. Will probably be out towards the prestigious end of the year.

Mary & Max (dir. Adam Elliot) - Let's hope Adam Elliot gets a hit out of this Sundance-approved claymation effort featuring the voices of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Toni Collette, Geoffrey Rush, Eric Bana and Barry Humphries. Out in April and I can't wait as it's been getting some stellar reviews at Sundance.

My Year Without Sex (dir. Sarah Watt) - This will be a title I'll be paying close attention to. Sarah Watt's feature debut was the excellent Look Both Ways - one of the finest Australian films of the decade - and this sophomore effort stars Sasha Horler (who was great in her tiny Look Both Ways role - and Matt Day, but no word yet on when we should be seeing it on our screens, but it premieres at AIFF.

No Through Road (dir. Sam Barrett) - See Devil's Gateway and Gates of Hell and... and...

Offing David (dir. Jeff Bays) - Still seeking distribution as far as I'm aware so might randomly pop up at some point... or maybe not.

Playing for Charlie (dir. Pene Patrick) - This GLBT-themed (I think, did I read that right all those months ago?) sport film played at MIFF as well as Sydney and was in competition at the Rome Film Festival. It is set for release in mid 2009. It's a "coming of age" tale, which is horrifying to say the least.

Prey (dir. Oscar D'Roccster?) - Yet another movie that has seemingly been in the news for a very long news and yet doesn't seem to be getting released. That the film's director has changed (at least on the movie's IMDb profile) from well-known George Miller (of Man from Snowy River fame, not Mad Max) to somebody called Oscar D'Roccster (surely a fake name) with no other credits to his name is probably indicitive of studio wrangling and unhappy producers. Why can't they release it? Don't they realise Australia wants to see Natalie Bassingthwaighte chainsaw a man's face in half? DON'T THEY?!?

Prime Mover (dir. David Ceaser) - Has screened at previews to yawns. I'd say it would go direct-to-DVD if it weren't for the impressive cast (Emily Barclay, William McInnes, Andrew S Gilbert, Lynette Curran) and that David Ceaser seems to get his movies released despite them not being any good.

Samson and Delilah (dir. Warwick Thornton) - Award-winning short director and cinematographer Thornton directs this indigenous-themed drama. Yet another Aussie film to premiere at AIFF.

Storage (dir. Michael Craft) - Thriller starring Robert Mammone and the ever-improving Saskia Burmeister. Has had special screenings so should be out in one form or another this year.

Subdivision (dir. Sue Brooks) - It will be very interesting to see what Sue Brooks does with her first film since Japanese Story. It stars Brooke Satchwell, Bruce Spence, Gary Sweet, Denise Roberts and Aaron Fa'aoso so it sounds good right there. Will be released in August.

Three Blind Mice (dir. Matthew Newton) - The best Australian film I saw in 2008 was actually this movie that is being released in 2009. Matthew Newton (becoming one of this country's finest multi-hyphenates) stars, writes and directs this tale of three war-bound men on their last night in Sydney. It's really stunning and apparently has distributors circling like they oughta be.

Triangle (dir. Christopher Smith) - Most likely a more high-profile horror title compared to the others on the list. The director of well-liked British horror comedy Severance takes the reigns on this Melissa George-starrer. The poster is good and could post some solid figures when it is released later in the year, unless it proves to be a total dud in terms of quality in which case it'll go direct-to-DVD.

Two Fists, One Heart (dir. Shawn Seet) - It probably won't be hard for this film to improve upon 2008's boxing disaster The Tender Hook, but this is the Australian film industry we're talking about here and the trailer's penchant for sickening title cards like "FAMILY" and "LOYALTY" don't illicit much enthusiasm. It's set for release in March.

Van Diemen's Land [aka Hell's Gate] (dir. Jonathan Auf Der Heide) - The third film in a short period to deal with the tale of Alexander Pearce (after last year's Dying Breed and the upcoming TV movie The Last Confession of Alexander Pearce) is actually a feature-length adaptation of the 21 minute student film that Heide made - or at least that's how I think it works. Was previously titled Hell's Gate. I'd recommend everybody go check out the teaser trailer at the official website. It. Is. a. Bloody. Corker. That final image - and that amazing tag line - are absolutely going to appear in my nightmares. I've already watched it several times. I also love the shot of the men appearing out from the edge of the frame, running towards camera. Great stuff!

The Waiting City (dir. Claire McCarthy) - Another movie likely to still be in post-production come 2010, I am looking forward to this already as it sounds good just from the initial news that has come out about it. Stars Joel Edgerton, Radha Mitchell and Isabel Lucas as a couple (Edgerton and Mitchell) travel to India to get their adopted child.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Those Oscar Nominations

Yes, I do plan on saying something about the nominations (50% meh, 25% terrible, 25% actually very good, thank you), but they were announced at 12:30AM my time last night and I've been at work all day and when I got home I had threads and threads to read at other far more Oscar-entrenched blogs so I haven't had time to write about them as of yet.

But, honestly... how did the best performance (male, female, lead, supporting) of 2008 miss out? How could the acting branch be so smart as to nominate Melissa Leo and then snub poor bless-her-lil-cotton-socks Sally Hawkins? Very bizarre.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

"Forty is the last age a woman can be photographed in a wedding gown without the unintended Diane Arbus subtext."

I am well aware that Sex and the City: The Movie is far from being the most well-written film of this or any other year, but I personally ADORE this quote (spoken by Candice Bergen in the film). I distinctly remember being the only person in the entire cinema who laughed at it - and I saw it on opening weekend with a sell out crowd in a large cinema - but I don't care.

Also, as I'm sitting here rewatching the movie (the mother bought it on DVD, i borrowed) I realise that Patrica Field's costume work really is spectacular. Not even just the clothes that the actors wear, but the clothes hanging in the closets and on racks, they all add so much. Even the outfits that I think are quite ugly to look at (such as the hibiscus dress to the left) are so filled with personality that they work. Could Field really pull off a second surprise Oscar nomination (after The Devil Wears Prada two years ago)? Here's hoping.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Final Academy Award Nominees

It's that time of January, folks! Time to finally put those crystal balls to work and predict who will end up with an Oscar nomination (or two). I've decided to go with some surprises - Kate Winslet, for instance - and some left field selections - Best Costume Design has a history of that - but, generally, I am merely toeing the company line. So many of these seem like foregone conclusions. As many have already noted there were apparently only five films released this year worth nominating for Best Picture by the Academy. Funny how that works, hey?

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Slumdog Millionaire

If anything out of the regular happens here I think it will be Wall-E in the place of either Milk or The Dark Knight. A shame that it couldn't have replaced Frost/Nixon, yet that movie seems solid as a rock.

Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight
Gus Van Sant, Milk

I can see Van Sant or Fincher actually missing out here... but for who? Stephen Daldry has never missed a nomination (er, from two movies) but he's not getting in for The Reader and Andrew Standon directed an animated movie so, in their eyes, he didn't direct anything at all. No, if there is a lone director this year (obviously, I don't think there will be) I'm sure it will be either Darren Aronofsky for The Wrestler, Mike Leigh for Happy-Go-Lucky or - and I very VERY nearly put this prediction down in typeface - Woody Allen for Vicky Cristina Barcelona. That one is one I really do think could come to pass.

Clint Eastwood, Gran Torino
Richard Jenkins, The Visitor
Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn, Milk
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler

Obviously, I would not be surprised to see Brad Pitt (Benjamin Button) or Leonardo DiCaprio (Revolutionary Road) in there instead of Eastwood of Jenkins (I hope not in relation to the latter.)

Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky
Melissa Leo, Frozen River
Meryl Streep, Doubt
Kate Winslet, The Reader

I fully expect to go 3/5 in this category, but I've have the Winslet hunch for a while now so I feel like I have to go with it instead of Winslet for Revolutionary Road and I am entirely aware that it's probably foolhardy to dismiss Angelina Jolie (Changeling) in favour of the much smaller Melissa Leo, but I'm doing it. I sense more passion behind Leo and that her fans will be trying hard to get her cited over somebody like Jolie who hardly warrants (or, apparently, deserves) it. Of course I could be entirely wrong and people like Kristen Scott Thomas or Cate Blanchett could waltz in and grab a nomination.

Josh Brolin, Milk
Robert Downey Jr, Tropic Thunder
Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionaire

It pains me to include Patel on here, but doesn't it just feel inevitable? Ugh. The likes of James Franco (Milk), Eddie Marsan (Happy-Go-Lucky) or Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road) could sneak in, but I doubt it.

Amy Adams, Doubt
Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis, Doubt
Taraji P Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler

Because I've put Winslet in Lead for The Reader that means I didn't have to think about who to include out of Adams or Henson.

Woody Allen, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Dustin Lance Black, Milk
Jenny Lumet, Rachel Getting Married
Tom McCarthy, The Visitor
Andrew Stanton, Wall-E

Don't rule out Mike Leigh (Happy-Go-Lucky) or Robert Seigal (The Wrestler) here, although wouldn't it be lovely to see Martin McDonough score for the only chance In Bruges has at the Oscars?

Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire
David Hare, The Reader
Peter Morgan, Frost/Nixon
Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
John Patrick Shanley, Doubt

Interesting that Beaufoy and Roth are the frontrunners since, at least what I thought, the screenplays for their respective films were by far the weakest aspects. The only spot that doesn't seem locked and loaded for a nomination is Hare for The Reader, who could easily be overtaken by The Dark Knight or Justin Haythe's work on Revolutionary Road.

Kirk Baxter & Angus Wall, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Chris Dickins, Slumdog Millionaire
Elliot Graham & Gus Van Sant, Milk
Daniel P Hill & Mike Hill, Frost/Nixon
Lee Smith, The Dark Knight

I'm really tempted to throw Claire Simpson (The Reader) or Dan Libental (Iron Man) in here at the expense of Milk or Benjamin Button, which I think could be a surprise exclusion.

Johnetta Boone, Cadillac Records
Deborah Hopper, Changeling
Catherine Martin, Australia
Michael O'Connor, The Duchess
Jacqueline West, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

I could easily take out Martin or the never-nommed Boone and replace her with Albert Wolsky (costume legend for Revolutionary Road), Patricia Field (Sex and the City), Ann Roth (The Reader or Doubt), Danny Glicker (Milk) or - scarily - Suttirat Larlab for Slumdog Millionaire. Although I kind of hope they nominate Lindy Hemming for The Dark Knight's iconic duds.

Anthony Dod Mantle, Slumdog Millionaire
Chris Menges, The Reader
Claudio Miranda, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Wally Pfister, The Dark Knight
Mandy Walker, Australia

Perhaps I'm being foolish ignoring Roger Deakins for Revolutionary Road, but maybe - just maybe - they feel like those two nominations last year was enough to tie him over for another year. Of course there is also Harris Savides for Milk or Eduardo Serra for Defiance.

Brigitte Broch, The Reader
Donald Graham Burt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Nathan Crowley, The Dark Knight
Bill Groom, Milk
Catherine Martin, Australia

I'm remembering that the Academy nominated Martin for Romeo+Juliet, which makes me think they like her, but she could very easily miss (duh) since the film was so poorly received by industry types. But, then again, something just doesn't feel right about this category. Too many lower-rung movies that I can easily see missing (see also Changeling and Revolutionary Road).

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Iron Man

If it is not these three then I'll be incredibly surprised, won't you?

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Reader
Synecdoche, New York

While it seems odd to have three serious-minded films in the running for a category that tends to favour fat suits (no such films made the shortlist) I almost think they'll throw a nomination to Tropic Thunder, what with the make-up being so character defining. I'm personally hoping for The Wrestler though because gory blood work just doesn't get enough respect here, ya know?

Alexandre Desplat, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Thomas Newman, Wall-E
AR Rahman, Slumdog Millionaire
Hans Zimmer & James Newton Howard, The Dark Knight
John Williams, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

AAAGH! John Williams!!! Gross.

"Jai Ho" from Slumdog Millionaire
"Down to Earth" from Wall-E
"The Wrestler" from The Wrestler
"Once in a Lifetime" from Cadillac Records
"I Want it all" from High School Musical 3

I'm predicting they will cull this category down to three this year. And while it would be quite a story for "Trouble the Water" to score here, I don't think the music branch will dig that deep to be honest.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Iron Man
Slumdog Millionaire

Standard stuff it would seem.

The Dark Knight
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Iron Man
Tropic Thunder

Ack! How boring.

The Baader Meinhof Complex (Germany)
The Class (France)
Everlasting Moments (Sweden)
Revance (Austria)
Waltz with Bashir (Israel)

I don't have the faintest idea, honestly.

Kung Fu Panda
Waltz with Bashir

I can totally see Bolt stealing a spot, which is depressing, although it'd be nice if the Aussie film $9.99 surprised everybody, wouldn't it?

At The Death House Door
Encounters at the End of the World
Man on Wire
Trouble the Water

Anything could happen, honestly. Can you imagine if Man on Wire missed the cut? It'd be Hoop Dreams all over again.


And that's that, folks. We'll see how I do at about Midnight tonight. Hope something you really want to get in gets in. It's always nice to wake up (well, for you international folks) to a nice present in your Oscar swag.