Monday, April 03, 2006

Five Most Anticipated American Non-Blockbuster No-Awards-Expected Films of 2006

by Nick
Wells came out with his preview of the summer blockbusters yesterday ("Not-So-Bad Summer"), which didn't say anything I'm guessing most of us didn't already know. Most of the great films usually come out of left-field, so I figured I'd list the small Hollywood films I'm anticipating this year, which aren't expected to sweep the box-office, or win any awards, but could turn out to be gems none the less.

1. Borat

Man, if you don't know Borat...

Release: November

2. Crank

Let's see if everyone agrees on this one:

Jason Statham is the modern heir to the action-hero mantle laid off by Schwarzenegger, Willis and Stallone. He may not have Willis' charm, Schwarzeneggers über-brawn or the sympathetic working-class quality that Stallone had, but he has something in between. The Transporter films have made at least his face known among action fans, the only thing that's been missing is a proper hit. I'm betting that Crank might be it.

In the film Statham plays the assassin Chev, who at the start of the film is injected by a disgruntled victim in LA with a poison that will kill him unless he keeps his adrenaline flow high and going for 24 hours. So Chev goes on a total rampage throughout LA.

If done right this could be like Falling Down without all those moral issues making a mess of things towards the end.

Release: September

3. Fast Food Nation

Along with making A Scanner Darkly Richard Linklater filmed this one, an ensemble drama on - you guessed it, you genius you - fast food. Something about the whole package here has me anticipating this one, a lot. I think it's the thought of "Traffic - with hamburgers". That and a cast consisting of Luis Guzman, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Kris Kristofferson, Bobby Cannavale (who was great in Station Agent), Ethan Hawke and Avril Lavigne(?).

Linklater going back to doing a film about modern day youth is reason enough, really.

Release: Summer?

4. Children of Men

I'm of the persuasion that even with science-fiction films that go really wrong, I can usually find something interesting or watchable. Even movies like The Island, Aeon Flux and Sky Captain, terrible as they were, had some cool ideas and sequences. Sue me.

And when they go right, they go really right. Films like V for Vendetta, Serenity, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Donnie Darko were all sci-fi films released this decade. None of them won any Oscars, but they were all great films.

The premise of Children of Men may sound like a potential yawner: in a near future where mankind is unable to have children, a woman has gotten pregnant. The film follows her and her bodyguard's journey through a ravaged England to deliver her to safety.

Two things make this a must-see,

1) It's being directed by Alfonso Cuaron.

2) The cast: Julianne Moore, Clive Owen, Michael Caine, Peter Mullan, Danny Huston and Chiwetel Eijofor (whey!).

Release: September

5. When The Levees Broke

The talk about United 93 is mainly over whether it's 'too soon' (don't agree with this, but I'm not one of the wounded parties, so). I hope the same sentiments won't apply to future coverage of the Katrina disaster. And is it irony or tragedy that the same sentiments probably won't?

Spike Lee has been working on this for HBO since september last year, and will show it on the channel for the disaster's one year anniversary.

This being Spike Lee one can guess what his focus will be, and I hope he stirs up debate, I hope he sets out to be controversial, but mainly I hope he sets out to do something more than a filmed Kanye comment. There were admirable deeds done during those days, but compared to 9-11 this was a very different aftermath, and why was that? Spike shall deliver.

When it comes to what happened in New Orleans there's no 'too soon.' There hasn't been enough.

Release: August 29th on HBO


Blogger jaydro said...

Hey, I loved Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow! No need for apologies there.

I don't think there's really any comparison between 9/11 and Katrina, so the same sentiments shouldn't apply, and that is neither irony nor tragedy to me. I don't think I should have to explain that it is quite different to see needless human suffering as the result of a natural disaster and lack of adequate planning and implementation in the face of it on the one hand, while on the other hand witnessing what at first looks like a bizarre and tragic aviation accident that in moments turns into the first stages in a coordinated act of terrorism on an unprecedented scale. (I'll give you hijacking a plane to fly it into a building, but four simultaneously was pretty darn unprecedented.)

The scale of what happened with Katrina was not unprecedented, as shocking as it was to many people. I distinctly recall the National Weather Service warning about the impending disaster that was issued in the hours before Katrina made landfall. The guy who wrote it was right, and not enough people who should have known better, whose job it was to prepare for that kind of thing, paid attention to it. And too many other top officials initially passed it off as just another hurricane, big deal--we get plenty of those all the time.

Or maybe I'm missing the gist of what you're saying, Nick. Yeah, there probably was some racism and/or evidence of disenfranchisement of the poor of New Orleans in the response to it. Absolutely. But if instead of 9/11 happening the way it did, if there had been two hijacked airliners crashing into the Superdome in New Orleans during the Superbowl, I don't think there would have been any delay in reaction to that. There had become a complacency about hurricanes being manageable disasters. They just aren't as sexy as color-coded terror threat levels.

I think there has been enough coverage of Katrina and its aftermath, but unfortunately it has been concentrated among certain media outlets while others have pretty much ignored the lingering effects. NBC News here has been very diligent in their coverage, and they've had at least two extended documentaries air on the Sundance Channel. Viewers have actually complained to them that they're sick of hearing about it.

I am really sick of former FEMA chief Michael Brown's recent media rehabilitation.

BTW, there were a lot of TV documentaries on 9/11 in September 2002--isn't Spike Lee's thing a documentary, too?

4/03/2006 08:28:00 PM  
Blogger Jackrabbit Slim said...

As for United 93, did you all see that a large Manhattan theater pulled the trailer after patrons complained? Doesn't say much for its box office potential, at least in New York City.

4/04/2006 07:06:00 AM  
Blogger Colin said...

Hmm...I saw the United 93 trailer with a packed house at the AMC Loews 34th Street theater in Manhattan before "Inside Man, and there didn't seem to be much of a reaction. Weird.

As for the list, I'm looking forward to "Borat," but I also saw "Ali G Indahouse," and it was pretty terrible. I pretty much agree on Statham. "Crank" looks like it could be pretty solid.

"Fast Food Nation" looks very cool, but I've read the (nonfiction) book, and I'm not sure how Linklater adapted it into a film. I would imagine that the pilot for his never picked up HBO series $5.15/hour" might provide a nice template, but I have no idea where to see it. Overall, though, I'm more looking forward to "Scanner." Linlater is one of my favorite directors, "Bad News Bears" notwithstanding.

And yeah, "When the Levees Broke" looks like it should be very interesting.

4/04/2006 08:16:00 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

I also liked Sky Captain. The performances were terrible (the main drawback of a movie filmed entirely in greenscreen) but the style and cheesy sci-fi serial script really worked for me.

I don't know about Statham, he is in the next Ewe Boll movie so doesn't that mean his career is over? Borat could be good if it isn't direct to video junk like Indahouse. And I'm not sure how the character will hold out in a 90 minute film, we're used to him in 5-minute sketches.

I had forgotten about Fast Food Nation, I am so excited that Linklatter is making a new movie in the vein of Before Sunrise, Dazed and Confused, and Suburbia.

I don't know if I need to see When the Levees Broke. I've been following the disaster, aftermath, and (lack of) reconstruction efforts. I'll still probably catch it, the feeling of "preaching to the choir" didn't stop me from seeing Farenheit 9-11 or Yes Men. I just hope it manages to succeed where Farenheit failed and get some damn democratic seats filled in the 2006 elections.

4/04/2006 10:47:00 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

Also, as for the United 93 trailer. If people are saying that "it's too soon," then this movie needs to exist. When something bad happens, people need to talk about it, otherwise catharsis cannot be obtained.

It is never too soon.

4/04/2006 10:50:00 AM  
Blogger jaydro said...

If people are saying that "it's too soon," then this movie needs to exist. My first reaction to that is: bullshit. From the publicity material, this movie doesn't seem to me like it's about obtaining catharsis. It's about reducing what happened to packaged entertainment that, if anything, will obscure the real issues. Maybe I'm wrong, but the marketing is turning me away. The trailer running before Inside Man looks like something the Bush campaign would have been gleeful to have running in theaters in the run-up to the 2004 election. Keep playing those images of planes crashing into buildings, and people will stay scared.

It is sometimes too soon, if the material isn't really enlightening.

But at the same time, the reaction I have following my first knee-jerk reaction is: I hope you're right, Chris.

4/04/2006 02:02:00 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

I saw the trailer that the Manhattan theatre was upset about. It was moving and it just felt right to me. I am not worried about this film giving more power to the fear mongers. If the trailer is any indication, a good portion of this movie shows military personnel having permission to shoot that plane down if it gets too close to any important locations. The people on United 93 knew that the government, which had failed to protect them from this incident the first place, was going to kill them anyway.

I don't see this film as packaged entertainment (that will be the Oliver Stone 9/11 movie). United 93 is about Americans joining together and risking their lives to bring down a common enemy. It could even play as a metaphor for what we must do to eliminate the corruption that allowed 9/11 to happen. This movie doesn't seem to be Harrison Ford strangling turban-wearing terrorists on a plane. It looks like a respectful attempt to tell a story about american heroism, and I have no problem with that.

And even if it is just packaged entertainment; the more we see these stories, the more we will become accustomed to them, the less we will be afraid. Not discussing what happened, saying "too soon," only gives power to the statements of those who would use 9/11 to scare the public into complacency.

4/05/2006 10:43:00 AM  

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