Friday, January 02, 2009

Reasons to be Cheerful 5

"The meek will inherit the earth, but only after the rich and powerful have finished with it. By then, it won't be worth having." - Marty Feldman

In order to procrastinate on the Balls to 2009 post a bit longer, and be distracted by happier thoughts, here's the annual round-up of escapism into film. Sure, there's snappier sights saying much the same thing. Wired,, The Times, and Kate Roger at TV3 have some decent picks.

What's the time, Dr Manhattan? Will Watchmen open on my birthday, or will Fox and Warner still be throwing lawyers at each other? While a movie can never do justice to the source material, it looks like it will be closer to Alan Moore's ideas than the movie versions of From Hell or League of Extraordinary Gentlemen ever were. Watchmen has gone through all known levels of development hell. I remember the early 90s when Terry Gilliam and Robert De Niro were being associated with a Watchmen movie. Just get on with it!

Anything by Darren Aronofsky is good. Yes, even The Fountain. Give me inaccessible stories involving Spanish conquistadores and interstellar travel over Indiana Jones and the Nuked Fridge any day. The Wrestler is a must see. Even professional wrestler Mick Foley digs the story. It's not art unless someone suffers, and Mickey Rourke does suffering well. Easy the Marv.

There's agony a plenty in Revolutionary Road, featuring Di Caprio and Winslet in this Anti-Titanic of a plotline. Sam Mendes gives suburbia another well deserved bash in the ego. Christopher Hitchens and Roger Ebert sum up this cul de sac of desperation best. Must get the book. It'll go nicely alongside The Corrections.

An actualised revolutionary, Che Guevara, gets the Soderbergh treatment. All six hours of it. I came away from The Motorcycle Diaries with the impression that Che was nothing more than a charlatan who would promise anything to get what he wanted. For a double feature, I'd rather watch Rodriguez and Tarantino's Grindhouse movies again. Zoe Bell rocks, Che doesn't.

Nor am I holding my breath for Benjamin Button. No disrespect to David Fincher. Like Soderbergh, brilliant director. It's just the subject matter that's the problem. In Button's case, the unexplainable conceit of a man born old and growing young. There's fantasy and then there's impossibility. In this case, the second law of thermodynamics.

You may as well invent a character who wasn't affected by the law of gravity, but floated about wherever he felt. At least Dr Manhattan is conceivable. His beginning is explained. A fully grown, fully aged adult man is inconceivable. Roger Ebert is right, it's just wrong.

Another way a character could escape gravity is by tying a whole lot of balloons to their house and floating it across to South America. That's the plot of Pixar's latest effort, Up. Emboldened by Wall-E's success, the people at Pixar are upping the ante in the story department. The teaser trailer is a joy, as is this short clip involving an old man and a boy scout.

Or you could go universally fantastic to float your boat.

But all is forgiven with Soderbergh because of The Informant, which is promising to do to agricultural lobbies what The Insider did for tobacco. The strain on free trade could do with all the help it can get right now, but that's another blog post. Matt Damon chubs up for the role in between Bourne franchise obligations.

Mindless action movie for 2009 will be The International, not Terminator Salvation. This is because fighting bankers is scarier than fighting unkillable robots from the future. Features everyman world saver Clive Owen and Naomi Watts (yum).

Unusual premise of the year goes to The Box. Directed by the guy who made Donnie Darko, a couple are given possession of a box for 24 hours. In the box is a button. If they press the button, they become rich but someone they don't know dies. As far as moral dilemmas go, it's cleaner than Saw but more personal than The Dark Knight's ferry stand-off. I wonder if the deaths are the penultimate recipients who pressed the button?

In the comedy department, there's The Boat That Rocked (pirate radio station antics), The Brothers Bloom (with the DNA of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels), and whatever Sacha Baron Cohen calls his Bruno film. Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds covers the exploitation circuit, while Sin City 2 awaits a 2010 opening, maybe. Exploitation name of 2009 goes to Lesbian Vampire Killers. Great title, shame I'm all coming-of-aged out after Juno, Superbad and Pineapple Express.

But the movie I'm most looking forward to this year is the one I don't know about yet. In between the credit crunch and the Screen Actors Guild strike, Hollywood is going to take a back seat to some little ripper from off-shore. It will be like Slumdog Millionaire, but more like 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days or maybe Lust, Caution.

Then again, it might be Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones.