On Friday night, we will once again mark the autumnal equinox, officially kicking off the most beautiful season in much of the United States (and the first day of Spring for those of us in the Southern Hemisphere).
Not only does Fall mean changing leaves and a crispness in the air, but it is high tide for Pop Culture. The new season begins on television; prestige movies fill the theaters; the King of American sports eclipses events that would rule any other time of the year; the 2012 election moves into a matter of months; bands try to cash in on the iTunes gift certificate redemption season. Three months of Fall normally hold more goodies than the other three seasons combined.
So this week, we’ll examine the menu and whet our appetite for what’s to come.
Movies are our lead-off hitter. With Explosions and Superheroes season behind us, we can finally turn our attention to films we might actually re-watch in a couple of years. The crop of Oscar hopefuls seems thin this year, but there’s still some interesting story lines.
Let’s start off with the 2011 Dreamiest Actor Alive (copyright P.C.H.A. 2011).
The Rise Of Gosling
Predicting which promising actor will actually make it is normally a fool’s errand… there’s nothing sadder than seeing Peter Sarsgaard reduced to supporting roles in shit like Knight & Day and Green Lantern. To put it another way, you would have made “fuck you” money if you’d taken the odds in 1991 that the stars of 21 Jump Street and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and the orphan from Growing Pains would be the three biggest movie stars twenty years later.
For a while it’s been clear that, Mickey Mouse Club alumni-wise, Ryan Gosling is more Justin Timberlake than Britney Spears. Starting with The Believer a decade ago, he’s portrayed a slew of art-house anti-heroes that have kept critics moist (Half Nelson, Lars and the Real Girl, Blue Valentine). And he’s proven that he can keep female moviegoers moist as well (The Notebook). But even though he’s already an Oscar nominee, he hasn’t yet gotten close to household name status.
This year may change that. Gosling’s already shown some budding comedic chops in the surprisingly good and successful Crazy, Stupid, Love. This weekend, he tries to become an art-house action star with Drive, which is both Cannes Film Festival-approved and renowned for its violence. And, next month, he stars opposite director George Clooney in the Venice Film Festival-approved The Ides of March.
None of these movies is blockbuster-territory, and in two of them Gosling is in a supporting role. But, it’s not often that an actor comes out with three good movies in three separate genres in one year. Gosling seems destined to get another Oscar nod (probably for Ides), and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him with a Best Supporting Actor statue this year.
First off, there’s the aforementioned The Ides Of March, which Clooney wrote, directed and stars in, and which has already starting getting some serious buzz. We seem long overdue for a good political film (the last one was Charlie Wilson’s War, four years ago), and Clooney’s previous directorial efforts (minus Leatherheads) shows that he might be the guy to give it to us.
And, around Thanksgiving, he stars in Alexander Payne’s The Descendants. Payne may not get the publicity of some of the other filmmakers of his generation, but he’s four for four so far, so having him return seven years after Sideways is a good thing. It would be shocking if one of these movies doesn’t get Clooney a Best Actor nod.
Missteps By Masters?
The heroes of Payne’s generation have shown some amazing staying power. While prime years for a director last longer than most other things Pop Culture, there isn’t a long track record of directors being able to keep it up as they near retirement age.
The poster boy for a late career comeback has been Martin Scorsese. Since he turned 60 in 2002, he’s charged out of a lull with four good-to-great movies starring Leonardo DiCaprio. But his new film seems anything but a sure thing. On one hand, his new movie Hugo is a “3D family adventure drama”… ummm, OK. On the other hand, one of its main characters is Scorsese’s hero Georges Melies, who pretty much invented cinema.
The only movie that Steven Spielberg has released since turning 60 in 2006 is The Indiana Jones That Dare Not Speak Its Name, which as of now marks a definitive end to his mature period (Schindler’s List to Munich). This Fall, he’s back with two films. One is a $150 million-plus 3D performance capture adaptation of The Adventures of Tintin, a children’s series that NPR will undoubtedly jizz over, but Americans have consistently not given a shit about for over 80 years. The second is an adaptation of a children’s book about a horse that fights in WWI… seriously. Maybe his casting of Sally Field (10 years older than Daniel Day-Lewis) as Mary Todd Lincoln (9 years younger than Abe) in next year’s Lincoln wasn’t a fluke misstep.
If you were born the year Clint Eastwood turned 60, you can legally drink now. Motherfucker’s old, really old. For a while he hung in there with his prestige pictures (Unforgiven to Letters from Iwo Jima), although there was always plenty of dreck mixed in. Lately, it’s been all dreck (Changeling, Gran Torino, Hereafter). At 81, he attempts to use Marty’s late-career lucky charm, Leonardo DiCaprio, to get back into the game with J. Edgar. Making a star-studded glossy biopic about a figure who’s, at best, a closeted douchebag seems unpromising at best. Odds are it’s closer to Hoffa than The Aviator.
Acclaimed books are to Oscar candidates what comic books are to movies that actually make money. They’re ubiquitous, they’re often lazy and they’re sometimes good.
This year, there are a couple with promise. Off his Oscar robbery, David Fincher directs the English-langage version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. The 2009 Swedish version will be hard to live up to, but the material seems perfect for the director of Seven and Fight Club. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy looks like a perfect return to leading man territory for Gary Oldman. Plus, it would be nice to see a good spy tale that wasn’t an action movie in disguise (last one-Clooney’s Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, nine years ago).
In the uh-oh category, this site has already pointed out the impending terror of Cameron Crowe’s We Bought A Zoo. We’ve also sounded the alarm on Moneyball. However, with screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s recent luck with non-fiction adaptations (Charlie Wilson, The Social Network), it might be worth giving it the benefit of the doubt. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close stars Tom Hanks as the dead 9/11 victim father of a cute kid… kill me now.
Of course, the most important adaptation is The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part One… Bella and Edward finally do it… OMG, OMG, OMG!!!
The Greatest Movie Ever Made
Just mark November 11 on your calendars now.