Before we delve into this week’s batch of trailers, a quick note on some distribution shuffling. Terrence Malick’s astoundingly prompt follow-up to “The Tree of Life,” “To the Wonder,” received heavily mixed reviews out of Venice and Toronto, which clearly scared most of awards-season players off despite Malick’s pedigree. Magnolia Pictures has finally stepped in and acquired the film’s distribution rights, and slated it for a 2013 release. So that one goes on the back-burner for now (and a good thing too, because I don’t think my brain could handle two Malick movies in as many years).
On the other hand, sensing some sort of weakness in this year’s prestige lineup, Fox Searchlight and Focus Features have decided to move up two possible players in Sacha Gervasi’s “Hitchcock” and Gus Van Sant’s “Promised Land,” respectively. Gervasi’s film features Anthony Hopkins as the legendary filmmaker in the middle of making “Psycho,” with Helen Mirren as his wife, Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh (ugh), Jessica Biel as Vera Miles (ugh again) and James D’Arcy as Anthony Perkins. Frankly I’m not entirely convinced of the intelligence of moving projects up into this already crowded season; in a year where just about every single expected contender is delivering so far (“Life of Pi” debuted to a very positive reception at the New York Film Festival on Friday night, btw), there doesn’t seem to be a lot of wiggle room. The Best Actor category in particular appears very crowded – but then again, Hopkins is the exact kind of respected veteran that the Academy might want to welcome back into the fold, especially considering the biopic/self-congratulatory Hollywood angle. Helen Mirren could also pretty much lock up another nomination just by showing up. So we’ll see about that one. Meanwhile, let’s talk more about “Promised Land”…
*Reunited, and it feeeeels so goooooood…*
Matt Damon hasn’t teamed up with Gus Van Sant, the director who gave him and buddy Ben Affleck their big break with “Good Will Hunting,” in a decade. It’s hard to know who the blame for that: Damon has been busy being a superstar, yes, but Van Sant has also been flailing around so wildly, from “Elephant” to “Finding Forrester” to “Milk” to “Restless,” that one couldn’t blame Damon for perhaps biding his time. Anyway, there are warning flags abound on this one: a movie about fracking screams of self-conscious RELEVANCE. And it’s hard to believe that this story will end up anywhere but “Michael Clayton”-style redemption for Matt Damon’s good-hearted corporate pawn.
But of course, the Academy ate up “Michael Clayton,” so that hardly puts “Promised Land” out of the awards season discussion. And cliché as the story seems, that’s a talented acting ensemble that Van Sant has pulled together – Damon, Rosemarie DeWitt, Frances McDormand and Hal Holbrook all have experience in performing beyond the expectations of a rote script (John Krasinski is still in wait-and-see territory on that count). I don’t think I’ll be chomping at the bit to see this one, but I can be convinced.
Is it bad that I’m way more excited for this? I mean, when was the last time we had a great American Gothic film? The only ones that come to mind for me are decades-old classics: “The Night of the Hunter,” “The Magnificent Ambersons,” and of course Hitchcock’s masterful “Shadow of a Doubt,” which Park Chan-wook’s films is obviously borrowing from heavily (I’m really rather glad that I don’t have an uncle named Charlie). I’m loving Matthew Goode exploiting the sinister side of his charm (why are British actors always so good at that?), loving Nicole Kidman in vamp mode and am intrigued by Mia Wasikowska in the Teresa Wright role, even if she seems a little too Wednesday Addams here. “Oldboy” was, in my opinion, a flashy mess; hopefully Park can borrow some of Hitchcock’s precision.
A remake of a 60’s heist film with Michael Caine and Shirley Maclaine, this is the first time the Coen brothers have scripted a film without directing it themselves. In the unlucky position of being dwarfed by his screenwriters is Michael Hoffman, of “The Last Station” and “The Emperor’s Club.” Of course, this hardly looks like a director’s showcase – hopefully the film itself can be as breezy and entertaining as this trailer suggests. While I’m no Cameron Diaz fan, Alan Rickman is of course the bee’s knees, and it’s been a while since he (or Colin Firth, for that matter) has taken a comedic turn. So let’s just try to ignore Diaz’s tired Texas-cowgirl routine and focus on things like naked Alan Rickman. Because that’s really what we should be thinking about here.