With what is likely to be the summer’s biggest box-office splash (Michael Bay’s latest Transformers outing), high-profile drama (Michael Mann’s Johnny Depp-led Public Enemies) and satirical (and likely controversial) comedy (Sacha Baron Cohen’s Bruno) looming in the near future, we actually have a solid collection of new releases this week, led by a pair of art-house gems and what looks to be a surprisingly effective romantic comedy.
The Tournees Festival of New French Films returns to Northern Kentucky University each Wednesday (at 3:30 p.m.) and Thursday (at 7 p.m.) through April 28. Sponsored by the French American Cultural Exchange and nurtured to the area by Dr. John Alberti, director of NKU's cinema studies program, the fest opens this week with Philippe Lioret's Welcome, which is described as “both a study of budding friendship and a compassionate look at the perils faced by illegal immigrants.”
What's up with David Fincher? After giving us only one film (2002's Panic Room) in the eight years following 1999's gleefully subversive, zeitgeist-capturing Fight Club, the notoriously meticulous filmmaker is back with The Social Network, his third effort in four years following 2007's excellent Zodiac and 2008's out-of-character — it's essentially a straight-up love story — The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. And he's not done yet: Fincher's American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is currently in production and will be out by the end of 2011.
Longtime film critic/historian Jonathan Rosenbaum has been staying busy since his departure/retirement from the Chicago Reader. In addition to his ongoing DVD column for CinemaScope, Rosenbaum recently wrote a lengthy piece on 100-year-old Portuguese filmmaker Manoel de Oliveira (yes, he’s still making movies!) for Film Comment, he took part in a “Criticism in Crisis” panel at the New York Film Festival and unveiled his new Web site, JonathanRosenbaum.com.
Presented essentially in blog format, the site features many of his archived Reader reviews (with more coming every week) as well as new musings on myriad film topics, including an essay on cinema trends during the George W. Bush years entitled “Bushwacked.”
Incisive on a number of the levels, the piece — originally written for the latest edition of the Time Out Film Guide — discusses how our rapidly fracturing cultural sphere has impacted movies (and moviegoing) before moving into an investigation of how this development parallels President Bush’s own bubble mentality. (It’s a dismaying turn of events I like to call the Death of Context.)
Of course, Rosenbaum’s diagnosis is often dire, effectively linking Bush’s blissfully ignorant governing techniques with the rapidly changing landscape of serious film culture. Fittingly, he also writes about the various Iraq War-based films that have sprung up in recent years, most of which have garnered disinterest from the public at large while nevertheless providing a vital history the mainstream media has either glossed over or ignored altogether.
And, ever the contrarian, Rosenbaum couldn't help but get in another dig at No Country for Old Men, which he considers the most overrated film of 2007.
That last opinion aside, “Bushwacked” is essential reading.
I said almost because there are still a few weeks left (the season traditionally runs Memorial Day to Labor Day) and, more importantly, there are still a handful of movies I've yet to catch — from high-profile studio stuff (like Cars 2, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and the latest Harry Potter) to smaller indie offerings (like Buck and Project Nim, not to mention a host of titles that have yet to open here — most notably Miranda July's The Future, Michael Winterbottom's The Trip, Azazel Jacobs' Terri and Raúl Ruiz's Mysteries of Lisbon).
A friend recently asked my opinion about what films the Academy might nominate for Best Picture this year.
“Uh, I have no idea,” I responded.
It's pretty late in the year to be saying that, but, of course, I rarely think about the Oscars until I absolutely have to. Then there's the fact that few of the films released so far this year seem to possess what typically piques the Academy's interest (note that anywhere from five to 10 films can now be nominated).
I know we’re in the midst of an economic recession not seen since before The Wizard of Oz — but we only have one Hollywood studio release this week? And the one is 2012, the latest effects-driven, apocalyptic nonsense from Roland Emmerich?