FINALLY, SERIOUS FILMS are on their way. Fall is the time when Hollywood traditionally brings out its big guns: Oscar contenders, festival favorites, and prestige productions we've read about and long to see. This autumn is no different. At last we can view Little Nicky, the latest effort by that brash auteur of American cinema, Adam Sandler. Finally, in The 6th Day, we can discover what the complex European sensibilities of Arnold Schwarzenegger have in store for us. Feminists can expect an uncompromising indictment of the patriarchy in Charlie's Angels. And for fans of pure avant-garde cinema, Jim Carrey promises to deconstruct the entire capitalist fa硤e of Christmas in that Grinch movie.
Can't wait? Neither can we. Neither can Hollywood, for that matter, which has seen its grosses decline seven percent compared to last summer's Phantom Menace-driven business. (Moreover, theaters are going into bankruptcy by the minute, having built too many screens too quickly.) The summer was hardly a washout for moviegoers, but it lacked that One Big Hit that teens could see over and over and adults could talk about at work. (Scary Movie doesn't meet both criteria.) Mediocre M:I-2 topped the box office, while the superior Gladiator lagged near behind. Neither Perfect Storm nor Patriot were that great, and the few pleasant surprises of the warm weather months were on the order of Croupier, Chuck & Buck, and Chicken Run.
Art and commerce don't always mix at the multiplex, of course, although there's always hope that a critical-popular success like American Beauty will emerge this fall. A few candidates have already been seen at Cannes, Sundance, and Toronto (where the film fest is currently underway). Some of the true Oscar-worthies won't even play here this year, opening in short runs in NYC and LA instead, before national 2001 release.
For the impatient, we offer a fall preview of coming attractions both large and small, national and local, arty and lowbrow, with release dates always, always subject to change.
After Your Friends & Neighbors, Neil LaBute takes a step toward the mainstream with Nurse Betty (already playing), but it's not yet clear whether the mass audience will take a step toward him. While Jerry Maguire leading lady Ren饠Zellweger plays nurse, her former director Cameron Crowe—a part-time Seattle resident—is mining his own life as a young rock journalist in Almost Famous (reviewed this issue). Although Crowe couldn't secure Brad Pitt for the lead, in Billy Crudup he has a star who's almost single-handedly responsible for bringing the '70s back into vogue following Without Limits and Jesus' Son.
That decade memorably gave us The Exorcist, which will enjoy a rerelease (mainly to hype the DVD), and also informs EMP's fall film series that began this week with Tom Verlaine—of '70s band Television—providing live accompaniment to old silent movies. Over a dozen Wednesdays into late November, you can see rare music flicks such as Wattstax (1973), the punk-rock doc The Blank Generation (1976), and the Sun Ra doc Space Is the Place (1974). The whole program is curated by the NW Film Forum, with top-notch sound at the House of Paul.
Another excellent NW Film Forum-curated series begins at the Grand Illusion with over a dozen titles by French New Wave master Alain Resnais, starting with his great Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959). (See related article, this issue.) Meanwhile, the Varsity-Egyptian folks are bringing us a few SIFF faves, including Dark Days, Benjamin Smoke, Goya in Bordeaux—plus another '70s music doc, Gimme Shelter (1970) with Mick and Keith. Tipping into October, a two-week run of the new French comedy The New Eve promises to upend a few notions of feminism and contemporary romance.
The feel-good woman boxing flick—and Sundance prize-winner—Girlfight is also slated to open late in the month, the same weekend as Denzel Washington's feel-good football movie, Remember the Titans. We guess there's just something about kicking ass within the bounds of sport that lends itself to the triumph of the human spirit. (Of course, most people will probably watch the Olympics instead.)
For those left unsatisfied by the recent week of Kubrick flicks, there's a 70mm print of his Spartacus (1960), which—truth be told—is both better and worse than Gladiator. Sure, they did the battle and crowd sequences without CG effects back then, but the acting wasn't exactly subtle. (Come to think of it, Oliver Reed would've fit in quite nicely.) Just think how cavernous Kirk Douglas' cleft chin will look on the big screen!
Festival-wise, we've got gay and lesbian and Spike and Mike, with the former far preferable to the latter's gross-out 'toons. Look forward also to the Seattle Underground Film Fest and a week of horror pics at the Egyptian. SAM begins another fall film noir series that concludes with Chinatown in December; buy your tickets early, since it'll surely sell out in advance. The classic, influential French heist film Rififi (1955) makes a reappearance, while Lars von Trier—so beloved in France—brings us Dancer in the Dark with Bj�and Catherine Deneuve. It's a musical, but not in Icelandic—so far as we can tell. After the off-putting Idiots, he could afford to make something a bit more accessible. (Happily, SAM is showing his '94 Danish TV miniseries The Kingdom in all its four-hour glory.)
On the studio side, De Niro interrogates prospective son-in-law Ben Stiller in Meet the Parents, from the director of both Austin Powers flicks (good) and Mystery, Alaska (uh-oh). Meanwhile, Lisa Kudrow appears opposite John Travolta in Nora Ephron's much-delayed Lucky Numbers, which concerns a lottery rigging scam. With Sleepless in Seattle and Michael to her credit, Ephron's about the biggest woman director in the business, but this sounds a bit darker than the date movies on her r鳵m鮠Let's hope it's nothing like Mixed Nuts.
Speaking of mixed, the maddeningly inconsistent Robert Altman brings us Dr. T & the Women, with Richard Gere as a Dallas gynecologist. (Don't smirk. Go ahead and smirk.) Sylvester Stallone will supposedly return to action-dom in Get Carter, a remake of an old British picture, as is Bedazzled, with Elizabeth Hurley vamping as the devil—originally played by Peter Cook—to seduce Brendan Fraser (previously Dudley Moore).
Meanwhile, SNL continues its endless sketch spin-offs with The Ladies Man, starring Tim Meadows. (What's next—a feature-length version of the credit sequence?) For the men's man there's The Broken Hearts League, about gay softball players, with Frasier's fine John Mahoney. Winona Ryder is supposed to take a crack at horror in Lost Souls, while Spike Lee takes a shot at TV in Bamboozled.
Everyone who loved Christopher Guest's Waiting for Guffman looks forward to Best in Show, about the backstage pressures of the pet circuit. (Look for Michael McKean, Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, and other regulars.) Nationally, Kevin Spacey and that Sixth Sense brat appear in some presumably uplifting drama called Pay It Forward, while locally we enjoy premieres of two art-house flicks: Following and In Absentia (by those nutty Brothers Quay).
Mainly, October is known for Halloween, and the Blair Witch sequel appropriately opens on the preceding weekend. That film has a lot of expectations to match, making it—for younger viewers, particularly—the most anticipated flick this fall. Director Joel Berlinger did the excellent docs Brother's Keeper and Paradise Lost, but this follow-up specifically eschews the fake-doc format of the original. Could be interesting. No less dark is Requiem for a Dream, by Pi director Darren Aronofsky, adapting a drug-filled story by Hubert Selby Jr., whose Last Exit to Brooklyn was—let's face it—pretty grim. (On the plus side, at least Jennifer Jason Leigh won't be in this one.) Like Dream, The Yards also premiered at Cannes, giving Mark Wahlberg a chance to act without a storm-tossed fishing boat.
Thanksgiving means one thing, and that thing is Grinch. This Christmas movie opens November 17 with the expectation of steamrolling right through the holiday blockbuster season. Whether Jim Carrey can pack the seats after the underwhelming Me, Myself & Irene isn't clear, but few other films will risk opening the same weekend. He's about as bankable a star as we've got—even with the green fur. Our main worry is that it's not directed by Tim Burton (who seems a natural for the surreal Seussian material), but by Mr. Family Values, Ron Howard. Apollo 13 and Ransom show that he's capable of being less sappy than in Parenthood and Far and Away—until the last 10 minutes when he reverts to sap. But, to be fair, so does the original story.
Scurrying for cover will be several notable smaller films, including the excellent SIFF doc Sound and Fury and the latest from Taste of Cherry director Abbas Kiarostami, The Wind Will Carry Us. A new print of All About Eve will honor that classic's 50th anniversary, while the science doc Me & Isaac Newton owes its conception to none other than Paul Allen. If you liked Red, White, and Blue, get ready for a two-week run of Krzysztof Kieslowski's 1987-;88 meditation on the Ten Commandments, The Decalogue (originally made for Polish television). Other imports include old and new efforts by French director L鯳 Carax (Boy Meets Girl, Bad Blood and Pola X), guaranteed to be arty, poetic, and obscure. With luck we'll also see Wong Kar-wai's latest, In the Mood for Love, another dreamy, music-filled meditation on ineffable longing.
At the other end of the spectrum we have Charlie's Angels. With Drew, Lucy, and Cameron under the command of Bill Murray, it oughta be fun. Yet you've got to worry when the neophyte director calls himself McG. (Hasn't Prince taught us anything?) On the plus side, one of the two credited writers penned last year's Go.
For those who can't get enough of Gwyneth! Gwyneth! Gwyneth! there's Bounce, with hunky! hunky! hunky! Ben Affleck as her love interest. Glenn Close shows up again in 102 Dalmatians, with G鲡rd Depardieu as her unlikely cohort. (Don't they eat dogs in France?) As for Ah-nold's The 6th Day, we're still reeling from End of Days, which felt very much like End of Career.
Still on the early side of what promises—threatens?—to be a long career, Adam Sandler plays the nice-guy son of the devil (Harvey Keitel) in Little Nicky. Basically, Sandler can't be stopped; his core fan base makes all his cheap comedies very profitable, and he's the only guy out there doing Stupid at non-Carrey rates. Question is, will he ever hook up with the Farrelly Brothers, to try something a bit more outside?
Trying for something suspiciously similar to The Sixth Sense, Bruce Willis reteams with that overrated film's director for Unbreakable, about a guy with—get this—eerie, magical powers involving matters of life and death. You'd like to think that the presence of Samuel L. Jackson would help matters, but we're guessing he doesn't get to shoot, bitch-slap, or cuss anybody out. For that matter, why is Will Smith caddying for Matt Damon in Robert Redford's The Legend of Bagger Vance? Let that cracker carry his own damn clubs!
Our comprehensive Holiday Film Guide comes out December 14, so circle your calendars. Prior to that, a few fall films will probably be bumped to Christmas or 2001, but here's the half-month round-up. There's a week of Icelandic films and a week of assorted classics courtesy of art house distributor Milestone (including the fabulously weird I Am Cuba). Additionally, the Beatles' A Hard Day's Night gets a rerelease and the sex-filled, scandalous South Korean Lies makes its first local appearance after SIFF.
Studios typically hold back their horses until closer to the holidays, creating a bit of a lull after Thanksgiving. One exception may be Vertical Limit, with Chris O'Donnell rescuing his sister from the thin air of K2. Local climbers will undoubtedly rush to snicker at his poor belay technique; we're guessing it won't match The Eiger Sanction for sheer macho mountaineering appeal. (And where's George Kennedy?) Also possible is Proof of Life, an action-romance flick that sounds like a tropical The Bodyguard, starring Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe. From what we read in the supermarket checkout lines, something is up with those two. Or was that Ben and Gwyneth?