Anticipated 2019 Indie Films

I was reading the December 2018 article by David Ehrlich, et al,  “The 20 Most Anticipated Movies of 2019” on Indie Wire to stimulate my curiosity for films I might like to see this year.

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Ad Astra. James Gray leaves the jungle in The Lost City of Z and offers a science fiction drama in space. Starring Brad Pitt, Ruth Negga, Tommy Lee Jones, and Donald Sutherland, it will be a challenge to create a realistic space epic about a son who travels through the solar system to find his father and why his mission to Neptune failed. I am hopeful. Release date: May 24. 

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The Irishman. Martin Scorsese explores the hitman Frank ‘The Irishman’ Sheeran’s possible involvement in the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa. If you like mobster movies, I don’t know how one could not be interested, when considering the cast: Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, and Harvey Keitel. Scorsese signs up with Netflix for total creative control and resources. The CGI de-aging of DeNiro has caused rumblings. I’m hoping the chemistry and a well-written script keeps me captivated. It should be seen on the big screen, so I hope it makes it to the theaters. Release date: “Sometime in late Autumn.”

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Jojo Rabbit. New Zealand director Taika Waititi (Boy, What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Thor: Ragnarok, Two Cars One Night) whose mother was a Russian Jew, creates an unusual tale about a young German boy who searches for his identity in a fascist regime by creating his own version of Hitler as an imaginary friend. In reality, his mother is hiding a Jew in the basement. Starring Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson, and Thomasin McKenzie, who was amazing in Leave No Trace, it sounds like a quirky, dark satire. I hope Waititi’s sensitive side adds compassion and irony to a potentially thought-provoking story. Release date:  November 27. 

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Is this Quentin Tarantino’s final film before he retires? Whether you love him or hate him, this film intrigues me. It’s Quentin Tarantino’s goal at creating the historical climate of Hollywood in the early seventies. Will it be enough? As with most Tarantino films, I find the plots dubious and rambling — a lot of borrowed style but little content. I hope the script he took five years to create has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Yes, of course, I would love to see Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio together on screen. So, too, Margot Robbie and Al Pacino. It also helps that the Manson murders are a backdrop and not the central plot point of the movie. That Sharon Tate’s sister approved of the script and that Tarantino had the class to ask her for her blessing, helps the cause. Release date: July 26.

What are some films you are looking forward to watching this year?

The Best Decade in Film: 1990s

It’s obvious to me that the 1990s were the best years in film. Drama defined the decade because of the contributions of Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, Robert DeNiro, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, and the Coen Brothers.

Tom Hanks. He owned the decade. Sure, there were mediocre choices like That Thing You Do! in 1996 or in 1992, as Jimmy Dugan in A League of Their Own. He managed to put his personal stamp on the film with the memorable phrase, “There’s no crying in baseball!”
But consider this blockbuster list:
1990, Bonfire of the Vanities
1993, Philadelphia (Best Acting Oscar)
1993, Sleepless in Seattle
1994, Forrest Gump (Best Acting Oscar)
1995, Toy Story
1995, Apollo 13
1998, Saving Private Ryan
1999, The Green Mile
1999, Toy Story 2
Many would say Saving Private Ryan is the best war film. His ability to represent the common man with simplistic charm is reminiscent of the great Jimmy Stewart. However, Jimmy only won one Oscar in 1940 with The Philadelphia Story. Of course, Tom Hanks greeted the new century with strong performances but it was the 1990s where he became the legend we know today.

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Steven Spielberg
His relationship with Tom Hanks in films has served them both well. Not only is Saving Private Ryan arguably the best war film, which is a Spielberg masterpiece, Spielberg gets the credit for the best film ever made with Schindler’s List. That’s a subjective claim, but does anyone disagree that Schindler’s List is one of the finest films in the history of film making?

It happened in the 1990s.

What else did Steven Spielberg put out that decade? Two personal favorites are Jurassic Park, 1993, and Amistad in 1998.

Speaking of directors and actors teaming up, how about Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro in the 1990s? Here are the best gangster films combined with strong acting in DeNiro’s career:

Martin Scorsese                          
1990, Goodfellas  
1991, Cape Fear
1993, The Age of Innocence   
1995, Casino

Robert DeNiro

1990, Goodfellas

1991, Cape Fear

1993, This Boy’s Life

1995, Casino

1997, Wag the Dog

If you disagree that Schindler’s List wasn’t the best film of the decade, then you probably agree with a million other critics that Pulp Fiction was the best film of the decade. QT shocked with Reservoir Dogs and impressed us with Jackie Brown. If you are a Coen Brothers fan, then you probably are a cult follower of the Dude and drink White Russians as a token of homage. That was when I was snookered by Jeff Bridges as an exceptional actor in The Big Lebowski. Fargo, Miller’s Crossing, and Barton Fink solidified the Coen’s career and into the twenty-first they flew with one instant classic after another. Finally, if the above reasons don’t convince you, here are more random films from the 1990s that I favor:

L.A. Confidential, Mission Impossible, Being John Malkovich, Rushmore, Contact, Sense and Sensibility, Elizabeth, Dogma, Last of the Mohicans, Dances with Wolves, Sling Blade, The Piano, Star Trek: First Contact, and Run Lola Run.

Are you convinced now that the 1990s was the best decade in film-making history?

Dear Quentin Tarantino,

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No, QT, I can’t claim to be your favorite fan. There are a million men ahead of me that idolize you from afar. You are way too violent and perverted to be sexy or arresting. So what is it about your work that makes me head to the theaters in anticipation? The answer came to me yesterday–you remind me of my brother.

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I just turned 51 and Quentin you will, too, in March. Happy Birthday.

My brother and I were playing buddies growing up. When he was young, he bought with his allowance several five-inch, jiggly, tortured men with emaciated rib cages, bulging eyes, swollen tongues, and then he’d have conversations with them while sticking them with pins like he was the inquisitor in Poe’s The Pit and the Pendulum. 

rackham_poe Arthur Rackham

He loved to play war, setting up the sides of plastic soldiers with the sharp-shooters poised on boulders waiting to pick off the frontal assault. Our time was always outdoors and the view from the tree tops was liberating. Lighting firecrackers in February, rolling down hills in empty drums, tying June bug legs to a string to watch them fly around in a circle, scratching sticks on a screen to create spears for a war with neighborhood kids. Hanging Barbie from a tree and trying to hit her with stones from a slingshot. Making a trident and at the muddy creek, bringing back a pillowcase of bullfrogs for frying their muscled legs. Sticking your hand in dark waters and wiggling your fingers to see if a carp would bite. Sprinkling salt on leeches stuck to your calves when you came out of the lake–these are the memories I have with my brother.

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I wonder, Quentin, if your childhood was like mine. My uncle smuggled us into the trunk of the car and we went to the drive-in and saw the spaghetti westerns and the Kung-Fu films that influenced you. The funk, the mafia, and the quest of the underdog who seeks revenge and rises above insurmountable odds. All that 60s and 70s bad cinema you reclaimed and reinvented into new art. That’s quite an achievement.

I wonder what kind of childhood you had? My brother grew up and has always been an excellent outdoorsman. We all thought he should have enlisted to become a Navy Seal or Ranger. He is a successful businessman. But, if there’s an invasion, he’s  prepared. At the very least, QT, I can say, my brother is a character right out of one of your movies. You both are weird, super-smart, passionate, and sweet.

I love how you portray women as badass strong and beautiful and give them large roles. They are scary, but preferable than mousey and dependent arm candy. You have to admit, women, the world wouldn’t be so scary if you had mastered the Hatori Hanzo sword when Budd came calling.

While there are several of your films that go into the over-the-top bloody realm I fail to appreciate, there are many I admire because your gift for creating the most bizarre and believable characters in cinema are in the forefront. That is your true strength.

You manage to get inside of an actor’s head and extract an unusual, brilliant side of them. Your ability to write scripts that combine quiet, polite conversations around explosive action make your films thrilling. Your non-linear plots are interesting.

Can’t wait for your upcoming western The Hateful Eight reported to pay tribute to The Magnificent Seven. When you create intelligent scripts with extraordinary characters and back off the blood and guts, I clap harder than anyone.

Sincerely,

Your Favorite Fan 

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