I'm not one of these self righteous film critics who always complain that movies aren't as good as they used to be. There are plenty of wonderful films out there to be enjoyed, one just requires a little extra effort to seek them out. Maybe I can help.
Here is the time of year that film buffs love. Summer is over, let's get serious. The ambition, the audacity, the passion. Here are films that challenge, films that provoke, films that inspire. This isn't the typical Fall Movie Preview you'll read anywhere else. You won't see any angst-ridden vampires, talking chipmunks, or tap dancing penguins on my list. The movies on this list will be next year's headlines. They may win awards, they may not. They might make money, they might not. But one thing's for sure: true movie lovers can't wait to see the films on this list.
Here are Mike Walkey's most important movies to see this season:
Synopsis: A land baron tries to re-connect with his two daughters after his wife suffers a boating accident.
Walkey's Thoughts: Payne's last three films Election (1999), About Schmidt (2002) and Sideways (2006) were three of my favourite melancholic human stories of the last decade. Expect another poignant coming of age dramedy with plenty of pathos and a slew of year end awards. Both Clooney and Payne are no strangers to the Academy.
Synopsis: An idealistic staffer for a newbie presidential candidate gets a crash course on dirty politics during his stint on the campaign trail. Based on the play by Beau Willimon.
Walkey's Thoughts: I wasn't as big a fan of Good Night and Good Luck (2005) as some were, but when George Clooney makes political movies, people (read: The Academy) take notice. Wouldn't it be great if George Clooney faced off against his Descendants director Alexander Payne for the Best Director Oscar?
Synopsis: As the face of law enforcement in America for almost 50 years, J. Edgar Hoover was feared and admired, reviled and revered. But behind closed doors, he held secrets that would have destroyed his image, his career and his life.
Walkey's Thoughts: Mad Men meets The Aviator. This one looks long. Hard to resist two masters of their craft (Eastwood and Dicaprio) joining forces for this epic bio. And I do love 20th Century American History.
Synopsis: Set in 1930s Paris, an orphan who lives in the walls of a train station is wrapped up in a mystery involving his late father and an automaton.
Walkey's Thoughts: A Martin Scorsese movie in 3D. The end of cinema as we know it! But seriously, this could be another turning point in the future of 3D. Audiences are clearly experiencing third dimension fatigue, so maybe one of filmdom's great maestros can inject new life into the format by showing viewers the potential of the extra dimension (a la Avatar) as opposed to just throwing crap at our faces
Synopsis: Hollywood, 1927: As silent movie star George Valentin wonders if the arrival of talking pictures will cause him to fade into oblivion, he sparks with Peppy Miller, a young dancer set for a big break.
Walkey's Thoughts: Probably the film I'm most excited for, sorry Marty! This is the Grindhouse (2007) for silent films fans. Expect to see this one on many top ten lists come December.
Synopsis: A brilliant plastic surgeon, haunted by past tragedies, creates a type of synthetic skin that withstands any kind of damage. His guinea pig: a mysterious and volatile woman who holds the key to his obsession.
Walkey's Thoughts: A tough sell for mainstream audiences but fans of Almodovar (which I am) should eat it up.
Synopsis: Set in Southern California, a father moves his young family to the countryside to renovate and re-open a struggling zoo.
Walkey's Thoughts: After an inconsistent Elizabethtown (2005), I've been hoping for Crowe, the best dramedy writer-director this side of Alexander Payne, to someday bounce back... but he never followed it up until now. Between this and his Pearl Jam doc, here's hoping his return sparks a renaissance.
Synopsis: Colin Clark, an employee of Sir Laurence Olivier's, documents the tense interaction between Olivier and Marilyn Monroe during production of The Prince and the Showgirl.
Walkey's Thoughts: There's already buzz about Academy darling Michelle Williams' performance as Marilyn. Nobody plays white trash better than Michelle Williams so it's nice to see her change things up and play someone glamorous... sort of.
Synopsis: A look at how the intense relationship between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud gives birth to psychoanalysis.
Walkey's Thoughts: Seems like a departure for the twisted director, but the dark tone and psychological intensity should satisfy fans.
Synopsis: A look at the life of Margaret Thatcher (Meryl Streep), the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, with a focus on the price she paid for power.
Walkey's Thoughts: Meryl Streep plays Margret Thatcher. Ms Streep, meet Oscar. Unless Glenn Close has something to say about it.
Synopsis: Tells the story of two sets of parents who decide to have a cordial meeting after their sons are involved in a schoolyard brawl.
Walkey's Thoughts: Polanski fans will probably have to search hard for this one because I can't see this getting a very wide release.
Synopsis: Journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Craig) is aided in his search for a woman who has been missing for forty years by Lisbeth Salander (Mara), a young computer hacker.
Walkey's Thoughts: Got to be the best choice of a director filming a book adaption since Spielberg made Jurassic Park (1993). Dark subject matter, a world wide best selling book, a very hot A-List director. Could be this year's Silence of The Lambs (1991). Next year's Best Picture nominees can't all be about politics or domestic troubles!
Synopsis: Tintin and his friends discover directions to a sunken ship commanded by Capt. Haddock's ancestor and go off on a treasure hunt. Executive Produced by Peter Jackson.
Walkey's Thoughts: A very curious project: the director of E.T. joining forces with the director of Lord of the Rings to make a movie using the type of animation from The Polar Express (motion capture).
Synopsis: Follows a young man named Albert and his horse, Joey, and how their bond is broken when Joey is sold to the cavalry and sent to the trenches of World War One. Despite being too young to enlist, Albert heads to France to save his friend.
Walkey's Thoughts: Yawn...
Synopsis: Albert Nobbs struggles to survive in late 19th century Ireland, where women aren't encouraged to be independent. Posing as a man so she can work as a butler in Dublin's most posh hotel, "Albert" (Close) meets a handsome painter and looks to escape the lie she has been living.
Walkey's Thoughts: Glenn Close vs Meryl Streep seems like a dream match up at next year's Oscars!
Synopsis: Soon after her divorce, a fiction writer returns to her home in small-town Minnesota, looking to rekindle a romance with her ex-boyfriend, who is now married with kids.
Walkey's Thoughts: This one peaks my interest only because director Reitman pairs up with screenwriter Diablo Cody for the first time since their Oscar winning Juno. Not much buzz on it yet though.
Synopsis: A nine-year-old amateur inventor, jewelry designer, astrophysicist, tambourine player and pacifist, searches New York for the lock that matches a mysterious key left by his father when he was killed in the September 11 attacks.
Walkey's Thoughts: The premise sounds moderately interesting but the real selling point is the talent involved here: Daldry of Billy Elliot (2000) and The Reader (2008) teaming up with Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock. But the most talked about talent involved may be young Thomas Horn, a real life Teen Jeopardy champion making his film debut here. Expect a star making performance.