I’m awful at predictions. I thought Clinton was going to win the 2016 election. I thought Biden was going to lose the 2020 one. I thought my four-year-old cousin could never, ever beat me in a game of Connect Four (fourteen times in a row), and I thought the disheveled, dirty joggers-wearing man who approached me one sunny April morning in Washington Square Park really was the long-lost heir of Dolce & Gabbana’s fashion empire he claimed to be. Based on my personal history, therefore, you are strongly advised to take anything and everything I say in this article with a grain of salt so large, you’ll find yourself at risk for dehydration.
Put another way: you’ve been warned.
No Time to Rewrite
I sincerely hope that the quality-level of Daniel Craig’s swansong as 007 will be closer to the highly original Skyfall than his painfully mediocre previous outing as the character in Spectre. It seems Warner Bros. has had similar concerns, as they asked Phoebe Waller-Bridge, writer-producer of the masterful and oh-so-British cringe comedy Fleabag, as well as the equally acclaimed spy thriller Killing Eve, to help with the script. It’s probably her work on the latter of these two series that landed her the job, and thank heavens it did.
Of course, the hiring of a certified word wizard does not an amazing movie guarantee. A few years ago, Disney hired Michael Clayton creator Tony Gilroy to redraft their Star Wars: Rogue One screenplay, only to discover that there is only so much that you can make with a broken blueprint, even if ‘you’ has won several Academy Awards. If you ask me, then, I am afraid not even Ms. Waller-Bridge will be able to turn No Time to Die into a banger, though her dialogue-polishing will be very much appreciated.
A Galaxy Far, Far Out There
Although I have never been a fan of Timothée Chalamet’s acting, I believe the cold, lifeless air he breathes into every one of his characters makes him the perfect person to portray Paul Atreides. Those who read the books, and can put aside their justified love for Frank Herbert to make place for the tiniest nugget of criticism, may find, like I did, that the hero of this epic tale is more myth than man—sterile and stoic, with a flair of that boring child prodigy-stereotype which modern sitcoms have rendered all but insufferable by now.
On-point casting aside, I still have some serious doubt about whether Herbert’s sci-fi saga can ever work as a Hollywood production, and failed attempts from David Lynch and Ridley Scott don’t exactly soothe anybody’s conscience in this regard. Still, my concerns have less to do with the people adapting Dune than with the property itself. While titanic budgets are needed to recreate the sprawling, sandworm-infested world of Arrakis – not to mention the entire freaking galaxy that surrounds this planet – the source material is perhaps better suited for an indie filmmaker.
In all honesty, those who picked up Dune looking to find the next Game of Thrones must have been at least a little disappointed by the lack of intriguing and accessible character drama, which Herbert replaced with philosophical inquiries and ecological experiments – fascinating, but probably too dry and demanding for the average Disney+ subscriber. Even though director Denis Villeneuve (Arrival) has surprised me before, I fear this contradiction hidden deep inside his upcoming project may be too…well, contradictory, to reconcile.
Some of my favorite movies from last year – The Trial of the Chicago 7, Mank and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – were stylized takes on real-life people and events. As our country is becoming increasingly self-reflective and politically conscious, the biopic is undergoing a much-needed facelift. What used to be the dullest, most undeserving contestant during awards season has now become a delicate canvas for historical revisionism, social inquiry and character study. As such, it is only fitting that this canvas will soon bear the portraits of two larger-than-life women: Billie Holliday and Marilyn Monroe.
I have a strong feeling that The United States vs. Billie Holliday is going to expose me to yet another important legal battle that, after spending several years studying politics in college, I was for some inexplicable reason never exposed to. Directed by the first black filmmaker to produce as an Academy Award-winning movie (Lee Daniels) and written by a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright (Suzan Lori-Parks), the film seems all but guaranteed to deliver. Whether Andra Day, an R&B singer with little acting experience, can hold her own in a story that’s primarily set in a courtroom, remains to be seen, but I got faith.
Equally exciting is Blonde, a movie about the tragic private life of celebrated actress and enduring sex icon, Marilyn Monroe. Based on an experimental biographic novel of the same name by Joyce Carol Oates, writer-director Andrew Dominik (Killing them Softly) has promised to deliver a “descent into madness”-type of narrative that will be less of a straightforward look into the celebrity’s tumultuous life and more of a creative look into her complicated psyche. Though Blonde could have been a great female-led project, I am sure Dominik will do anything except fall prey to the male gaze through which Monroe is often viewed.
No Further Comment
Finally, there are a handful of filmmakers who have so consistently wowed me with their work, that I look forward to their latest achievements without reservations. These include, but are not limited to: Joel Coen’s Denzel Washington-led Shakespeare adaptation, The Tragedy of Macbeth; Wes Anderson’s love-letter to the not-so-distant world of yellow journalism, The French Dispatch; Paul Thomas Anderson’s obtuse look into the mind of a former child-star actor, Soggy Bottom; Martin Scorsese’s noire take on a series of murders within Native American communities, Killers of the Flower Moon; Leos Carax’s hypnotic musical production, Annette; Edgar Wright’s star-studded thriller-comedy, Last Night in Soho; and Mia Hansen-Løve’s love letter to a legendary filmmaker, Bergman Island.
Whether any of them will turn out to rank among their creators’ best, remains to be seen. That said, I already know I’ll have a great time watching. Hopefully, so will you.