Vacations end, the days shorten, the weather turns cold, the world darkens with intimations of decline and death — and yet people still love the fall. Cinephiles do, at any rate. The frivolous days of summer movies were fun, but it's time to get serious.
Not just because life in general is grim again, but because the Oscar deadline approaches, and the Academy doesn't like comedies. Hence the release of Clint Eastwood's Hereafter, David Fincher's The Social Network, Danny Boyle's 127 Days, and Edward Zwick's Love and Other Drugs, among others.
Then there's that other big competition brewing — the mid-term elections on November 2. So of course Hollywood will be tapping into some of the national uncertainty, disappointment, and anger. Election Tuesday this year falls close to Halloween, another mass outpouring of fear, duplicity, and evil. That might account for the unusual number of horror, sci-fi, and otherwise terror-inducing movies — films like Buried, Let Me In,My Soul to Take, the remake of I Spit on Your Grave, Paranormal Activity 2, Saw VII 3D, Unstoppable. . .
Who knows, maybe they'll scare us so much, we won't even notice that the Republicans have taken over the country again.
The greatest horror in history was the Holocaust, and as Yael Hersonski's A FILM UNFINISHED (September 24) reveals, the Nazis were the first to try to make a movie about it. That's just one of many grotesque ironies Hersonski uncovers as he investigates the raw footage of a documentary film about the Warsaw Ghetto shot by the German occupiers for propaganda purposes.
After such grave matters, the fluffy KINGS OF PASTRY (September 24) makes for a welcome contrast. This surprisingly exciting film from veteran documentarians D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus records the annual three-day competition to determine the best confectionary cook in France. Think of it as American Idol with toques and spatulas.
It seems the French can make something sweet out of just about anything, even the bitterness of romantic turmoil. Consider Pascal Chaumeil's HEARTBREAKER (September 24). It's a romantic comedy about an undercover team who specialize in breaking up relationships that parents don't approve of. Then the chief lothario falls in love himself. See it now, before the likely Hollywood remake.
The harried heroine in Andy Fickman's YOU AGAIN (September 24) should probably call the team in Heartbreaker — she's just found out that her brother plans to marry the girl who tormented her in high school. The multi-generational female cast includes Kristen Bell, Sigourney Weaver, and the immortal Betty White.
The school in You Again couldn't have been worse than the one in NEVER LET ME GO (September 24). Mark Romanek's adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's novel about young love in a sinister boarding school in the dystopian future stars Andrew Garfield and three of Britain's top actresses: Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan, and Charlotte Rampling.
What's with these creepy boarding schools? The one in LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS: THE OWLS OF GA'HOOLE (September 24) is strictly for the birds. Zack Snyder's animated adaptation of the first in Kathryn Lasky's series of books is about a young barn owl who escapes from owlet indoctrination camp to seek out the raptor rescuers of the title. Who's in it? Abbie Cornish, Hugo Weaving, and Helen Mirren give a hoot.