– By James Powers –
One fun side effect of having attended the Sundance film festival earlier this year is that I am now stumbling across various trailers for upcoming films that I already saw at the festival, long before their release to wider markets. If you’ve seen any trailers for Late Night or The Tomorrow Man or The Nightingale, well ha, I got there first. Not that that’s really an accomplishment on my part. But now with all the buzz going on around Cannes 2019, which just wrapped up a few days ago, I can’t help but wonder which of that festival’s films might end up on my radar in the next six months or so. Because, spoiler alert, I did not make it to France any time this month, and so I’m just as clueless as the next person about the films screened there. As I’ve been combing through the press, reviews, clips and occasional trailers covering Cannes films, I’m struck by two things. First, how much stuff there is at these festivals; and, second, how much of said stuff comes from foreign markets, and apparently has not been subtitled yet, leaving me with very little idea of what’s going on. Unsurprisingly, Cannes films appear to be heavy on talk and atmosphere, light on action and plot. So if everything is still in French or Romanian or whatever, well, you’ve really lost me.
That being said, there’s a decent handful of titles that Variety and The Playlist and The Hollywood Reporter are buzzing about which look like they could be a pretty good time, for one reason or another, if and when they make their way to theaters stateside. Below is a quick intro to seven of them (as well as one honorable mention that I’m personally kind of meh about but feel obligated to include) along with links to assorted clips and trailers of each. They run the gamut from claustrophobic thriller to transcendent animation, so think of this as a… cinematic sampler tray, if you will.
I’m just a sucker for creepified suburbia, so this sci-fi satire immediately grabbed my attention. Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots portray a couple looking for their first home – but in so doing, they find themselves trapped inside a sinisterly perfect suburban development known as “Yonder” and charged with the care of a child who, among other things, ages freakishly fast. The one clip released so far doesn’t give away much, but it does make great use of the most squirm-inducing realtor you’ve probably ever seen. As an added bonus, the usually-waifish Eisenberg is sporting Carhartts and stubble this time around, so I’m definitely curious to see how that plays out.
Continuing down the path of offbeat sci-fi, Little Joe follows a geneticist who has helped to develop a very special kind of flowering plant: one that rewards its keepers with a mood boost – provided it is kept warm, watered, and touched and talked to frequently. Of course, such a thing is too good to be true, especially when you come upon it in a sci-fi film, and it turns out the plant also releases pollen that has weird neurological effects (oooh but what exactly?) on those who inhale it. In addition to bringing up fascinating questions about the relationship between happiness and brain chemistry, the film features the wonderful Ben Whishaw in a supporting role as well as some truly whack production design.
Comedies are hard to come by at snooty film festivals, which makes The Climb look to be a refreshing change of pace. The premise doesn’t exactly sound like much on paper: basically, it’s a series of vignettes documenting the tumultuous friendship of two dudes over the years. But the lone clip released by Cannes encapsulates a lot by itself, giving a very clear snapshot of the two protagonists and of why we would find their relationship funny – as well as potentially moving. If you just watch it, I think you’ll see what I mean.
PRESS CLIP (language advisory)
This thing is animated! So that’s exciting in itself. And it’s traditional, 2D animation, not 3D! Even more exciting. But it probably goes without saying that a French animated film coming out of Cannes is going to be rather different from, say, The Secret Life of Pets. There’s perhaps a superficial similarity in that this film tells the story of a lost… creature (if you will) on an epic journey to be reunited with its owner. But in this instance, the creature in question isn’t a pet, or a friendly robot, or even a sentient toaster. As the title suggests, it follows a severed hand trying to get back to the teenage boy who lost it. I have no idea how things end up for the hand, or how it got lost in the first place, but it looks to be a real trip.
Angsty Christian cinephiles rejoice: Terrence Malick is baaaack! Back in 2011, Malick blew everyone away with his gorgeous and mystical The Tree of Life, and that film has become especially beloved by those of us otherwise tempted to despairingly conclude that arthouse cinema will never get on anything resembling a Christian spiritual wavelength. His three films since, however, all landed on more of a “meh” reception. The good news is that, if the reviews so far are any indication, A Hidden Life has him returning to form, pairing his trademark sweeping visuals with a story (in this case, the true-life account of WWII conscientious objector Franz Jägerstätter) that packs spiritual and existential punch.
Korean director Bong Joon-ho has made himself known in the U.S. with a variety of fast-paced, effects-heavy films that are just a bit too eccentric to fit in with American films that otherwise fit that description. The Host, Okja and especially Snowpiercer have won him a bit of a cult following over the past decade or so. Although Parasite looks to be a bit more subdued than those films (at any rate, there aren’t any genetically-modified beasties or post-apocalyptic hellscapes in this one), by all accounts Bong’s signature snark is still well in place with this dark satire about a family of unemployed drifters and their unfortunate run-in with another, much more well-off family.
Full disclosure, this is the one I’m hands-down most psyched about. It’s also the one that, to my great frustration, appears to have no press clips and definitely no trailer available as of yet. Director Robert Eggers made me an instant fan back in 2015 with his terrifying, beautifully realized period piece The Witch, and now he’s back with another period horror film. Set on the New England coast at the turn of the century, The Lighthouse follows, well, two lighthouse keepers, cooped up together in – you guessed it – a lighthouse. Honestly, that’s about all I know and all I care to know about the plot. Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson co-star, and…yeah. Did I mention I’m hyped?
Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood
The (*cough*) 9th (*cough* do I have to say it?) film from Quentin Tarantino. Ok look, Tarantino is just intensely overhyped, and we already have more than enough movies out of Hollywood that are about Hollywood. The film industry’s navel-gazing and self-mythologizing is just getting old, as is the auteurism for which Tarantino has been crowned poster boy. So this one was never high on my list. But I’m including it parenthetically because, you know, it’s Tarantino and that’s a big deal. All that being said – I must begrudgingly admit that Once Upon a Time looks refreshingly warm-hearted compared to everything else Tarantino has done, and I mean, it looks like Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio are having a pretty good time with it overall. So yeah, I’ll probably see it.
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Now in all honesty, after publishing this post I will likely forget all about these movies for the next six months, with the exception of the last two on the list (one because I’m super stoked for it, the other because the Internet won’t shut up about it). But really, that’s part of the fun: having a trailer suddenly pop up on YouTube or Facebook, because that’s the world we live in now, and remembering, “oh yeah hey – that’s coming out!” Gives me something to look forward to – and I hope you, dear reader, have found something similar here.
About the Author
James Powers is a staff writer for the Impacting Culture Blog, currently earning his MBA in Film Producing at JPCatholic as a member of the class of 2019.
For all articles by James, click here.