Browsing through Coming Soon to prepare for putting together my Las Vegas Weekly fall movie preview, I noticed something strange: I am actually looking forward to seeing a large number of these films. Overall, this has been an abysmal year for movies. By the middle of the summer last year, I had already seen four of my top five films of the year (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Before Sunset, The Dreamers, Spider-Man 2). I would say that two of those (Eternal Sunshine, Before Sunset) are movies I consider among my favorites of all time. Now, maybe it's just that last year was an exceptionally good year for movies and this year is merely average, but I have seen very few films this year that I have really loved, and only two (Sin City and Nobody Knows - how's that for a double feature?) that I could imagine putting on a year-end top ten list.
Maybe my excitement looking over the fall releases is illusory - several high-profile movies I was excited for this summer (Batman Begins, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Star Wars) turned out to be disappointments, to varying degrees, and although I've seen plenty of movies that I've liked, there haven't been many that were especially memorable or outstanding. Still, the fall looks like an embarrassment of riches when it comes to adventurous filmmaking and compelling storytelling, or at least that's what I'm hoping from reading descriptions and watching trailers. Sure, there's plenty of uninteresting awards bait: hacky tearjerkers, boring literary adaptations, lame attempts at social relevance, a belated movie version of Rent (which qualifies as all of the above).
Yet amongst all this crap are a number of movies I'm genuinely excited to see, including several that are coming out in the dog days of September. Some, like David Cronenberg's A History of Violence and Dave McKean and Neil Gaiman's MirrorMask (both part of the continued insurgence of comics into film), are opening in platform releases and will end up in Vegas who knows when. But others are wide releases, like Joss Whedon's Serenity, the big-screen version of his Firefly TV show (which I thought was horribly overrated, but I love Joss Whedon so I'm still excited for this), and Andrew Niccol's Lord of War, which looks like another clever genre deconstruction from the writer-director of Gattaca and Simone (I think I am the only person who liked that one), and Tim Burton's stop-motion Corpse Bride. It's rare that September has interesting and worthwhile major studio releases (of course these could all end up sucking, but I hope not).
Even some of the awards bait, like Cameron Crowe's Elizabethtown and George Clooney's Good Night, and Good Luck, has me cautiously optimistic. I must be insane, because I'm actually looking forward to Woody Allen's new movie (Match Point). After such a dismal summer it's easy to forget the excitement of actually expecting movies to be good, but signs point to potential redemption in the rest of the year.