'06 Of The Best
Every year it seems the film release schedule becomes more front-loaded with interesting titles, while from the spring through autumn you might as well let your brain go on holiday. Still, for the next couple of months we can make believe we're in for a bumper year - make the most of it!
Brokeback Mountain: January 6th
Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain has made all the running in the US critics' end of year polls. The film is being touted as a gay western, but it's a love story not a horse opera, even if Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger do play modern-day cowboys. It's been over-praised, but Ledger's performance is a revelation, and the film is beautiful to look at, surprisingly frank, and ultimately very moving.
Breakfast on Pluto: January 13th
Neil Jordan's Breakfast on Pluto is another gay story - and infinitely more exuberant, with Cillian Murphy (28 Days Later; Batman Begins) vamping it up as an orphaned Irish transvestite searching for his mammy. Again it's too long (Jordan and cowriter Patrick MacCabe unwisely number the 37 chapters) and sometimes aggravatingly excitable, but there are marvelously anarchic sequences too, especially as the film throws its determinedly upbeat hero(ine) up against The Troubles.
Jarhead: January 13th
Jake Gyllenhaal gets up to more macho maneuvers in Sam Mendes' frustrating Jarhead a grunt's eye view of Operation Desert Storm that's vividly impressionistic but shirks the most pressing questions about Iraq.
A Cock and Bull Story: January 20th
The prolific Michael Winterbottom is back with an ingenious take on Laurence Sterne's 'unfilmable' Tristram Shandy, A Cock and Bull Story. Steve Coogan takes the helm playing both father and son and is backed by a stellar British cast that includes Rob Brydon, Stephen Fry, David Walliams and Kelly MacDonald - and is sure to be one of his most commercial hits to date.
Cache (Hidden): January 27th
Cache is another powerhouse drama from Michael Haneke, the director of The Piano Teacher and Code Unknown, with Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche terrorised by surveillance videos made by persons unknown. A prize-winner at Cannes and the European Film Awards, Cache was probably the strongest movie at Toronto last year and features one of the most shocking scenes you'll ever see.
Munich: January 27th
In February there are more Oscar contenders for your delectation: Philip Seymour Hoffman is superb in his meatiest role yet in Capote (Feb 24), a subtle observational drama exploring the writing of the seminal true-life crime novel In Cold Blood. David Strathairn is another sterling supporting actor getting his chance to shine in George Clooney's lean, focused Good Night and Good Luck, about TV news man Ed Murrow's courageous campaign against witch-hunting Senator Eugene McCarthy (Feb 17).
Charlize Theron baits Oscar as a mine-worker standing up against sexism in North Country (Feb 3), but she'll have Reese Witherspoon's ebullient June Carter to beat from the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line (Feb 3). And the same week John Cusack teams with Billy Bob Thornton to rip off a small-town Mafiosi in The Ice Harvest - far too enjoyable for serious Oscar consideration - while Werner Herzog weighs in with the stunning documentary Grizzly Man.
The goodies keep on coming in March, when you can expect to see some of the more intriguing almost Oscar contenders, such as Syriana (the debut by Traffic screenwriter Steven Gaghan) and The Weather Man, with Nic Cage. Junebug and the comic-book adaptation V for Vendetta are also March releases.
Further down the line, things get a little more predictable. Basic Instinct 2 opens in March, Mission Impossible 3 and Scary Movie 4 in April. X-Men 3 is in May. Pirates of the Caribbean 2 is slated for July, as is Superman Returns. Robert Rodriguez heads back to Sin City in August, there's a remake of the Poseidon Adventure in June, and Michael Mann brings Miami Vice to the big screen in August. Surprisingly, Ben Stiller won't feature in any of these sequels, prequels and remakes.
Don't worry though, by then this year's crop of Oscar caliber movies will be out on DVDů