Why I’m pumped: This trailer plays like a prestige actors’ Hall of Fame. It’s obvious awards bait, especially considering it was bankrolled by none other than Harvey Weinstein. But there are so many great actors in The Butler (oh sorry- Lee Daniels’ The Butler; don’t want a lawsuit or something). Not only are the actors well-pedigreed, but it looks like strong casting. Whitaker and Winfrey aren’t the first people you’d think of to play these characters (Oprah, maybe, but not Forest); the choice of Whitaker over, say, Denzel Washington tells me Daniels is going for a great movie and not necessarily box office gold (thought there’s no doubt in my mind that’s what Weinstein’s going for). And all the different presidents…I nearly had a heart attack when I saw John Cusack as Richard Nixon. Look up the cast list (or I guess you can just click that list). None of these choices make Hollywood sense (except Oprah!); I think it’s inspired casting.
Why I’m worried: Well, Lafayette is playing Martin Luther King, Jr., so what can go wrong?
Strong connection: The Butler (sorry- Lee Daniels’ The Butler; darn you, Warner Brothers!) is written by this guy. He also wrote the great HBO movie Game Change from last year. As soon as I saw that, my expectations skyrocketed even higher. Hype is tough, Daniels. Better live up to it, or Oscar will be mad.
Why I’m pumped: I don’t think I’ve ever disliked anything with Casey Affleck in it. Most of you probably know him as the weird guy from the Ocean’s Eleven movies, which tells me you haven’t even scratched the surface of what makes him awesome. He’s the glue in two of the most underrated movies of 2007: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and Gone Baby Gone. He was nominated for an Oscar for the former, which, because Assassination was so overlooked in other areas, speaks to the power of his performance to make such an impression. He seems to be the focus of Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, so I couldn’t be more sold on this movie. Throw in Rooney Mara, Ben Foster, and the Terrence Malick visuals, and you might as well take my money now, IFC.
Why I’m worried: The story feels a little overdone and melodramatic. We’ll have to see if the acting and screenplay provide enough nuances to rise above the soap.
Up shift: When the trailer switches from a love story to a violent thriller, the music change is one of the best I’ve ever heard in a trailer. We go from a plaintive violin to menacing hand claps in a heartbeat. The crazy thing is, it still feels like the same movie, which is hard to do. Most trailers, when trying to do the same thing, devolve into messiness. I think that speaks to the strength of the movies’ visuals for maintaining a cohesive…oh, what the heck, it’s just a sweet trailer.
Why I’m pumped: So far, this is the movie I’m most excited about for the rest of year. The trailer is strong from start to finish, without any false, contrived notes. It looks like a great movie. I’m excited to see Chiwetel Ejiofor finally get a high-profile starring gig; he’s been great for so long, and I want people to notice. Also, I’m excited because Michael Fassbender.
Why I’m worried: I think material like this is full of potential potholes that any director can drive his/her production into. It’s hard to walk the line between cheap inspiration and deeper human interest. Few directors are capable of carrying their movie all the way across on that tightrope. But Steve McQueen is very well-respected, and based on the movies he’s tackled previously (Hunger, Shame), it seems like he’ll find the subtlety and personal touches necessary to make this a classic. And he’s got Michael Fassbender.