Tuesday roundup: Polanski's 'Ghost Writer' to premiere at Berlin Film Fest; Ebert, Auteurs debate best movie posters of the decade; holiday movies for the 'discerning' viewer
First, the news: While Roman Polanski, under house arrest in Switzerland, awaits word on his possible extradition to the United States, his latest film, "The Ghost Writer," will premiere at the 60th Annual Berlin International Film Festival. The pic was announced as one of seven films competing for Golden and Silver Bears in the fest's main program; Martin Scorsese's period thriller, "Shutter Island," will also screen, but out of competition. More titles in competition (26 in total) will be announced in January; the Berlinale runs Feb. 11-21.
Now, on to lighter subjects: The onset of the new decade means that the lists of best and worst (insert debatable topic here) of the decade will snowball over the next few weeks; most will be highly subjective and, as such, interesting only to the compiler of the list. However, over at The Auteurs, there's a swell collection of movie one-sheets that writer Adrian Curry has compiled, and it's a pleasure to view, both from an aesthetic standpoint and for his reasons for choosing them. Michael Haneke's American remake of "Funny Games" tops his list, and he's quiet eloquent in detailing both the uncomfortable feelings and quiet beauty evoked by the image (nice call-out to Godard's "Vivre sa vie" too). His other choices are equally eclectic but no less appealing: the Chris Ware poster for "The Savages" flows nicely into the glaring goofiness of "The Forty-Year-Old Virgin," which seems entirely right next to the poster for Wilco's "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart."
Curry's list apparently struck a chord with Roger Ebert, who was inspired (his word is "inflamed") to put together his own list. Oscarologists will note the inclusion of "Precious," "The Queen" and "Man on Wire," while others will appreciate his broad spectrum of choices, which include everything from "Zoolander" to the indie horror pics "The Abandoned" and "Grace." Curry and Ebert have a lively and polite debate in the comments section, which is full of other intriguing picks from readers. The best part of this exchange is that it might encourage a few people to seek out the films behind the images that engage them, which can never be a bad thing.
Speaking of eclectic choices, a panel of contributors at The L Magazine offer up alternatives to the standard holiday TV and DVD fare. The title is a little smug -- "The Discerning Person's Guide to Underrated Christmas Movies" sounds like smart-guy talk for "You're Dumb If You Love 'Miracle at 34th Street'" -- but the choices are both imaginative and all-encompassing in terms of genre and subject matter. Stanley Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut" gets a few votes for its evocation of holiday madness at its most fever-pitched, but there are also nods to "The Shop Around the Corner," "The Apartment," "The Royal Tenenbaums" and even "Gremlins" and "Bell, Book and Candle."
I was pleased to see Whit Stillman's lovely "Metropolitan" get a few votes, and Stillman himself is among the contributors; he picks Bill Forsyth's "Comfort and Joy," while his acidic muse, Chris Eigeman, shows his affection for the Rankin-Bass stop-motion TV specials. You may not love all the films in this list, but you have to admit that with suggestions like these, there's simply no reason for you to sit through "Jingle All the Way." Again.
-- Paul Gaita
Image: "Funny Games" Credit: Warner Independent