Movies are getting personal this season, and I blame Alfonso Cuarón. In 2018, Cuarón and Netflix released Roma, a beautifully shot but colossally boring film about his own past that won three Oscars. So now other major directors have the license to do the same.
First there is Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s “Bardo: False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths”, the title of which makes me nervous right away. (It’s almost like saying “Bardo: My movie is a mess, but that’s what I wanted to do”). It’s supposedly an introspective, fantastical look into the life of a Mexican film director.
And then, less than a week later, we get The Fabelmans, Steven Spielberg’s film based on his own childhood.
Regardless of what these films look like and how they work, this is not a trend worth promoting. Even directors with a good sense of the interesting often stumble when it comes to themselves. Case in point: Federico Fellini’s 8½, which was widely acclaimed at the time but marked the beginning of his slow decline.
But the 2022 holiday season is sure to bring that trend to light, along with more of the biggest and most anticipated films to come this year. Other big filmmakers checking in are Guillermo del Toro, Darren Aronofsky, Antoine Fuqua and Damien Chazelle. There’s also a big biopic about Whitney Houston by director Kasi Lemmons, and James Cameron is bringing back those nice blue people from Avatar.
Get ready for an interesting few months at the cinema.
“Bardo: False Chronicle of a Fistful of Truths”
Daniel Giménez Cacho plays a renowned journalist and documentary filmmaker who looks a lot like director Iñárritu. He goes back to Mexico to wrestle with the meaning of life and his Mexican identity, and it apparently lasts almost three hours. Some of the pre-registrations were less than enthusiastic, but we can’t assume that’s the case. Iñárritu is clearly aiming for a masterpiece, and his track record (“The Revenant,” “Birdman,” “Biutiful”) gives him the right to try.
In select Bay Area theaters on Friday, November 11. Available to stream on Netflix December 16th.
“The Fable Men”
Throughout his distinguished career, Steven Spielberg has found ways to be sentimental about everything, including aliens and artificial intelligence. In this autobiographical film, he finally gets a chance to get sentimental about himself and his family. The film appears to be the story of a boy who aspires to be a filmmaker and his relationship with his artistic, pianistic mother and science-loving father.
From the trailer, it’s clear that the tumultuous role of mother offers Michelle Williams a chance to put on a smashing performance. So this is promising. The film runs for 2½ hours, showing that Spielberg has a healthy sense of his own importance without being a complete egomaniac.
In cinemas from November 23rd.
“Glass Onion: A Knives-Out Mystery”
Director Rian Johnson has gotten this sequel to Knives Out (2019) right. Instead of retiring all of his characters, he kept the detective, played by Daniel Craig, and sent him on another case. This opened the 2022 Mill Valley Film Festival in October and sounds similar to The Last of Sheila (1973), in which a wealthy person brings a group of friends together to play a murder game. Co-stars are Edward Norton, Leslie Odom Jr., Dave Bautista, Janelle Monáe, Kathryn Hahn and Kate Hudson.
From November 23rd in selected cinemas. Available to stream on Netflix December 23.
Inspired by true events, this is the story of a runaway slave who tries to make his way through the swamps of Louisiana to Union lines — and freedom — in the early years of the Civil War. It promises to be a movie packed with suspenseful action sequences, and it boasts Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day,” “Southpaw”) as a top-notch director.
The big question is whether audiences will be willing to accept Will Smith in this role. The self-pitying expression he has on the film’s poster is roughly what Smith looked like during his Oscar acceptance speech earlier this year, when he justified himself for slapping Chris Rock. But maybe the audience can forget once the film starts.
In selected cinemas from December 2nd. Available to stream on Apple TV+ December 9th.
“Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio”
This is meant to be a darker take on the classic children’s fairy tale, although rated PG, this animated film is still suitable for young audiences. We’ll see if del Toro can make a fable without ending it by shooting his protagonist in the stomach one more time (“Pan’s Labyrinth”, “The Shape of Water”). In any case, it should be better than Disney’s live-action version from earlier this year.
Available to stream on Netflix December 9th.
“Avatar: The Way of Water”
We don’t know much about this film, plus there will be blue people with pointy ears walking around the screen for more than three hours.
Written and directed by James Cameron, it involves a planet under attack and an escape into the world of water. The original “Avatar,” which was very long yet half an hour shorter than its successor, was considered a favorite for the Oscar for best picture, but its chances vanished that year – 2009 – when the Academy changed its voting rules to favor it Good movies versus bloated blockbusters. This is how “Avatar” lost to “The Hurt Locker”. Maybe The Way of Water will have better luck.
Only in cinemas from December 16th.
‘I want to dance with someone’
Whitney Houston lived a dramatic life. She had great talent and opportunities not only as a singer but also as a movie star. But very early in her career, things started to turn sour.
Musically, this film by Kasi Lemmons will definitely not fail. It’s going to be a fine jukebox musical, after all. As for drama, we’ll have to wait to see it. There is certainly a story here and also a mystery regarding Houston’s character and why things went so wrong in her life. We shall see how much insight the filmmakers bring and how much they are willing to risk insulting living people. Anyway, this movie will be interesting.
Only in cinemas from December 21st.
Damien Chazelle (“La La Land”) has written and directed what seems like an orgiastic plunge into late 1920s Hollywood, during that turbulent period that marked the culmination of the jazz age, Prohibition, the transition from silent to cinema Sound witnessed and the beginning of the Great Depression. Brad Pitt is starring, but if upcoming attractions are any indication, Margot Robbie will be stealing the show, played by a totally wild woman.
In cinemas from December 23rd.
“A Man Named Otto”
Bay Area native Tom Hanks plays a grumpy widower who is angry and awkward with his neighbors. Then one day a bright young family moves into the house next door and at some point an unexpected friendship develops. The film is an adaptation of Fredrik Backman’s Swedish novel A Man Called Ove, which became an international hit in 2016. Directed by Marc Forster (“Monster’s Ball”, “World War Z”). .
In select theaters December 25, expanded January 13.