Saturday, March 17, 2018

"I, Tonya" Takes No Prisoners

Biopics have acquired a reputation in recent years for being a little on the stuffy side. Almost solely sold as prestige pictures, and commonly populated by Very Important Historical Figures, it's easy to feel cynical about them. And now along comes a blisteringly caustic look at the life of the notorious figure skater Tonya Harding, who I think it's fair to say everyone wrote off as a miserable sore loser twenty years ago. It is the opposite of stuffy, full of terrible people doing terrible things to each other. It is also very, very entertaining to watch.

"I, Tonya" is structured like a fake documentary, built around interviews with modern day versions of Tonya Harding and her ex-husband Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan), who narrate and interject their thoughts on the scenes of their younger selves playing out in the past. We also hear from Tonya's estranged mother LaVona (Allison Janney), one of her old coaches, Diane Rawlinson (Julianne Nicholson), a bodyguard, Shaun (Paul Walter Hauser), and a producer (Bobby Cannavale) for the old television tabloid "Hard Copy." This allows for a lot of fourth wall breaking humor and meta-commentary. We're told from the beginning that many of the accounts are contradictory, and there are some flat-out lies. At one point, Tonya even pauses in the middle of a fight with Jeff in one of his recollections to protest to the audience that "I never did this!"

Watching Tonya's trainwreck of a life and career play out in this fashion often feels like watching trashy reality television, but the scripting is smart enough to get across some uncomfortable messages and make a strong case for why Harding's awful reputation is worthy of reassessment. This is not about setting the record straight, but about giving a vilified figure a chance to have her say, while introducing a lot of new information that suggests certain events should be viewed in a different light. Wisely, the film doesn't play up any rivalry between Harding and Nancy Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver), but suggests that "the incident" where Gillooly paid to have Kerrigan attacked, was mostly the result of several stupid people making stupid decisions that spiralled out of their control. Exactly how culpable Harding was in the crime is left for the audience to decide.

Margot Robbie is the main event here, delivering a ferocious performance that paints Tonya Harding as a deeply flawed, monstrous, tragic woman with everything stacked against her. Robbie doesn't look much like Harding, but is excellent at embodying all the resentment, pain, and misdirected fury that set her on her path to ruin. She lashes out at everyone, including the audience in a cutting monologue toward the end of the film. And just as impressive are an unrecognizable Sebastian Stan as the lowlife Jeff Gillooly, and Allison Janney as one of the most chilling, merciless stage mothers to ever grace the silver screen. The script does an admirable job of keeping them both very human though, with their moments of doubt and regret. The film recognizes that if it lets Tonya Harding say her piece, it has to let her worst abusers say theirs too.

The faux-documentary style allows the filmmakers to play around with various forms of media and framing devices to great effect. Shaun the bodyguard, for instance, only appears via degraded, low quality video tapes in his interviews, mirroring his shady nature. Drawing attention to these various filters on the film's reality is very fitting, as so much of Tonya Harding's bad girl image was due to the way that the media in 1994 decided to portray her. Where the production stumbles a bit is with the depictions of the figure skating, which largely uses digital doubles. There's something about the results that never look quite right, possibly because Margot Robbie really is far too lanky and angular to pass for a professional figure skater. Fortunately, the majority of the drama takes place off the ice.

"I, Tonya" makes a great case for biopics still being a genre that can generate some good, watchable movies, especially when they choose the right subjects. I can't imagine a biopic about Nancy Kerrigan being half as eventful or as much fun as this.


Thursday, March 15, 2018

"Three Billboards" and "Call Me By Your Name"

Quick thoughts on two of the year's big Oscar contenders.

Martin McDonagh's third film is a dark comedy about violence and revenge, much like the first two. This one, however, is easily the most successful to date, because it has the best characters and knows exactly where to stop. I've found McDonagh's previous work pretty uneven due to his insistence on over-the-top violence and fussy male leads I could never get very invested in. "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" doesn't have these problems.

Our protagonist is a stubborn woman named Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand), whose teenage daughter was raped and murdered several months ago. Frustrated by a stymied police investigation, she uses the three billboards of the title to call out police chief Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson). This turns the town against her and sparks an escalating feud between Mildred and the police department, especially one Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell), a troubled man with poor impulse control. Full of twists and turns and colorful characters, it is impossible to predict where the story is going to go.

The writing and the performances drive the film, especially as the situation becomes more complicated and morally murky. What initially looks like a fun, straightforward vigilante picture gets much thornier once it becomes clear that there's no real bad guy here to root against or easy resolutions. The violent outbursts and misdirected anger, as spectacular as they are to watch, are ultimately self-destructive. Watching each character figure this out, or fail to, or just not give a damn, is fascinating. I also appreciate the way that McDonagh uses the traditional structure of a murder mystery to pull the rug out from under the audience multiple times.

The ensemble is great, with Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell expertly lobbing insults and threats at each other, while teasing out their characters' humanity in the quieter moments. Rockwell undergoes an especially impressive transformation, quickly shedding the image of the simple racist hick he appears to be at first glance. Woody Harrelson also proves invaluable, though in a very different sort of role than I anticipated. My only real quibble with the film is the actual filmmaking itself, which is pretty pedestrian. McDonagh has a great ear for dialogue, but his vision of Ebbing, Missouri is disappointingly generic.

Now on to northern Italy, where a seventeen year-old Jewish-American boy named Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet) and his parents (Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar) receive a new houseguest in the summer of 1983. This is Oliver (Armie Hammer), a graduate student who Elio's father has invited to visit, and to help with an archaeological project. Though Elio and Oliver have little in common and keep their distance at first, as the long summer wears on, the two of them develop a friendship that quickly turns romantic.

I wasn't surprised to see Luca Gugadino's name on the picture as director, bringing the same immersive tactility to the encounters here that he did in "I Am Love." However, it was a nice surprise to discover that James Ivory, of the famed Merchant Ivory films, wrote the script. He's the one who does the heavy lifting of setting up the characters as very intellectual, with very Continental attitudes about love and sex. Elio, for instance, already has an active love life and can talk circles around Oliver when it comes to literature and music. The fact that he still has a lot of growing up to do doesn't make him less of an equal partner in the love affair.

In fact, "Call Me By Your Name" completely ignores all the potential minefields in Elio and Oliver's romance - their age difference, their homosexuality, Elio's parents, and even the fact that they're both in relationships with girls. The movie chooses to focus solely on the business of two people circling each other, seducing each other, and falling in love. And there's a lovely sort of simplicity to that, where we can just enjoy two characters having a summer fling without having to rummage through all their personal baggage. Instead, obscene amounts of screen time are spent showing off the picturesque Italian countryside and Armie Hammer's physique.

I spent the majority of the film mildly engaged with it, enjoying Chalamet and Hammer's performances, and soaking up the lush atmosphere. However, it didn't really grab me emotionally until very, very late. And it's Michael Stuhlbarg who ends up stealing the show with a beautiful monologue about love and heartbreak that neatly recontextualizes everything that came before. "Call Me By Your Name" was made for a certain audience of art house romantics and I don't quite fit the bill, but in the end it makes a good case for broader appeal.


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

About That Sexy Fish-Man Movie

The first thing that struck me about Guillermo Del Toro's delightfully subversive new monster movie is how openly sexual it is. Our daring heroine, a mute woman named Eliza (Sally Hawkins), can be found pleasuring herself in the bath every morning as part of her usual routine. Likewise, the villain of the piece, Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon), appears to enjoy a healthy, if unfulfilling sex life. So I think it's quite logical to think of the entire film as a metaphor for sexual awakening and sexual freedom, directly going against the squeaky-clean, and often terribly repressive image of American family values in the 1960s, where our little fairy tale is set.

Eliza works as a cleaning woman for a government facility in Baltimore. She communicates via sign language with her two closest friends, her neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins), a closeted gay artist, and Zelda (Octavia Spencer), her outspoken black co-worker. One day the government scientists and military men bring in "The Asset" (Doug Jones), an amphibious humanoid who is kept in a tank and mistreated by Colonel Strickland, the man who captured him. Eliza slowly starts to communicate and forms a friendship with the creature. And after learning Strickland's terrible plans, she and one of the scientists, Dr. Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhbarg), plot a daring escape.

"The Shape of Water" appears to be very deliberately designed as an inversion of the old monster movies and creature features of the Cold War era like "The Creature From the Black Lagoon." Our heroes are marginalized folks like minorities and homosexuals, a Russian spy turns out to be an unlikely ally, and the monster is presented as a charming romantic lead. Our villain aspires to be the paragon of American masculinity, and only ends up embodying the worst abuses of power and spiritual rot. The metaphors are extremely blatant here, to the point where I found them a little too heavily underlined and bluntly executed, especially where Shannon's character was concerned. However, when the film is being a romance, it is a charmer, full of dreamy aquatic imagery, and backed by a fanciful score that does some lovely things with a theremin.

The film is anchored by the excellent performance of Sally Hawkins. Eliza is silent and meek-looking, but very expressive and insistent when she wants to be. Hawkins also completely sells Eliza's feelings toward her amphibious beau, and despite a few silly moments, the romance is played completely straight. With two non-verbal lovebirds, body language becomes vital, and Hawkins and Doug Jones communicate with ease. They even pull off an unexpected, but very tender love scene. The rest of the ensemble is just as strong, particularly Richard Jenkins and Michael Stuhlbarg.

Del Toro fans will be glad to find his usual phantasmagoric imagery here in full force. The effects work on the Asset in particular is a treat, and he's easily one of the most memorable monsters in Del Toro's considerable cinematic bestiary. Other visual wonders include haunting underwater scenes, the sinister government laboratory, a dream sequence recreation of a '30s movie musical set, a vintage theater, torrents of rainwater, and some of the most enticing slices of pie I've seen onscreen since "Waitress." Visually, "The Shape of Water" is well worth the watch.

And yet, I left the theater feeling vaguely dissatisfied with the film. I wanted more of Eliza and her fishy paramour. The chemistry between them was palpable, but the romance always felt a little one-sided. As fantastic a creature as the Asset was, I wish he'd been more of an active leading man as advertised. The little subplots with Jenkins and Stuhlbarg were wonderful, but they took up a lot of time, and frankly I'm not clear on why we spent so much of the third act with Michael Shannon's cartoonishly evil colonel as opposed to teasing out more of the mysteries around our main couple.

As with Del Toro's previous "Crimson Peak," this is a loving tribute to the films of an earlier age, and is at its best when it fully embraces all the genre conventions of its predecessors. However, at times the lack of subtlety is to its detriment, occasionally undercutting the delicate atmosphere and entrancingly weird romance. With more tightening of the script and a little more editing, this feels like it could have been something great. Instead, it's a solid, daring effort from a director who I'm always glad to find is still working.


Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Wonderful World of "The Florida Project"

In 2013, there was a film called "Escape From Tomorrow," which was an edgy, dark, psychological thriller shot guerilla style at the Disney parks in Florida. The film was meant to be subversive and critical of Disney as "The Happiest Place on Earth." It was not very good, but I thought it was a noble effort. And now we have a film made in the same spirit that does almost everything right.

Sean Baker, best known for "Tangerine," is back with "The Florida Project." Again, he returns to the lives of the marginalized, this time the tenants of a budget motel called The Magic Castle, not too far away from the Disney theme parks. Six-year-old Moonnee (Brooklynn Prince) lives there with her foul-mouthed, unemployed mother Halley (Bria Vinaite), and spends most of her time playing unsupervised with other children around the motel. The closest thing they have to a babysitter is the manager, Bobby (Willem Dafoe), who puts up a stern front, but lets a lot of things slide.

None of the Disney IP appears in the film directly, aside from a quick shot of Cinderella's castle, but its presence is felt everywhere. The stores all have signs promising Disney merchandise, and a major plot point involves Halley pawning off stolen park passes. Most of her income comes from grifting and running little cons on unsuspecting tourists in parking lots, behavior that Moonnee is starting to emulate. All of it emphasizes the massive gulf that exists between the lives of the motel dwellers and the heavily marketed Disney experience. Despite living practically next door, all that the kids get to experience of the parks is watching the fireworks from an empty lot nearby.

And the real magic, of course, is that Moonee and her friends don't understand that they're so badly off. Through their eyes, their world is as colorful as any amusement park. The Magic Castle has a bright purple exterior and the Futureworld motel next door is adorned with rocket ships. Nearby businesses are all gaudy tourist traps with bright signage. Halley sports faded blue hair and is covered in tattoos. With all the adults too busy to look after them, the kids find their way into the Florida wetlands, abandoned condos, and every corner of the Magic Castle, constantly exasperating Bobby. It's all innocent fun, but only up to a point. As times goes on, Hallee's money troubles and spats with their neighbors start to compound, and some of Moonnee's pranks have serious consequences.

Little Brooklynn Prince gives Moonnee an irrepressible joy as she runs wild through the motel, fearlessly sasses every adult she comes across, and worms her way out of trouble. There's a tremendous poignancy in the moments of happiness she shares with her mother, who often indulges her and acts more like a playmate than a parent. The more time we spend with Halley in the second half of the film, struggling to get by, the more Bria Vinaite gets to shine. Halley may be close to rock bottom, but she's not going down quietly. And then there's Willem Dafoe, in the gentlest role I've ever seen him play, who keeps an eye on both of them with growing concern.

What I found the most endearing about "The Florida Project" is its tremendous sweetness. This is a film that has real faith in its characters and in humanity in general. There's a small, but solid community among the motel guests, and people look out for each other as best they can. Halley may be a mess, but she loves Moonnee fiercely. The kids may drive Bobby nuts, but he's quick to act to keep them out of harm's way. Even when things start to fall apart in the end, it always feels like everyone is trying to do right by Moonnee, as misguided as they may be.

The very, very end of "The Florida Project" has been rightly criticized for being too saccharine, and it ends up undercutting some of the film's messages too. However, I liked it because it left the characters on a hopeful note and re-emphasizes the sad implications of the Disney Dream. After all, it's when we're at our lowest that we need our fantasy lands the most.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Notes on the 2018 Award Season

This is the first year in a long time that I had to skip all the major awards ceremonies.  I found it was impossible to put aside the time to watch the multi-hour ceremonies all in one go, though I did eventually managed go back and watch the Oscars and Golden Globes in bits and pieces.  This was immensely frustrating for me because I generally enjoy award shows, and still managed to follow all the races. This was a pretty eventful year too, with a strong field of contenders, and all the fallout of the recent scandals in play.  

We're going to look back on this season as the year of #Metoo and #Timesup, the year that Oprah delivering an inspiring speech at the Golden Globes led to many people seriously pushing for her to run for office.  The award shows have always had political moments, but this year we weren't just ducking barbs at Trump and the NRA, but watching a painfully self-conscious industry in the middle of trying to redress an avalanche of past wrongs.  If the #OscarsSoWhite controversy had them scrambling to diversity and modernize, the far more visible post-Weinstein furor effected some breathtakingly fast changes. Several familiar faces are now persona non grata. The assets of the Weinstein Company were nearly bought by a female led investor group.  The Oscars went so far as to incorporate Time's Up content into an official Twitter campaign and parts of the ceremony itself.

This is doing absolutely nothing for the ratings, of course, which continue to slide even after the amazing gaffe with the Best Picture winner announcement last year.  "The Shape of Water" was also the highest grossing best picture winner in years, and the Academy Awards ceremonies usually see more interest when the contenders are more popular.  "Get Out" and "Dunkirk" were other box office winners, but it doesn't seem to have helped this year. Everyone still seems to love talking about what's going on at the Globes and the Oscars, and clips of the telecasts went viral afterwards, but nobody much seems to like watching them live anymore.  For my part, one of the reasons why I couldn't watch the Oscars is because ABC continues to make it impossible to watch it live online without a cable subscription.

It gets a little harder to care about who actually wins the Oscar statuettes every year.  With the exception of Roger Deakins finally getting his Best Cinematography win, and Jordan Peele's triumph in Original Screenplay, pretty much none of the major awards went to the nominees I wanted them to.  Sure, it was nice to see Guillermo Del Toro up on stage, because I love Del Toro and could listen to him talk for hours, but "The Shape of Water" was pretty far down in my rankings of the Best Picture nominees this year.  I suppose, like with Gary Oldman and Allison Janney, I don't mind so much because these are artists who have done plenty of good work in the past that I've enjoyed. I was more upset that Bill Paxton somehow wasn't in the In Memoriam montage (again).      

The actual ceremony was fun though.  I loved the montages. The jet ski running joke yielded some good things and had a magnificent punchline.  Jimmy Kimmel handled a lot of politically charged material with admirable directness and sensitivity, way better than Seth Meyers managed at the Globes.  And I will never not applaud an appearance by Eddie Vedder. It was heartening to see so much support in the room when Salma Hayek, Annabella Sciorra and Ashley Judd had their moment, and I can only hope that the momentum behind Times Up doesn't fade.  Hollywood still has a long way to go.

I fully expect to be back to watching the Oscar ceremony live next year, or at least a lot sooner than I managed this year.  

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Youtube and Kids

The last couple of months have made it very clear that Youtube is a terrible platform for children's media, despite them having put some significant efforts into a Youtube Kids' app. Most of the problems boil down to Youtube still being almost a total free-for-all, governed by machine algorithms that will weed out anything with a hint of copyrighted music, but that does nothing to help ensure that that videos aimed at kids are actually appropriate for kids.

One of the most high profile issues has been "Elsagate," the controversy named after Elsa from "Frozen," who has shown up in all kinds of bizarre Youtube videos that appear to have been created specifically to target young viewers who will watch anything with Elsa in it without question. Panicked parents have reported some of these videos have graphic violence, sex, and disturbing content. And it's not just Elsa of course, but other Disney characters, Peppa Pig, My Little Pony, Spider-man, the Sesame Street muppets, and any other popular children's character you could name.

Much of the media coverage around Elsagate has focused on the weird, cheaply made videos that appear to be mass-generated animation shorts, with nonsense titles designed to hit as many popular keywords as possible. Created with very little apparent human input, these are clearly designed to rack up views and advertising dollars. Other videos are more elaborate, with live actors and surreal situations. The most upsetting are the satirical ones purposefully filled with shock imagery and adult humor, but easily mistaken for children's content. Because Youtube's computer algorithms can't tell these videos apart from the legitimate ones for children, they would pop up in the queue of "recommended" videos after your watched something with the same characters, songs, or format. Unattended kids who didn't know better would click on them. Or if the autoplay was on, they didn't even need to do that much.

And then consider the case of Logan Paul, a popular Youtube personality who generates video diaries of himself being a "savage" prankster to millions of adoring fans, most of them children. The recent stunt that landed him in hot water was filming a corpse in a Japanese forest that's popular for suicides. Paul and his cohorts behaved like jackasses on the video, prompting a wave of backlash. However, it's notable that Youtube didn't actually pull the video - Paul did it himself in response to the criticism. And there hasn't been any apparent pushback regarding any of his other videos that show him running around Japan harassing the locals and behaving badly. I want to emphasize again that the majority of Logan Paul's fans are kids. And he's far from the only purveyor of this kind of content. Last year, the DaddyofFive channel came under similar scrutiny for videos that showed abusive "pranks" being inflicted on the youngest members of the Martin family - activity that ultimately resulted in the parents losing custody of two of the children. DaddyofFive's subscriber base also appears to be mostly kids.

In short, kids like watching a lot of content that's absolutely terrible for them to be watching, and Youtube has proven to be an easy way for them to access it. The scolds have complained of bad parenting, but several generations have set their kids down in front of television sets to watch cartoons and puppets and silly grown-up actors without having to worry about this kind of hazardous material. The internet, however, has never been subject to the kind of stringent - and some would say outdated - content regulation as the television airwaves. Over the last few years as the mother of a toddler, I learned that it is very unwise to watch any online video content without headphones on. Profanity is plentiful among Youtube personalities, and nobody warns for content. Of course, there are no automatic bleeps to cover up F-bombs, and no blurring of nudity. Even with parental controls and age restrictions, filtering out the videos with objectionable content has been a challenge. I don't want to be a helicopter parent, but sometimes it feels like I don't have much of a choice.

Youtube's reaction to Elsagate has been to ban several of these content creators, demonetize the videos of others, and it's gone on a hiring spree figure out how to fix its algorithms and keep young viewers away from the worst of this kind of content. They're planning much more stringent requirements for monetization, including a layer of human checks, but I suspect that it's too little too late. There's far too much content being uploaded to Youtube now to implement the kind of broader review system that would make Youtube more kid-friendly. Also, they're clearly only willing to go so far. Both Logan Paul and the Martin family are still active on the site, despite the negative publicity having lost them viewers.

To be clear, Youtube as it exists in its current form has plenty of good aspects. However, like the wider internet, I'd never give a kid unrestricted access to it. There are far too many content creators out there willing to trade on children's naivete for clicks. Or worse.


Monday, March 5, 2018

2018 Films I'm Anticipating, Part 2

This is a continuation of my list of the 2018 films I'm anticipating most. This post is for the smaller films, many of which don't have distribution or release dates yet. There's a good chance that a few won't be released in 2017 at all. However, I remain an optimist, and I'm spotlighting all of them regardless. Films are listed in no particular order below.

You Were Never Really Here - Lynne Ramsay's thriller about a violent man doing a violent job won major prizes at Cannes last year, including a Best Actor laurel for Joaquin Phoenix. Amazon snagged the rights and will be releasing it in April. It has been far, far too long since we've had a film from Ramsay, though I'm certainly looking forward to more good work from Phoenix too. I find it a little odd that Amazon sat on this for nearly a whole year and sat out the awards race though.

The Little Stranger - Lenny Abrahamson is working on a Gothic ghost story next, based on a Sarah Waters novel. I'm interested in this one primarily for the cast, which includes Domhnall Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling, Ruth Wilson, and Will Poulter. Abrahamson's been hit-or-miss for me, but he certainly has a nose for good material and seems like a good fit for a supernatural thriller. This was picked up last year by Focus, and we can expect a release around Labor Day.

Psychokinesis - I don't know much about this movie except that it's some kind of superhero comedy and "Train to Busan" director Yeon Sang-ho is at the helm. The trailer makes it look like the South Korean answer to "Chronicle," which would be fantastic. Netflix picked up distribution rights, so when exactly we'll get to see this is unclear. There are several other Netflix releases I'm also keeping an eye on, including "Outlaw King," and the restored "The Other Side of the Wind."

Fahrenheit 451 - The last person I would expect to find directing an adaptation of "Fahrenheit 451" is Ramin Bahrani, who is best known for very small scale films about vulnerable people living on the lowest rungs of society. But why shouldn't he? The Bradbury story doesn't need to be some CGI-smothered epic, and it certainly has characters who exist on the fringes. The cast is lead by Michael B. Jordan, and we can also expect appearances by Michael Shannon and Sofia Boutella.

Peterloo - British director Mike Leigh has quietly become a powerhouse director of period films over the course of his career, notably "Mr. Turner" and "Topsy-Turvy." His next, the historical drama "Peterloo," looks to be one of his most ambitious projects yet. It revisits a notorious massacre that happened two hundred years ago during a political protest in in Manchester, England. Rory Kinnear, Christopher Eccleston, and Maxine Peake will lead the ensemble cast. Amazon will be distributing.

The House That Jack Built - It's strange to think that this is Lars von Trier's first film that is properly about a serial killer since the '80s, considering how violent and depraved his work usually is. Matt Dillon will star as the titular Jack, an American killer operating in the '70s, and Von Trier has already gone and described the film as celebrating "the idea that life is evil and soulless." He also wants to premiere it at Cannes this year despite being banned from the festival, of course.

Burning - Frankly, I'd watch the film no matter what it was about, since it's the first feature from the great Korean director Lee Chang-Dong in an unfathomable eight years. Hi last one, "Poetry," is still one of my favorite films of the last decade. However, what's really intriguing here is that "The Walking Dead" alum Steven Yeun will be playing one of the three leads, a character who is possibly an arsonist. Plus, the source material is a Haruki Murakami short story I'd never heard of.

The Nightingale - Jennifer Kent is following up "The Babadook" with a period revenge picture, set in Tasmania. Apparently this is also a female-led horror film of some stripe, though details are still scarce. I'm very heartened that Kent is staying in Australia and focused on making her own films for now, instead of answering Hollywood's call. Sony has the distribution rights for this one, and we should be seeing it Stateside toward the end of the year, in time for awards season.

Suspiria - Luca Guadagnino is tackling this remake of the classic Italian horror film, with Dakota Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Mia Goth, Tilda Swinton, and Jessica Harper - yes, Jessica Harper. Guadagnino hasn't done much genre work, but his deeply sensual style could translate very well to a horror picture. Also, while I appreciate some of the imagery, "Suspiria" was always a movie I found difficult to understand, and I'm hoping for a version with a more coherent story.

The Favourite - I'm not a fan of Yorgos Lanthimos's recent work, though the man clearly has talent. So I'm intrigued by his next project, which looks to be a possible break from form. He'll be directing a period drama, set in the court of Queen Anne during the 18th century. Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz will star as two rival noblewomen, jockeying for power. There's only so far Lanthimos can impose his usual nihilistic tendencies on something like this - though I may be wrong.