With the cooler weather comes anticipation for what fall brings us. Sure, we have great foliage and football games. However, my appreciation for fall lies in what we get to play on our iPods and what we see in the theaters. Fall is the end of the Grammy year and therefore, many albums rush to meet the deadline. Fall is also the period that studios like to put out their Oscar fare. Although these films may not reach us for a bit, they are the cream of the studios’ offerings. Great films like “The Kids Are All Right,” “Toy Story 3,” and even “Winter’s Bone” should make an impression come Oscar time. However, there is plenty to see before the statues are even ordered. I am particuarly excited to see “The Social Network” but I cant quite put it on this list until I fully invest in Justin Timberlake’s acting. However, it looks damn promising.
Here are three films to look forward to, as well as three musical events that should be anticipated.
Director Ben Affleck has rapidly proved himself as a legitimate directing force. Previously known for his acting work, writing (Academy Award Winner, 1997, co-writer “Good Will Hunting”), and one half of the infamous “Ben-iffer” and “Ben-iffer 2”, Mr. Affleck proved his worth in 2007 with his critical favorite “Gone Baby Gone” which reaped academy recognition for its star Amy Ryan (nominee, Best Supporting Actress, 2007).
His newest work, “The Town,” returns him to the streets of Boston and introduces a very twisted plot. From the trailer, we learn that Affleck’s character is a bank robber who robs a bank. Later, he falls in love with one of his victims (who of course has no idea). That’s when the story gets all crazy and dark. Think “Mystic River” meets “The Departed” meets “Inside Man.” With supporting performances by Jon Hamm and Jeremy Renner…”The Town” could reap the same votes that “The Departed” did just four years ago. Plus it’s written by the same Academy Award winning scribe.
“Requiem for a Dream,” “The Fountain,” and “The Wrestler” are Darren Aronofsky’s signature works. Darren offers up his latest film later this year. “Black Swan” debuted recently at the Venice Film Festival to glowing reviews. The story of a ballerina appears to be both incredibly beautiful and deeply demented. Natalie Portman plays the lead in a sure to be nominated performance for a truly deserving young star (previously nominated for “Closer” in 2004). Although the material may be a bit alienating to some academy members, the trailer alone looks like we may have a best picture candidate. Of course, many said that about “The Wrestler”, but with ten nominees this year, “Swan” could be the alternative, edgy film that the academy may respond too. Just try watching the trailer without being intrigued.
“127 Hours” is director Danny Boyle’s follow-up to his Oscar sweeping “Slumdog Millionaire.” Even those of us (like me) who didn’t really love “Slumdog” can certainly appreciate what Boyle did with his story telling, direction/editing, and scene/cinematography selection. He returns this fall with the real-life story of Aron Ralston, the mountain climber who had to cut off his own arm to survive a mountain climb. At recent screenings, paramedics had to be called in to aid two audience members who had panic attacks and fainting spells at the visuals presented in the film. The last time, I can remember that happening was with “Pulp Fiction.” Starring James Franco, Boyle has created a deeply personal narrative that features Franco in almost every scene. The early buzz has been fantastic and this film could either be a huge Oscar success or follow the path of other fare like “Into the Wild.” We shall see.
So there’s some things to look forward to this fall. Of course, no mention of fall would be complete with reminding you that some of the best programs on television will be returning soon. “The Good Wife” and “Glee” both reaped Emmy recognition and will return in September. Emmys big winner (and best show on TV) “Modern Family” will also make its return in late September. So here’s to a great fall full of what will hopefully be lots of fantastic entertainment.
Punch Brothers/Ryan Bingham
Although both their albums recently came out (to glowing reviews), I still consider both of these acts things to look forward to this year. Academy Award winner Ryan Bingham just released his third CD “Junky Star” and will be returning to Northwest Arkansas (after a sell-out show in April) to George’s in October. His gruff voice and handsome looks have made him very popular with those who enjoy southern country/rock. His sensitive lyrics paired with excellent acoustics should make this a hot ticket.
The Punch Brothers released their sophomore album “Antifogmatic” earlier this year to raves. Fronted by Chris Thile (formerly of Nickel Creek), the band specializes in a broad range of mainly acoustic music. I would define them as bluegrass, new American country, and folk with some Django Reinhardt thrown in. They are joining the George’s lineup in November, for what is bound to be one of the best live shows that Fayetteville has seen.
Nicki Minaj – “Pink Friday”
So Nicki Minaj has yet to put out a solo album. How is that possible? I was recently at Hastings and saw an entire issue of some “Teen Beat” or something devoted to her. The truth is Ms. Minaj has what is surely the most anticipated release of the fall. Her coming out party has been going on for most of the year, and now she finally gets to break free from her “featuring” status in works by Usher, Kanye, and Jay Z.
I think the reason that people are so excited by Minaj is that the female rap scene has been in hiding since basically Missy Elliott (circa 2003). Female rap artists are few and far between.
What makes Minaj stand out is how aggressive and odd her style is. She truly steals songs from more seasoned rappers like Jay Z and Kanye. Her style raises eyebrows and her rhymes are articulate and balanced. Her lead-off single “Your Love” samples Annie Lenox’s “No More I Love You’s.” Who does something like that? Rap and Annie Lenox?
Brandon Flowers – “Flamingo”
Uber-gorgeous Brandon Flowers is finally taking the risk and going out on his own. The front man to the Las Vegas based “The Killers,” Flowers is known for his theatrical style and crazy stage persona. He has a subtle Elton John thing going on in his newest single “Crossfire” which leads off his forthcoming release.
True male vocalists (solo) are lacking in popular music right now, and Flowers could fill that void. He already has a huge following, and the “Crossfire” video with its love/war scenes with Charleze Theron shouldn’t hurt him.
Wayne Bell is a regular contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. He moved to Fayetteville in 2003 for his Master’s Degree and you can almost always catch him at Little Bread Co. or Hammontree’s. For more of Wayne’s contributions, visit his author page.