Christian Bale, my friend, is blowing in the wind
I’ve developed a reputation for hating biopics and whilst perusing a list of them the other day I realized that I actually don’t. In the recent past I’ve loved Ed Wood (1994), Marie Antoinette (2006), The Aviator (2004) and loved pieces of others like Ali (2001) and Hilary & Jackie (1998). It turns out I just hate what most filmmakers do with the genre. My theory is this: They're dangerous movies to make because they're too easy to phone in. The storyline is written for you if you don’t feel like shaping it into a dynamic structure. No film genre is more boring if a lazy or uninspired writer / director is behind the wheel. Those birth + arm chair psychology friendly life shaping event + event + event + event until death screenplays? Wake me up when the movie is over. The performance blueprints are also mostly in place for the actors so if they don’t have any ideas about the character they can just copy the real mccoy and still win accolades.
So for today’s top ten, I am opening my heart to the genre. Here’s ten biographical pictures I’d love to see. Some are really happening. Others are lost dreams.
Biopics I Want To See
10. I’m Not There (2007)
For all intents and purposes this should be #1. Writer/director/genius Todd Haynes has never made a bad film. More promising than that (considering the type of film under discussion) he’s never made a film that isn’t highly interesting. “Highly interesting” is even more rare than “great” when biopics are involved. I'm Not There, Haynes' multi-actor rumination on Bob Dylan, is #10 rather than #1 because I am tired of being anxious to see it. I’m trying not to think about it until the day I sit down in the theater. I'm even attempting to ignore the trailer. Don’t even tell me about it in the comments!
09. Kirsten Dunst in Blondie (200?)
About a year ago Kirsten Dunst, arguably the most hated young actress in Hollywood --or at least on the internet, was rumored to be signing on to a Debbie Harry biopic. Nothing concrete has happened since. I'm hoping she lands a high profile demanding role soon. Any open minded perusal of her work outside of the Spider-Man series and Elizabethtown could only bring the viewer to one conclusion: this girl can act! I’m so tired of reading bitchy comments to the contrary. It’s sheer ignorance given that we’ve seen her work wonders with drama (crazy/beautiful, virgin suicides), genre pieces (interview with e vampire) light comedy (bring it on) and, yes, biopics. She's great in the underseen Cat’s Meow (old review) and she's just what Sofia Coppola ordered in Marie Antoinette (top ten 2006). I may be the lone member of the Kiki fan club but I'm OK with that.
08. The Young Victoria (2008) More on this one here
07. Monty (development hell)
Montgomery Clift is a dark celluloid legend. A movie about him could potentially make for a great film --provided that the filmmaker had something to say about all sorts of touchy subjects that swirl into the Clift mix: homosexuality, Hollywood beauty and the loss of it, the death of old Hollywood acting and the birth of the method, as well as all sorts of topics covered by almost every other biopic made (addictions, early death, rise and fall of the famous)
Even if Monty didn't have something deep to say it could be gorgeous to look at. As recently as The Aviator we were reminded that recreations of classic Hollywood are unbeatable eye candy for movie lovers. But this dreaming is all for naught since this project has been dead for years. Even if it weren't there's a huge elephant of a hurdle for the production to jump. Good luck finding an actor to measure up to the man in question (all of the people who've played him in the past --he's been a character in other Hollywood biopics-- haven't). Reminder: The Clift Blog-a-Thon is coming in October.
06 Robert Moses
I once asked the Cinemarati (RIP) readers about what biopics people they'd like to see. Somebody brought up this polarizing 20th century behemoth and I thought it was a great answer. Why hasn't some ambitious filmmaker thought to devote a biopic to the man who helped build New York and who shaped the future of the modern city in general? He seems like an ideal fit for the movies. Other brilliant and influential men who accomplished impossible feats have had movies made about them. Why not Moses? He's a colorful enough figure to fill out a movie and he was a mover and shaker in a cinematic time and place (early 20th century New York).
05 Georgia O'Keefe
You'll have to travel back in time for this one. A long time ago in a Hollywood far far away a goddess named Michelle Pfeiffer wanted to play the famous artist in a movie. I've learned to not hold my breath when Pfeiffer expresses interest in something. Even if she does so repeatedly (see also: Jodie Foster as Leni Reifenstahl... which I forgot about while cooking up this list)
I'm not sure if this project ever truly had a pulse but for a long while after its maybe death, I held out hope. After all the photos one sees of O'Keefe are almost always of an older regal looking woman. I would watch Pfeiffer do anything. Why not watch her paint absurdly closeup images of flowers? I'm dialing up moviefone right now for tickets.
04 The Countess (2008)
I wrote about this one @ Zoom In last week
03 Baz Luhrmann's Alexander (
You know what would be spectacular spectacular? If Baz would take on his own boy (or girl) wonder directorial apprentice. They could pick up his discarded projects and run with them. The story of Alexander the Great is too cinematic to have Oliver Stone's weirdly tentative and talky misfire as its chief modern vessel.
02 The Mayor of Castro Street (2009)
The last time I read about this biopic of slain politican Harvey Milk, out gay director Bryan Singer (X-Men, Superman Returns) had it on his schedule shortly after Valkyrie (now filming with Tom Cruise). I'm glad that a gay director is on board. The famous San Francisco politician has had enough mistreatment in his life, what with his murderer getting off lightly with that infamous "twinkie defense". Hopefully a queer director will understand how to tell the story without cheapening it or misrepresenting it. The Times of Harvey Milk is one of my all time favorite documentaries. If the live action feature telling of his life is anywhere close to as good and moving we're talking Oscar nominations.
01 Toni Collette as Liza Minelli
(now playing on every screen in the multiplex in Nathaniel's head)
Ever since I first imagined this dream role for Toni it's been my #1 favorite movie fantasy. Think about it: Toni can sing and dance, she has a weirdly bulbous lower lip and so does Liza. They've both got huge eyes and kooky beauty. In one musical swoop, Toni Collette could finally win that deserved Oscar and Liza-mania could be reborn!
recent top tens
Fall Film Preview * Oscar Nominationless
sort of unrelated but...
I just watched Volver again and now I want a biopic of Pedro Almódovar. Love that man.