Last month the honorable task fell to me to review two of the year's most anticipated movies for Cinematical, Francis Ford Coppola's Youth Without Youth (9 screens) and Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood (51 screens). In retrospect and with a comfortable critical consensus in place, moviegoers can easily see that Youth Without Youth is a "bad" movie and There Will Be Blood is a "good" movie. But in that first moment, when the movie is freshly unspooling, there's nothing to go by but your own anticipation, experience and gut reaction. And these were two of the toughest movies I ever saw. In each review I said something like "these movies may have their flaws, but they're too rich and complex to be easily dismissed."
December is jam-packed with notable movies, each vying for a spot on our personal top ten lists or on our awards ballots. There are many more movies than usual and there is a heightened sense of anticipation for each movie. It's easy to get befuddled, our heads packed with too many images and opinions. I didn't much like Margot at the Wedding (85 screens), and I liked Persepolis (7 screens) very much, but I had a hard time recalling either movie a few weeks later, mainly from overload. (Critics who cover film festivals usually experience this same phenomenon.) What I really needed was more time to ponder each movie, or at least a second chance to see certain movies.