Tradition has it that this week is devoted to serious self-improvement, with everyone making this or that New Year's resolution. In that spirit, here are some promises I'd like to see from the motion-picture industry, both at home and abroad.
1. Stop making movies about the goddamn noble Nazis.
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, The Reader, Valkyrie, Viggo Mortensen's upcoming (and awful) Good ... seriously, what is it in the air that's making Hollywood go gaga for stories about heroic, Hitler-opposing Germans? You'd think the whole country had risen up in vocal opposition to the Third Reich ... except, you know, that it didn't. Edward Zwick's Defiance may not be a great movie, but at least it gives us a universe where Germans (and their collaborators) were at least indifferent to the Nazi war machine, as long as it didn't directly threaten them.
2. Esteemed Canadian filmmakers, try something new.
You know the feeling when you sit down to a new film from an established director, and you get exactly the same movie they were making twenty years ago? That's how it felt watching Atom Egoyan's Adoration, Denys Arcand's Days Of Darkness, Deepa Mehta's Heaven On Earth and even Guy Maddin's My Winnipeg. We all know that the Canadian industry encourages filmmakers to find a niche and stay with it, but there's nothing wrong with coloring outside the lines once in a while. Bruce McDonald, Reginald Harkema and Philippe Falardeau still take risks with every picture; why aren't we giving them the same amount of attention?
3. Give Robert Downey Jr. anything he wants to make more movies.
Okay, maybe not drugs, but money, fame, power ... seriously, anything legal. Charlie Bartlett, Iron Man and Tropic Thunder showcased his virtuosity in 2008, capping the comeback that started three years earlier with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Assuming he doesn't make a total ass of himself in Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes movie, the next decade should be his to do with as he likes.
4. Think twice about that next superhero picture.
Yes, Watchmen looks awesome - as long as they don't try to dodge the grim nature of the graphic novel's ending. But The Spirit and that Punisher sequel demonstrated that not every costumed crusader needs to be brought to the big screen, even if they seem profitable right now. Kenneth Branagh is directing the Thor movie; what's next, Richard Linklater's bold new vision of The Flash? (Well, maybe, but only if Robert Downey Jr. gets a cameo.)
5. Make your comedies shorter.
Every director has heard the siren song of the unrated, extended DVD - and yes, the longer cut of Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story makes room for another half-a-dozen songs - but not every comedy needs to run two hours. And nothing starring Dane Cook or Larry the Cable Guy should ever go longer than 85 minutes ... ooh, unless it's an extra-graphic remake of The Passion of the Christ.
6. Hey, audiences: Stop settling for mediocrity.
With megaplex admissions as high as thirteen bucks a head, "good enough" doesn't cut it any more. Yeah, not every movie can be Citizen Kane, but there are so many great movies on Toronto screens right this second - Let The Right One In, Slumdog Millionaire, The Wrestler, Waltz With Bashir, A Christmas Tale, Ballast, even the second hour of Frost/Nixon - that there's just no reason to waste your time on machine-tooled Oscar bait like The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, Revolutionary Road or Seven Pounds. Actually, Seven Pounds is kind of worth seeing as an unintentional comedy.
There, that should get us started. My New Year's resolution is to get my feeble high-school French up to conversational levels, so I can go back to Cannes in May without sounding like a rube. That's also going to help the industry out, but only as a side benefit.
Happy New Year, everybody. Do not touch the jellyfish.