At the beginning of every year, just as we are unwinding from seeing all the great Oscar hopefuls, we are hit with a wave of upcoming films to get even more excited about. From Sundance favorites to entries in the Berlin Film Festival, we get a glimpse of the next year’s Oscar race, but we also get the chance to cherry pick some films that might pass us by if we aren’t careful. Yes, some of these will be impossible to miss, but these are the films that we expect to move us, thrill us, take us to another place, or just simply enjoy the most.
January – April
The Time That Remains – Elia Suleiman (Already out in a limited release)
This absurdist-Palestinian comedy has been making rounds on the international film festival circuit for a couple years now, but is now available in a limited release domestically. It chronicles the development of the Israeli state told through the real life stories taken from the director’s relatives. He also uses his own memories to link together the four primary tales. Upon first hearing the description it seemed like a potentially bleak film, but by the trailer it looks to be quite the trip.
Battle L.A. – Jonathan Liebesman 3/11
In what may be the biggest action punch of the year, we see the newest version of the Alien attack genre. But in this one, humans are unable to band together, they seem unable to succeed even due to the fact that the aliens have already conquered the rest of the world; Los Angeles is the last remaining outpost of the human race. What is interesting about this particular invasion, to me at least, is that at the end of the film, if we win, we still face the larger battle of rebuilding our civilization.
Duncan Jones gave us one of the freshest Sci-Fi movies in years with 2008’s Moon, in spite of the fact that it was contextually grounded in classics such as 2001, Solaris, and Blade Runner (see the Filmsmith’s take on that here). Here he returns with a seemingly much-too-mainstream sophomore effort about a mysterious machine that allows people to re-experience the last 8 minutes of someone’s life. The government is using this to try and identify a terrorist who blew up a train that morning, so that a future attack can be stopped. The trailer gives away far too much, in my opinion, but even still my only hope is that Jones focuses on thematic questions about fate and destiny, and not on the Hollywood romance between Jake Gyllenhaal’s character and the woman he meets on the train.
May – August
The Tree of Life – Terrence Malick 5/27
Terrence Malick (Badlands, Days of Heaven, and The Thin Red Line) has provided us with only a sparse handful of films over his 40+ year career, but those have been more than enough to indicate his sheer mastery of the cinema. His newest effort has been in the works for the bulk of that career, and has changed radically over time. It focuses on the existential crisis of Jack (Sean Penn) as he remembers his rough childhood spent wrestling between conflicting ideas espoused by his parents. His mother’s way of grace did not jive with his father’s (Brad Pitt) method of tough love. While plot will be significant, the visuals will amaze, due in part to the contributions of Douglas Trumbull, the special effects wizard behind such films as Close Encounters, Blade Runner, and 2001, who was pulled out of retirement to help with this project. Easily my most anticipated film of the year.
September – December
Caves of Forgotten Dreams – Werner Herzog
I never thought that I would be so eagerly anticipating a 3-D film. I’m not in the crew that thinks the gimmick is destroying cinema, I prefer to think that no one has yet learned how to properly use it. Werner Herzog may be that person. Herzog is known for making strange documentaries/commentaries on Nature (Grizzly Man and Encounters at the End of the World are his most recent, but also check out his comments in Les Blank’s Burden of Dreams), but his newest one stands shoulders above the rest. Not only is Herzog directing the very first shot-in-3D documentary, his subject is the collection of cave paintings at Chauvet in Southern France, where mankind first created art. The trailer, as it is, is rather minimal, but here’s a taste:
After this year’s massive success with The Social Network, Fincher has taken up, of all things, the dreaded American-remake-of-an-already-good-foreign-film. Sometimes, as we’ve seen, this can be pulled off (see: The Departed, Let Me In), and given Fincher’s penchant for psychological thrillers, he should have no trouble with Dragon Tattoo. Plus, he is bringing back Trent Reznor to do the score, and Rooney Mara (who stole both of her scenes in Social Network) to play the lead. This should be a big contender for the end of the year awards, especially if Fincher doesn’t sweep them this time around.
Damsels in Distress – Whit Stillman
Whit Stillman made three films in the early nineties that remain underseen, but vastly influential. He created the style most know for its quick-witted banter among the affluent that would end up characterizing the works of Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach, but hasn’t made a film since The Last Days of Disco in 1998. Here he is back with a very stylish looking film about an operator of a suicide prevention hotline, and the gaggle of girls that surround her life. That lead is played by the adorable Greta Gerwig (who was the best part about Greenberg), and Adam Brody should make an appearance, too.
A Dangerous Method – David Cronenberg
Cronenberg is back with Viggo Mortenson in tow, although he isn’t returning to the gangster genre, at least not yet. Instead, he is making a period piece, one that seems to be entirely devoid of any kind of gore or body horror, perhaps a first for the director. It focuses on the intense feud between renowned psychologists Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, played by Mortenson and Michael Fassbender, respectively.
Three years ago, Steve McQueen, not the stud from Bullitt but a British fashion designer, stunned the film world with his incredibly impressionistic and assured debut film Hunger. He returns with a film that appears to be just as intensely introspective, although his focus has shifted from rebellion and the human spirit, to lust and self-control. Shame will revolve around a character played by Michael Fassbender (in my opinion the greatest actor of our generation) unable to keep his sex life under control. When his kid sister, played by Carey Mulligan, comes to visit, things naturally get shaken up.
Space only permits we talk about a handful of the films we can’t wait to see, but here is a compact list of ten other films you should check out if you get the chance: On The Road (Walter Salles), Wuthering Heights (Andrea Arnold), Drive (Nicholas Winding Refn), The Hangover Part II (Todd Phillips), The Beaver (Jodie Foster), Hugo Cabret (Martin Scorsese), We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay), Scream 4 (Wes Craven), The Descendants (Alexander Payne), The Deep Blue Sea (Terence Davies).
What are you looking forward to?
– Ben Creech