It’s a new year and a new decade. Here’s looking forward to a prosperous decade of cinema. Will it known for a slew of sequels and comic book adaptations and funny cat videos like the 00’s were? Or will it be known for groundbreaking and socially relevant cinema like the 70s? There’s a glimmer of hope for originality in film with the monumental success of Avatar and the unexpected success of Inglorious Basterds and District 9. Could they have turned the tide? Could this lead us into an era of blockbuster auteur driven cinema? Not likely but one can still hope. But let’s just focus on 2010 for now. The lineup this year is extremely promising.
There’s no guarantee the films on the list will be released in 2010 (some have not even begun filming yet). They consist of festival favorites, summer blockbusters, and overseas gems. So let’s hope all goes well and these films can become readily available to see this year.
And because I worked so damn hard on this you better bookmark this page for the rest of the year!
29) Your Highness – After the disappointing Pineapple Express, I thought I would be done with David Gordon Green’s Danny McBride and James Franco-led stoner comedies – but this one is a stoner comedy set in medieval times, so I guess I’m interested again. There seems to be more possibilities here. The plot involves something about a prince and a warrior going on a mission and saving a kingdom. Hopefully there will be plenty of inappropriate laughs along the way. And the supporting cast looks damn good: Zooey Deschanel, Natalie Portman, Damian Lewis and Justin Theroux.
28) Hadewijch – Controversial to say the least, Bruno Dumont’s (Twentynine Palms, Flanders) latest is an examination of religious faith. He is looking for the fine line that divides religious devotion and fanaticism. The IONCINEMA synopsis reads:
“The film is about a religious novice (Julie Sokolowski) whose ecstatic, blind faith leads to her expulsion from a convent. Returning to her former life, Hadewijch reverts to being Céline, a Parisienne and daughter of a diplomat. However, her passion for God, rage and encounters with Khaled and Nassir soon lead her down a dangerous path.”
IFC Films has bought up U.S. distribution for this one and should be releasing it on Video on demand as well as select theaters.
27) Somewhere – Looks like Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette) could be pulling a Wrestler on us by attempting resurrect the career of another fallen star, Stephen Dorff. Can’t wait to see the tagline on the poster: “Come witness the resurrection of Stephen Dorff.” The films is said to primarily take place in Hollywood’s legendary Château Marmot, where a hard-living movie star drinks his days away. That is, until his 11-year-old daughter pays him an unexpected visit. Can she save him from his destructive ways? Can Coppola save Dorff from direct-to-DVD hell? You’ll have to wait and see. The film is to contain some original music by the French pop band Phoenix and there is a supposed cameo appearance by Benicio Del Toro (no word on whether he is playing himself or not). Michelle Monaghan and Elle Fanning round out the cast.
26) Socialisme – French New Wave icon Jean-Luc Godard (Breathless, Contempt) is getting political again (when has he not been?) with his latest film, to which he credits six other filmmakers. I guess his latest will be an exploration / history lesson on the theme and it takes place on a cruise liner and features Patti Smith for some reason. That’s what I gathered from the official synopsis:
“A symphony in three movements. Things such as: The Mediterranean, a cruise ship. Numerous conversations, in numerous languages, between the passengers, almost all of whom are on holiday… An old man, a war criminal (German, French, American we don?t know) accompanied by his granddaughter. A famous French philosopher (Alain Badiou). A representative of the Moscow police, detective branch. An American singer (Patti Smith). An old French policeman. A fired female United Nations officer. A former double agent. A Palestinian ambassador. It’s a matter of gold, as it was before with the Argonauts, but what is seen (the image) is very different from what is heard (the word). Our humanities. Visits to six sites of true or false myths: Egypt, Palestine, Odessa, Hellas, Naples and Barcelona. Our Europe. At night, a sister and her younger brother have summoned their parents to appear before the court of their childhood. One of the parents in fact has to appear on television to stand as a candidate in the local elections at… The children demand serious explications of the themes of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.”
25) Untitled Mike Leigh Project – As usual nothing is known about the plot of the film. Mike Leigh ‘s film productions are always shrouded in mystery. But that doesn’t matter. Anything with the master filmmaker’s name attached is certain to be great. Since the late 80s he hasn’t made a single bad (or even mediocre) film. The cast includes Leigh regulars Imelda Staunton and Jim Broadbent. Look for a possible premiere at Cannes.
24) The Green Hornet – This may be the epitome of cool, with Michel Gondry directing, Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds) playing the villain and newly trendy metal band Anvil are set to make a musical appearance. Seth Rogen and Cameron Diaz star.
23) Cemetery Junction – After the critical and box-office disappointment of The Invention of Lying (although something tells me it may become a future cult classic), Ricky Gervais and his directing partner Stephen Merchant march forth. Their latest has an unexpected subject mater involving the trial of three upstart professional men working for an insurance company in the 1970’s. The cast includes Gervais, Emily Watson, Mathew Goode, and Ralph Fiennes.
22) The Rum Diary – Bruce Robinson, the famed director of Withnail and I (one of the all-time great comedies), adapts Hunter S. Thompson’s book about Paul Kemp, a freelance writer (not unlike Thompson himself) who faces a critical turning point in his life that leads him to a path of self destruction. In not so shocking casting Johnny Depp is playing the central character with Aaron Eckhart and Amber Heard costarring. It will be interesting to see how Robinson films the material, since this will be his first film in nearly twenty years.
21) Looking for Eric / Irish Route – We may find ourselves with a Ken Loach double feature this year. The first is a comedy of sorts. Looking for Eric has already opened in Europe to great acclaim for its gentile and wise portrait of an average football fan and postman whose life begins to fall apart. He seeks solace in the words famously philosophical UK football star Eric Cantona (who plays himself).
The second (still in production as far as I can tell) is a politically charged piece about dirty Irish contractors in Iraq. Loach has never been shy about his feelings on England and America’s foreign policy in recent years, but this is the first time he is addressing those issues head on. Route Irish tells the story of a private security contractor in Iraq who rejects the official examination of his friend’s death and sets out to find the truth. The film is certain to cause a stir.
20) Iron Man 2 – Certain to be the biggest movie of the year and hopefully as good as the first one. It features the Black Widow (Scarlet Johansen in a tight black suit, Nice!) and Whiplash (Mickey Rourke, not so nice.). Then there’s the feature film debut of War Machine. All awesome sounding. I just hope Jon Faverou has the good sense to keep those wonderful dialogue scenes with Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow. Their chemistry is unbelievable and it’s what made the first Iron Man installment stand out so much.
19) Meek’s Cutoff – With 2008’s Wendy and Lucy, Kelly Reichardt took a simple story about a girl searching for her lost dog and turned it into one of the most moving film experiences in recent memory. Here she reteams with Michelle Williams/ who co-stars with Paul Dano, Bruce Greenwood, Shirley Henderson and Zoe Kazan. Instead of filming one of her intimate present-day dramas, she has opted for a historical western centering on the famous American mountaineer Steven Meek. The IONCINEMA synopsis:
“The year is 1845, the earliest days of the Oregon Trail, and a wagon team of three families has hired the mountain man Stephen Meek to guide them over the Cascade Mountains. Claiming to know a short cut, Meek leads the group on an unmarked path across the high plain desert, only to become lost in the dry rock and sage. Over the coming days, the emigrants must face the scourges of hunger, thirst, and their own lack of faith in each other’s instincts for survival. When a Native American wanderer crosses their path, the emigrants are torn between their trust in a guide who has proven himself unreliable and a man who has always been seen as the natural enemy. “
18) Greenburg – Noah Baumbach’s (The Squid and the Whale) follow-up to his polarizing Margot at the Wedding (a film I unabashedly love) sees him working with both A-list Hollywood (Ben Stiller) and Mumblecore favorites (Greta Gerwig and Mark Duplass). The film follows Greenberg (Stiller), a middle aged slacker, as he tries to find his next step in life while he housesits for his brother. Soon sparks fly when he meets Florence, his brother’s personal assistant. The most exciting aspect of the film seems to be Gerwig, who has potential to be a major star. Oh, and 2nd most exciting aspect is that LCD Soundsystem has produced some original music for the soundtrack.
17) The Turin Horse –Bela Tarr (Werckmeister Harmonies, The Man from London) is one of the greatest most daring filmmakers working today. But have you heard of him? His works are challenging and experimental in nature and this one seems no different. The film is inspired by the famous episode that marked the end of Frederick Nietzche’s career. The IONCINEMA synopsis is fascinating:
“The film is freely inspired by an episode that marked the end of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s career. On January 3, 1889, on the piazza Alberto in Turin, a weeping Nietzsche flung his arms around an exhausted and ill-treated carriage horse, and then lost consciousness. After this event, the philosopher never wrote again and descended into madness and silence. From this starting point, The Turin Horse goes on to explore the lives of the coachman (Miroslav Krobot), his daughter (Erika Bók) and the horse in an atmosphere of poverty heralding the end of the world.”
This guy is a true original. On a sad note, it is rumored to be Tarr’s final film, making it essential to be seen on the big screen.
16) I Am Love – Magnolia Pictures snatched up the rights for this one. The classy Italian melodrama stars the magnificent Tilda Swinton as a woman who turns her affluent family upside-down when she begins forbidden love affair with a young cook. Hopefully there’s going to be buzz building on this one. It’s not only Swinton’s performance being praised. but the filmmaking and its exquisite attention to detail as well.
15) Mother – Korean master (The Host, Memories of Murder) may have another masterpiece on his hands. This darkly comic fable follows a mother on a desperate search to track down the man who framed her son for murder.
14) Cyrus – This appears to be the film where Mumblecore goes mainstream. Filmmaking brothers Jay and Mark Duplass have cast a bevy of established stars (Jonah Hill, Catherine Keener, John C. Reilly and Marisa Tomei) for a premise that sounds very Hollywood. It’s about a recently divorced man finds the woman of his dreams but he first has to deal with her obnoxious son. But don’t expect anything conventional from the Duplass Brothers whose previous works (Baghead, The Puffy Chair) were hilarious subversions of tried genres.
13) Dogtooth – I would have put this film on the 2009 list of the most overlooked films but it has been vigorously celebrated all other the world and has gotten a lot of publicity from film bloggers. It’s Greece’s official entry for the Foreign Language Oscar. So why it doesn’t have U.S. distribution yet is beyond me. It does contain some disturbing NC-17 style content, but shouldn’t that spell out cult hit? Giorgos Lanthimos’s film follows three teenage siblings in their isolated country estate. They have no connection to the real world and have their own strange language. Their father (the only person allowed to leave the home) inflicts various tortures on then to keep them obedient. That is until an outside influence begins a rebellion.
12) Black Swan – I’m so completely sold on the idea of a modern day gothic supernatural ballet thriller and with Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler) as director, aren’t you? There’s no telling how visually daring this film will be. It tells a story of a veteran ballet dancer (Natalie Portman) who is haunted by a rival dancer (Mila Kunis) who could either be real or imagined. If all that doesn’t interest you then there’s that much hyped sex scene with Portman and Kunis. So there ya go a film for everyone. Costars Winona Ryder and Vincent Cassel.
11) The Illusionist – Sylvain Chomet’s follow up to his animated 2003 masterpiece Triplets of Bellville is based off of an unproduced script by the late French master Jacques Tati. It’s definitely going to be a thrill to see Tati’s iconic Monsieur Hulot character after a nearly 40 year absence and to see him animated is just going to be fascinating. There is little else known about the production but here’s the Imdb synopsis: “Details the story of a dying breed of stage entertainer whose thunder is being stolen by emerging rock stars. Forced to accept increasingly obscure assignments in fringe theaters, garden parties and bars, he meets a young fan who changes his life forever.”
10) Wild Grass – This was on my most underrated of 2009 (as were a few others on this list) but I just want to get the name out there. 87 year old Alain Resnais’ wildly surreal portrait of love begins with a lost wallet, its owner, and its retriever. The two become curious about one another and through many bizarre circumstances begin an unlikely romance. That’s just the starting point to a series of strange and darkly comic scenarios involving various other characters. This all leads to a conclusion that Glenn Kenny considers to be “as daring as Kubrick’s 2001.” I know that’s a terrible synopsis but there’s no paragraph that could describe what any Resnais film is about. You just have to experience them. The cast features Sabine Azema (Private Fears in Public Places), Andre Dussollier, Anne Consigny, Emmanuelle Devos (A Christmas Tale), and Mathieu Amalric (Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Quantum of Solice).
9) Kick Ass – Just watching the Hit Girl redband trailer got me stoked. The Mathew Vaughn (Layer Cake, Stardust) film is an adaptation of the famously crude Mark Miller comic book series of the same name. It follows the adventures of an unpopular high school kid and comic book nerd who decides to become a super hero himself despite having no training whatsoever. His actions then inspire a whole league of average Joes turned superheroes. Despite its expensive look, Vaughn made the film independently to keep every bit of the comic’s notorious vulgarity. The footage shown at last year’s Comic Con upstaged the first public showing of Avatar footage and early word of test screenings over the last few months as been astronomically positive.
8 ) We Need to Talk About Kevin – Lynn Ramsey hasn’t made a film since 2002’s superb Morvern Callar. She spent much of the decade attempting to adapt The Lovely Bones – that is, until Peter Jackson got attached to the project (which is apparently a disaster). Tilda Swinton plays the adoptive mother of an adolescent boy who went on a Columbine –like killing spree. She has to then deal with the pain and guilt of her horrendous circumstances. It sounds like a standard hard hitting indie, but under Ramsey’s hands it could become something completely different.
7) Rabbit Hole – John Cameron Mitchell is one of my heroes. His 2001 glam rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch is my favorite film of the past decade and his sophomore experiment Shortbus featured real sex and was still popular enough to play at multiplexes across America. Rabbit Hole, an adaptation of David Lindsay-Abaire’s Pulitzer Prize winning play, is his first stab at the mainstream. It stars Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart as married couple grieving over the loss of their young son. Mitchell is said to be drawing from his own experiences with loss into the material and to be avoiding every Hollywood melodrama cliché in the book.
6) You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger – The title alone makes me want to see this one. Like always the case with every Woody Allen film in production the plot is kept under wraps, but internet rumours say it involves a large family and their troubled love lives and theres a high class prostitute in it too. The cast may be Allen’s best in 10 years (which is really saying something): Naomi Watts, Antonio Banderas, Josh Brolin, Frieda Pinto (of Slumdog Millionaire fame), Lucy Punch, Anthony Hopkins, Anna Friel (Pushing Daisies), and Bollywood star Anupam Kher.
5) Miral – With a track record that includes Before Night Falls and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, director Julian Schnabel has a reputation for making some of the most beautiful films ever. The Imdb synopsis says: “A chronicle of Hind Husseini’s efforts to establish an orphanage in Jerusalem after the 1948 petition and the creation of the state of Israel. The international cast includes Hiam Abbass (The Visitor, The Limits of Control) as Husseini, William Dafoe, Frieda Pinto, and Alexander Siddig (Syriana).
4) Steven Soderbergh – The prolific filmmaker just came off his most artistically ambitious year yet with four releases (the two Che Guevara bio-pics, The Girlfriend Experience, and The Informant!). He already completed his Spalding Grey documentary And Everything is Going Fine, which it’s set to debut at the Slamdance film Festival later this month. He is then scheduled to begin filming his Point Blank meat Borne style thriller Knockout starring real life boxing champion Gina Carano. Its supporting cast is full of big names: Ewan Macgregor, Micheal Douglas, Dennis Quaid, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas, and rising star Micheal Fassbender (Inglorious Basterds, Hunger, 300). If all goes well there, he should go straight to filming a Liberace biopic with Michael Douglas in the title role and Matt Damon (as one of his lovers) at round summer time. It’s expected to be finished and released by December. But wait, there’s more. It was recently reported (by the Playlist) that Soderbergh has just finished a secret movie in Sydney, Australia. It’s reported to be completely improvised and in the vein of his small works Bubble and The Girlfriend Experience. He filmed it with the cast of his Sydney play Tot Mom last fall. No word yet on story details. but if his recent output is any indication it should be at least a little groundbreaking.
3) Scott Pilgrim vs. The World – The hotly anticipated (for critics and comic book nerds alike) adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley cult comic book series could in fact be an event as big as last year’s Watchmen (hopefully not as disappointing). It follows the adventures of Scott Pilgrim a 22 year old slacker who finds the girl of his dreams but first must fight off her seven ex-boyfriends in battle to win her heart. Just about everyone involved in the film seems right. The director, Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz), is capable of exhilarating cinematic style that goes hand in hand with comedy. The cast is a ridiculous with Micheal Cera (in the title role), Anna Kendrick, Jason Schwartzman, Allison Pill, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aubrey Plaza, Chris Evans, Brandon Routh, Kieran Culkin, and Marc Webber. Those who’ve read Michal Bacall’s script say it’s absolutely hilarious. The soundtrack could become a classic as well, with the likes of Beck, Metric, and Broken Social Scene. All of this could mean potential hipster nirvana. Enthusiastic early word comes from Up in the Air director Jason Reitman, who tweeted up a storm about the film:
* In London, (Wright) showed me 30 min of “Scott Pilgrim.” While sworn to secrecy (so much, surprised blood wasn’t demanded) I will say this:
* It is a game changer for Edgar and the genre. It moves the speed of light and carries more unadulterated joy than I’ve seen in recent cinema.
* SP does what everyone our age has been dreaming about: achieves the first all encompassing film of the joystick generation.
* I’m in awe of the sheer control in the filmmaking. It feels like a “Matrix” for love and how willing we are to fight for it.
* If I had a movie coming out next year, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near it. Hats off my friend. Can’t get it out of my head.
2) Inception – I don’t know what the hell this movie is about either but it looks great and Leonardo Dicaprio looks solid. There cool looking effects and a great supporting cast: Ellen Page, Marion Cottiard, Michael Cane, Tom Hardy (From last year’s Bronson), Cullen Murphy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Lucas Hass, and Ken Watanabe. But the “From the Director of The Dark Knight” title card may still be the greatest thing about it.
1) Tree of Life – Shot way back in early 2008 with reportedly 3million feet of 35 millimeter film. This is Terence Malick’s largest production yet and still only his fifth film since his 1973 debut Badlands. The project had been in the legendary filmmaker’s head for 30 years. Originally titled Q, the film was to be the follow up to 1978’s Days of Heaven, but Malick took a 20 year hiatus from film. For years since his return, the film was constantly being rumored for production and now it’s a reality. Malick also made an adjacent (Brad Pitt-narrated) documentary to the film called The Voyage of Time, which is supposed to chronicle the “birth and death of the universe” (I’m not sure if both films will be playing together). Here’s the IMDb plot synopsis:
“The film opens documenting the origins of life, through the age of reptiles and mammals and then man. Progressively, we are swept through time until the 1950s, where the birth of life suddenly comes to seemingly pointless sickness and death. Pointless, that is, to young Jack, who is unaware of all that has led to this point and time, only to arrive to the tragedy he must come to grips with. This is the philosophical thrust of older Jack’s struggle to coexist in a world that seemingly has little to no value for him. The “tree of life” is the framework of the story, how one thing leads to another, a miracle of growth and evolution, where nature is purposeful, and never random.”
Brad Pitt plays the father (a part originally intended for Heath Ledger) and Sean Penn has the role of the older Jack. It is also rumored that there will be two different versions of the film (one exclusively for IMAX theaters). We also have hot shot cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (Children of Men, The New World) and composer Alexandre Desplat (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Birth) on board. Go ahead, try to top that.
You think this is a lot of movies to look out for, wait ’till Sundance in a next week. And this isn’t even counting the films I’m not anticipating like David Fincer’s Facebook saga The Social Network. or Clint Eastwood’s supernatural thriller Hereafter. as well as the long awaited (and studio-tinkered) Wolfman. Ridley Scott’s Robin Rood looks horrendous but may be enjoyable as pure camp. Toy Story 3 could be great but to me it feels like it could be the Godfather Part III of Pixar. Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island looks gorgeous but early word suggests a dopey screenplay. And what is this Alice in Wonderland movie Hot Topic cares so much about?
– Anthony Nicholas