BY FRANKLIN P. LAVIOLA
20. Inside Llewyn Davis, directed by Joel & Ethan Coen
Allegedly a heavily-fictionalized spin on Dave Van Ronk’s posthumously published memoir The Mayor of MacDougal Street, the new film by the Coen Bros. recreates the Greenwich Village folk music scene of the early 1960s. Let’s hope it’s a rebound from their misconceived (though financially successful) adaptation of Charles Portis’ True Grit. Already tipped for a premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May, no theatrical release date has been announced.
19. The Wolf of Wall Street, directed by Martin Scorsese
Or, quite possibly another film, like Shutter Island, Scorsese doesn’t need to make. The real question is — when is Scorsese going to make Silence, his long-in-the-works adaptation of Shusaku Endo’s novel about the persecution of Jesuit missionaries in 17th century Japan? Instead, we get another rise and fall story about a sleazy, cocaine-addicted Wall Street tycoon, this time played by Leonardo Dicaprio. Sounds like awfully familiar material, so let’s hope Scorsese has a few surprises in store for this late 2013 Paramount release.
18. The Grandmaster, directed by Wong Kar-wai
The In the Mood for Love helmer’s long-in-the-making quasi-biopic of Wing Chun master Ip Man was supposed to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival two years ago. Starring international stars Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi, Wong’s action-packed martial arts spectacle will instead open the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival on February 7th. Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures will distribute the film in the US, later in the year.
17. The Hunt, directed by Thomas Vinterberg
Danish star Mads Mikkelsen won the Best Actor prize at last year’s Cannes Film Festival for his performance as a schoolteacher wrongfully accused of molesting one of his female students. According to most reports, this psychological drama represents a return to form for Vinterberg, who is best known for The Celebration (1998), the first certified Dogme 95 film. Magnolia Pictures has not yet confirmed a release date.
16. Venus in Fur, directed by Roman Polanski
Before tackling his Dreyfus Affair epic, Polanski decided to shoot a French language adaptation of David Ives’ Tony Award-winning erotic two-hander about an actress who goes to great lengths to convince a director that she is perfect for the lead role in his upcoming project. Polanski’s real-life wife Emmanuelle Seigner (Bitter Moon) plays the actress and Matthieu Amalric (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) plays the director. Look for a Cannes or Venice Film Festival premiere, followed by a fall stateside release.
15. Pacific Rim, directed by Guillermo del Toro
No, not the year’s biggest gay porno, but the year’s biggest, most expensive homage to classic Japanese monster movies. This marks Del Toro’s first directorial effort, since his departure from The Hobbit series and the last-minute cancellation of his adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness. A July 12 Warner Bros. release.
14. The Zero Theorem, directed by Terry Gilliam
Gilliam directs Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz as an eccentric computer genius named Qohen Leth who is determined to unlock the secrets of the universe, with the aid of a mathematical formula. Gilliam’s films are known for the massive scale of their production design, but his latest surreal science fiction is set entirely within a chapel. Probable premiere at Cannes or Venice, hopefully followed by a release later in the year.
13. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, directed by Peter Jackson
Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was one of the best blockbusters of 2012, so there’s no reason to believe that the series’ second installment (shot concurrently with the first) will disappoint. Evangeline Lilly’s elf character will be introduced, while Benedict Cumberbatch will have more screen time as the Necromancer and the dragon Smaug. A December 13th Warner Bros. release.
12. Devil’s Knot, directed by Atom Egoyan
Based on the true crime book by Mara Leveritt, Egoyan’s thriller tells the story of the West Memphis Three (made famous by the Paradise Lost documentaries), the Arkansas teenagers, who were falsely accused of murdering three young boys in 1993 and then sentenced to life in prison. The director of The Sweet Hereafter has put together a terrific cast, which includes Reese Witherspoon, Colin Firth, Mireille Enos, Kevin Durand, Elias Koteas, and Bruce Greenwood. A likely Cannes premiere, followed by an awards-season platform release.
11. The Counselor, directed by Ridley Scott
The first original screenplay by celebrated No Country for Old Men author Cormac McCarthy is a thriller about a successful young lawyer, who gets in over his head with an international drug cartel. Scott’s A-List ensemble includes Michael Fassbender as the title character, Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, and, in an odd and potentially risky bit of casting, Cameron Diaz, as the pivotal femme fatale. A November 15th Twentieth Century Fox release.
10. Top of the Lake, directed by Jane Campion
Campion’s previous film was the beautiful, but underrated John Keats-Fanny Brawne romance Bright Star (2009). Her latest is actually a six-hour miniseries, produced by the Sundance Channel and the BBC, about a young detective’s investigation into the disappearance of a pregnant twelve-year-old in a remote region of New Zealand. Elisabeth Moss, Peter Mullan, and Holly Hunter star. The Sundance Channel begins airing the miniseries on March 18 but a premiere at the Sundance Film Festival and an upcoming screening at the Berlin Film Festival might signal an eventual theatrical release.
9. Man of Steel, directed by Zack Snyder
Everyone’s favorite superhero from Krypton gets a major reboot from director Zack Snyder (Watchmen) and producer-screenwriter Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight trilogy). This time Superman/Clark Kent is played by newcomer Henry Cavill, and the fine supporting cast includes Amy Adams as Lois Lane and Michael Shannon (!), as the villain General Zod. The trailer looks very promising. Warner Bros. opens the big tentpole on June 14.
8. Jimmy Picard, directed by Arnaud Desplechin
Based on French psychoanalyst Georges Devereux’s 1951 case study Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian, Desplechin’s (Kings and Queen & A Christmas Tale) period drama stars Matthieu Amalric as Devereux and Benicio Del Toro as the Blackfoot Indian and WWII veteran, who became the doctor’s primary subject. Sounds like this could be Desplechin’s most ambitious and potentially fascinating film yet. Expect a Cannes premiere, play on the fall film festival circuit, and a theatrical release towards the end of the year.
7. Only God Forgives, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
The last time Refn and star Ryan Gosling teamed up, the result was the sensational retro action-noir Drive (2011). Kristin Scott Thomas co-stars in this bloody revenge thriller, set in the sordid criminal underworld of Bangkok. Expect a likely Cannes Film Festival premiere, followed by a May 23 release.
6. Only Lovers Left Alive, directed by Jim Jarmusch
A vampire lover story from the man behind such classics as Down by Law (1986), Dead Man (1995), and Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999)?! I’m there. Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton are the centuries old vampires, whose rekindled romance is suddenly complicated by the arrival of the much younger and more unhinged Mia Wasikowska. Count on a Cannes premiere, hopefully followed by a theatrical release later in the year.
5. Camille Claudel 1915, directed by Bruno Dumont
Confined to an asylum in the South of France, Camille Claudel will never sculpt again. Bruno Nuytten’s sweeping Camille Claudel (1988), starring the incomparable Isabelle Adjani, is one of the great artist biopics. Dumont’s (L’Humanite) take on the same subject essentially picks up where Nuytten’s left off and stars the (also) incomparable Juliette Binoche. Premieres in competition later this month at the Berlin Film Festival, probably followed by a stateside release later in the year.
4. Before Midnight, directed by Richard Linklater
Nine years after their encounter in Paris, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy are back as the ever-appealing lovers Jesse and Celine. This time, Linklater follows their ongoing romance and sophisticated, Rohmeresque conversations in Greece. Sony Pictures Classics will release this third chapter in the Before Sunrise series later in the year.
3. Lowlife, directed by James Gray
Marion Cotillard stars as a Polish immigrant, in early 20th century New York, who gets sucked into a life of prostitution by pimp Joaquin Phoenix, while her sister remains quarantined in Ellis Island. Gray (Two Lovers) seems to get better and better with each film and has already called this new one “the best thing I’ve done.” Another film tipped for a premiere at Cannes, presumably followed by an awards-season release.
2. Me and You, directed by Bernardo Bertolucci
When the director of The Conformist (1970) and Last Tango in Paris (1972) makes a new film, it’s an event, in my book. Adapted from a novel by Niccolo Ammaniti, Bertolucci’s first feature, since the underrated The Dreamers (2003), is a claustrophobic coming of age story about an introverted adolescent and his drug-addicted sister, hiding in a basement from their parents. This film is still seeking US distribution.
1. To the Wonder, directed by Terrence Malick
Two years ago, The Tree of Life won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Picture. How did Malick choose to follow-up that highly personal and monumental work? Reportedly, with a film just as personal, but more radical in structure, and, so far, even more divisive with audiences. The narrative is built around a love triangle, involving Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, and Rachel McAdams. Javier Bardem plays a Catholic priest, who experiences a crisis of faith. Magnolia Pictures releases Malick’s latest cinematic poem on April 12.