Amir here. For most of us moviegoers the first day of January doesn’t coincide with the start of a new film year. We wait for the release of films like Zero Dark Thirty or Amour in our corners of the world. But to wish you all a slightly belated happy new year, I thought there’s no better way to semi-start 2013 than with a top ten dozen list of possible cinematic treasures that await us.
It was a tough task to narrow down but that’s the fun in list-making. I know I’ll be first in line when Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac hits the screens, or when Under the Skin, Jonathan Glazer’s long-awaited follow-up to the masterful Birth, is unveiled. And how could I not be excited about Side Effects from the always intriguing Steven Soderbergh, or Les Salaudes, the newest film from Claire Denis, one of our greatest living directors? James Gray’s Nightingale almost made my list, as did Park Chan Wook’s Stoker and Edgar Wright’s The World’s End. Joachim Trier, whose last film Oslo, August 31st was my favorite of 2011 (2012 for many US critics) is working on an English-language debut called Louder than Bombs, too. I’ll be there for all of them, but if I had to pick only a dozen films to watch this year? Here they are....
12. I’m So Excited
An apt title for a film on a list of this kind, but that’s definitely not the only reason I’ve included it here. Pedro Almodovar, everyone’s favorite Spanish auteur, is going back to the realm of comedy with this story of intersecting romances and dancing gay flight attendants on an airplane.
I’m So Excited stars a whole lot of Spanish stars like Javier Camara, Cecilia Roth, Lola Duenas, Paz Vega and my biggest crush of the moment, Blanca Suárez. Almodovar’s regulars Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas are apparently in for small roles.
11. Inside Llewyn Davis
The newest Coen Brothers was originally slated for a 2012 premiere. IMDB now states the release date as February 2013, a deadline that will surely be missed. But publicity isn’t an indicator of quality when it comes to this brilliant duo: they’ve had hits in much hyped films like No Country for Old Men and more elusive fare like A Serious Man, alike. Llewyn Davis stars Oscar Isaac, his Drive costar Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake, alongside Garrett Hedlund and F. Murray Abraham. The Coens are exploring yet another facet of Americana, this time the New York folk scene of the 1960s.
Ten Most Awaited
10. The Grandmasters
Wong Kar Wai. Tony Leung. This trailer.
9. Twelve Years a Slave
Any film with a stellar cast like Chiwetel Ejiofor, Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Garret Dillahunt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Quvenzhane Wallis, Paul Giamatti and Scoot McNairy is definitely worth a look; all the more so when the man behind the camera is Steve McQueen. Coming off the critical success of his first two features, Hunger and Shame, this time he’s telling the story of a man stolen in New York and sold into slavery in the 1800s. Fassbender isn’t the only exciting collaborator he’s reunited with. Sean Bobbit is back on the camera and Joe Walker is in the cutting room again.
8. Labour Day
Jason Reitman’s films have been getting better and better. His last, Young Adult, missed the mark with awards voters but it was in many ways his most mature and complete feature to date. It’s all the more exciting that this 80s set drama stars the amazing Kate Winslet. She'll surely benefit since Reitman has gained a deserved ‘actors’ director’ reputation after guiding Ellen Page, George Clooney, Vera Farmiga and Charlize Theron to some of their best work. Josh Brolin stars as an escaped convict who comes in contact with Winslet’s character in this drama that also stars Tobey Maguire and Jackie Weaver.
7. The Great Gatsby
No amount of anti-Luhrmann negativity can lessen my excitement for this adaptation of my favorite novel of all time. (Okay, it’s my second favorite but Darkness at Noon will never be properly adapted for the silver screen.) Luhrmann’s tendency for extravagance might be at odds with the subtlety of Fitzgerald’s prose, but it will also allow him to capture the author’s descriptiveness with more panache than any of the previous lukewarm adaptations. At the very least, we can expect this to be one of the most discussed films of 2013 and that’s always welcome.
One of the greatest living directors is coming back to the big screen after a seven year – SEVEN YEAR! – hiatus. There’s been a lot of chatter about the cinematography and how Alfonso Cuaron is breaking new ground technologically. That’s no surprise - Children of Men is one of the most visually astonishing films in recent years and he’s collaborating with Emmanuel Lubezki again. Gravity stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney and concerns a solitary astronaut attempting to steer a wayward shuttle back to earth after a crash.
5. Only God Forgives
If you were thinking that the only way to improve Drive, the sleek and nonchalantly violent offspring of the bromantic duo of Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling, is to add Kristin Scott Thomas to the mix, Only God Forgives is just the film for you. The synopsis reads
A Bangkok police lieutenant and a gangster settle their differences in a Thai-boxing match.”
Only a dance-off could potentially be a step up from this.
Bennett Miller is quietly becoming one of America’s most interesting filmmakers. In this new collaboration with his Capote screenwriter, Steve Carell stars as millionaire and convicted murderer John du Pont. Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum co-star. The material seems right in Miller’s wheelhouse, but I’m mostly curious to see how Carrel will handle this role. We’ve seen his dramatic chops in Little Miss Sunshine and Miller’s two previous male leads scored Oscar nods (one of them winning) for career-best performances. Could "Academy Award Winner Steve Carrel" be just around the corner?
If Spike Jonze, the man behind Being John Malkovic, Adaptation. and Where the Wild Things Are, can’t entice us to watch his newest film, surely Joaquin Phoenix’s ungodly moustache can. Her also stars Amy Adams and Rooney Mara but neither of them is Phoenix’s partner in this romantic sci-fi. That would be his… new computer!? Count me in.
2. The Past
Having followed Asghar Farhadi’s stellar career from his early television work in Iran through his Oscar-winning final film, I’ve been a devout fan for as long as I can remember. The exposure that he’s gained from his last two features, A Separation and the slightly superior, criminally underexposed About Elly might have shot him up everyone’s ‘directors to watch’ list, but it’s ironically caused him more trouble in his home country, which is why we’ll be getting his first non-Persian film this year. Details on the plot are under wraps but the Paris-set film stars Tahar Rahim (A Prophet), Berenice Bejo (The Artist), Babak Karimi (A Separation) and Ali Mosaffa (the real life husband of A Separation's Leila Hatami).
1. Attila Marcel
Sylvain Chomet’s only foray into the world of live action filmmaking was the 'Eifel Tower' segment of Paris, je t’aime, which happened to be my favourite piece in that omnibus film. But his two animated films, The Triplets of Belleville and The Illusionist are more indicative of the visionary director’s immense talent. His first live action feature, Attila Marcel, is a musical comedy about a man who’s lost his memory and the ability to speak after witnessing the death of his parents at the age of 2. Raised by his aunts who dreamt for him to become a virtuoso pianist, his life becomes a monotonous cycle of musical practices until he meets a certain Mme Proust. The premise sounds intriguing, but it’s really the man in the director's chair that sells me on the deal. The film is currently in post, so I’m hoping I’ll get to lay my eyes on it at TIFF.