10. The Missing Picture
March 19 — Rithy Panh tells his memoir of the Khmer Rouge massacres in 1970s Cambodia, using clay figures to fill in for the archival footage that’s missing from one of the most forgotten genocides in 20th century history. It’s an idea that sounds like a student art project gone wrong, but it’s one that in its simplicity becomes overwhelming even in a 2-minute trailer. The Missing Picture is currently up for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. You can watch that trailer here.
9. Gone Girl
October 3 — If Se7en, Zodiac, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo have proven anything, it’s that David Fincher is the greatest modern director of the movie mystery. Gillian Flynn, who wrote the bestselling novel, is handling the screenplay solo, and it’s rare for a first-time screenwriter to be given that kind of carte blanche for a major release. Rosamund Pike joins Ben Affleck, Tyler Perry, and Neil Patrick Harris in what has got to be the strangest cast Fincher’s ever lined up. This last gives me pause enough to not rank this higher, but Fincher’s track record is just too strong to keep it out of the top 10.
March 28 — Darren Aronofsky makes dark, disturbing films like Black Swan. His Requiem for a Dream, about the drug addictions of four New Yorkers, requires emotional recovery time after viewing. Noah is out of left field for him, though he says it’s been his dream project since youth. No one knows how accurate to Judeo-Christian interpretation his adaptation of the Biblical Flood will or won’t be. Previews make it look like he’s playing it straight. Some test screenings for religious groups resulted in criticism, some didn’t. It was enough to cause the studio and Aronofsky to fight publicly over final cut, which any Aronofsky fan could’ve predicted miles off. Let’s hope Aronofsky kept his vision intact. Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, and Emma Watson star. You can watch the trailer in all its madcap visual glory here.
7. Inherent Vice
No date set — There Will Be Blood was a statement film that immediately took its place as one of the most important movies in America’s cinematic history. Director P.T. Anderson’s Inherent Vice, based on the Thomas Pynchon novel and starring Joaquin Phoenix and Jena Malone, earns a place based on the fact that Anderson has yet to misfire. Phoenix is already one of our best actors. Malone is overdue for recognition. They’re joined by Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, and Reese Witherspoon.
December 12 — Starring Christian Bale as Moses. If that’s not event viewing, I don’t know what is. The last time director Ridley Scott ventured back in time in the Middle East, it was for the Crusade-era epic Kingdom of Heaven. The theatrical release was a gutted mess that cut out entire protagonists, and it was only in the director’s cut that the film evolved from a middling action movie into a profound contemplation on faith, moral obligations, and one’s place in the world. That director’s cut is Scott’s best film by far, and most will never see it. It’s exciting that he’s finally returning to his favorite subject matter, and with Bale, Ben Kingsley, Aaron Paul, and Sigourney Weaver on board to boot.
5. The Wind Rises
February 21 — I hit on this in my Godzilla preview, but the most important filmmaking in the post-World War 2 era was done in Japan. It was a country possessed by regret and a national shame for blindly following its fascist leaders into war, and traumatized by the dropping of two atomic bombs. Hayao Miyazaki is the director responsible for Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke. His animated worlds are evocative and emotional, but in his swan song, he trades in the fantasy genre to tell the story of an idealistic dreamer, a Japanese airplane designer, whose creations are used for war. The Wind Rises is currently up for an Oscar as Best Animated Film. Watch the trailer here.
4. Lawless & Knight of Cups
No date set — Terrence Malick is one of the most enigmatic directors in history. He made only three films in 30 years, each more lauded than the last, and now he’s made four films in the last four years. Both Lawless and Knight of Cups star Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, and Natalie Portman. Knight of Cups is about a man’s celebrity and excess in Hollywood. Lawless, which will likely be retitled, is about two intersecting love triangles in the Austin, TX music scene. It’s the higher profile of the two and also stars Angela Bettis, Michael Fassbender, Ryan Gosling, Holly Hunter, Val Kilmer, and Rooney Mara. These aren’t to be confused with Voyage of Time, which is Malick’s upcoming film about…the universe?…and was filmed in Kenya, and may not arrive this year. Heck, it’s Malick, we might not see any of these films until 2029, but chances are we’ll get the Bale pairing this year.
No date set — Susanne Bier’s After the Wedding was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film in 2007. Her In a Better World won it in 2011. Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper are both nominated in acting categories this year for American Hustle. It’s Lawrence’s third nomination. She won Best Actress last year.
In Serena, Lawrence is Serena Pemberton, a depression-era Lady MacBeth to Cooper’s timber baron George. Serena is the single role I’m most excited to witness in the coming year. Based on its pedigree, if a man had directed this, it’d be on everyone’s top 10 lists. As is, it’s virtually nonexistent.
2. The Raid 2
March 28 — The usual answer to, “What is the best action movie ever made?” is Die Hard. This is wrong. The correct answer is Raiders of the Lost Ark. Well, it was. In 2011, The Raid: Redemption complicated that answer. It was an Indonesian film by a Welsh director about an ill-fated police raid, and it combined the best of martial arts, gangster, horror, and Western action movies. The action was brutal, fast, emotional, and intelligent, but the tension that gave it its context was unparalleled. It wasn’t just a superb action movie, it was a superb movie, period. The sequel looks every bit as artful and intense while broadening the scope of its story. Watch the trailer here.
November 7 — Little is known about director Christopher Nolan’s follow-up to The Dark Knight trilogy. It’s about space travel and the discovery of a wormhole. A mysterious, heartbreaking, and inspirational trailer is our only clue, yet it doesn’t give a shred of plot away. The cast is a you-pick-’em of top flight actors – Anne Hathaway, Matthew McConaughey, Casey Affleck, Wes Bentley, Ellen Burstyn, Michael Caine, Jessica Chastain, Bill Irwin, John Lithgow. Nolan’s last standalone film was Inception, and that was worth the wait. Interstellar is the movie event of the year. Watch the trailer here. It’s worth it.