Being that I’m only a few films away from compiling my “Top Ten” list for 2011, I’ve started to turn my attention to 2012. Despite the strong year that 2011 was, I’ve been excited for 2012 ever since 2010 ended. Strangely enough, I’ve been secretly hoping that I don’t meet my doom in order to see a few of 2012’s films. Admittedly, I’m strange in the fact that I often gauge my excitement for an event or item based on my mortality. Yes, when it comes to something as small as seeing a particular movie, I always wonder if I will live long enough to see it come to fruition. It’s selfish and a little bit sad, especially when one considers there are more important things to worry about it in life, but film is my passion. It’s an irrational love that supersedes my very own life. So, it is with great conviction that I ask God, or the floating spaghetti monster in the sky, to let me live until the clock strikes midnight on December 31st, 2012. Mind you, this is a moot point considering the world will be over at that point, but I’d at least like to live until I see the films mentioned below.
10. The Great Gatsby: I don’t particularly like Baz Luhrmann. I enjoy his films from a visual standpoint, but they leave me feeling underwhelmed on an emotional level. Case and point: Australia. Working in The Great Gatsby’s favor is the fact that Luhrmann’s cast is anchored by the indelible Carey Mulligan and Leonardo DiCaprio. I’d see just about any movie with those two in it. Also, considering I’m a bit of a lazy reader, Luhrmann’s adaptation will afford me the opportunity to become familiar with what’s said to be a literary classic. I know, I should do my due diligence and just read the novel, but I’m going to act like a kid and just stick my tongue out at you. Now that we’ve plowed through my immaturity, I’m also deeply interested in seeing Tobey Maguire resurrect his career in a significant role. Maguire is a gifted actor that has vanished as of late, and I’d personally love to see him regain his acting mojo against the lush visuals of Luhrmann. Here’s to at least a pretty film.
9. The Hobbit: Visually speaking, we know what Middle-Earth looks like. Peter Jackson gave us an unforgettable tour years ago in his Lord of the Rings trilogy. Jackson’s ability to penetrate Tolkien’s mythology was a mesmerizing feat. The question becomes, after being nearly a decade removed from his last foray into Middle-Earth, does Peter Jackson still have his finger on the pulse of Tolkien’s creation? We’ll find out when The Hobbit is released. No one can doubt that the film will be a technical achievement, but one can question whether Jackson has enough material to make two films. I think he can mine enough thematic material to do so, but I also wonder if Jackson is in the right mindset after the film’s many delays and fleeting directors. Not to mention, Jackson’s last film, The Lovely Bones, saw Jackson at his worst: putting special effects before the story. Knowing Jackson’s affinity for Tolkien’s work, I have a hard time imagining this film being anything other than a worthwhile spectacle.
8. Les Misérables: Fresh off his Oscar for The King’s Speech, Tom Hooper is riding high and he’s looking to prove his mettle with a film adaptation of the musical Les Misérables. After having seen the stage production twice and being enamored with the musical’s scope, I figured it was only a matter of time until a filmmaker attempted to bring the beloved musical to the cinema. Is Tom Hooper the right choice? I couldn’t tell you. Whenever a musical is brought to the screen by a director who doesn’t have experience in this genre, I tend to be cautiously optimistic. Thankfully the material is strong on its own accord and simply needs a director that can make sure the emotional components transfer from stage to screen. Let’s hope, with Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman’s voice in tow, Hooper can deliver a film that capitalizes on the musical’s cinematic potential.
7. Argo: As I indicated in my review for Ben Affleck’s last directorial effort, I’m wholly interested in seeing his third adventure behind the camera. After all, The Town, although slightly ridiculous, was a powder keg of action and drama that led to an explosive viewing. Considering that Affleck’s next project, Argo, revolves around the rescuing of six U.S. Diplomats from Tehran, Iran during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, I’m sure the tension will be inescapable. What is most ingenious about this true account is that the six diplomats who ended up being rescued were done so by convincing Iran that the diplomats were part of a camera crew scouting for a film. Watching the political turmoil unspool sounds like a treat, but the con being pulled underneath the Iranian’s nose will also make for an incomparable drama. Outside of the narrative, I’m eager to see if Affleck’s third film can further substantiate his keen eye behind the camera.
6. Brave: Pixar, at least in my opinion, didn’t make a bad film until Cars 2 came along and fucked things up. Where Cars 2 looked like Disney was forcing Pixar’s hand into a merchandising cash cow, Brave appears to be Pixar going back to their storytelling roots. If the trailer holds true, Brave will undoubtedly be Pixar’s most beautiful film. Taking place in Scotland, Pixar attempts to craft a story in the vein of Scottish lore. Their tale is about an archer, Merida (Kelly Macdonald), races against time to save her kingdom and prevent a curse from wreaking havoc on herself. Considering this is Pixar, there will surely be a morality tale for all involved, but it likely won’t be shoved down our throats. Another interesting note about Brave is that it features a female lead character. It’s the first in the company’s history. Could this be the antithesis to Disney’s typical princess tales? That has yet to be seen, but it’s impressive to see that Pixar continues to grow as storytellers even after all these years. Most importantly, it’s even better to see them tempt their hand at delivering an animated film driven by a strong female.
5. Lincoln: For as entertaining as Spielberg’s films can be, his best work often hails from the halls of history. Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, etc. are all films that not only mine the past for drama, but also handle it with great respect. This creed should hold true for Spielberg’s next historical, passion project Lincoln. The film details the battle Lincoln has with his contemporaries as the Civil War nears an end and slavery is on the cusp of being abolished. Who will play the United States’ great emancipator? None other than Daniel Day-Lewis. Not only does Day-Lewis look uncannily like Lincoln, but his desire and passion for assembling a complete performance will surely lead to a memorable portrayal that sees him embody a man who we’ve come to know only in the classroom. Considering Spielberg’s intense research for projects like this, and the terrific cast surrounding DDL (Sally Field, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tommy Lee Jones, etc.), not even the fear of John Williams’ cloying score can keep me from being first in line to see this.
4. Django Unchained: What’s that? You want to see Tarantino’s referential eyes tackle America’s slave years in the form of a spaghetti western? SO DO I! Tarantino, never afraid to back down from a plot that seems taboo or borderline exploitative, will take us on a cinematic journey that will surely feature vicious violence and musical anachronisms. Starring Jamie Foxx as a freed slave on a mission to recover his wife from a plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio), Django Unchained marks yet another Tarantino film filled with inspired casting choices. None are more inspired than DiCaprio as a slave owner, who will surely get the chance to chew some scenery. Will Django Unchained be a triumphant endeavor much like Inglourious Basterds? Or will it falter like Tarantino’s Death Proof back in 2007? Considering the cast (Christoph Waltz, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Sacha Baron Cohen, etc.) and the power Tarantino possesses over his character’s mouths, I find it hard to believe this film will fail to deliver.
3. Gravity: Back in 2006, Alfonso Cuaron directed arguably one of the best films of the millennium’s first decade. Said film was Children of Men, a visceral science fiction film set in a bleak landscape that saw humans immune to conception. It was a foreboding picture that featured unbelievable cinematography, fantastic camera work and a sense of hope that nearly moved me to tears. After six years Cuaron is back and ready to push the technical levels of film to a whole new level. Gravity exists on the same plane as Duncan Jones’ Moon. It’s an apt comparison because both revolve around the isolated survival of an astronaut. Well, in actuality, Gravity features two astronauts, Ryan (Sandra Bullock) and Matt (George Clooney), who are stranded in space after a debris storms destroys their station and kills their comrades. Said to be intensively focused on Bullock’s character and featuring special effects that are a benchmark for film, Gravity will likely be a feast for the eyes and the heart. You know you have a great film when Guillermo del Toro is excited by it. Oh. Did I mention it is believed to have a twenty-minute long opening shot? I’m so turned on right now.
2. The Dark Knight Rises: Without a single shred of plot information being revealed nor confirmed, The Dark Knight Rises is already selling out tickets. Clearly I’m not the only person excited for this. Considering that this is Christopher Nolan’s last foray into the Batman universe, pointing to a clear ending for this current incarnation, The Dark Knight Rises will be a much-anticipated money shot. What excites me about this film in particular is how Nolan will push the series’ narrative. Seeing how Batman Begins evolved into The Dark Knight, a crime saga that played more like Heat than a comic book film, I can only expect Nolan to expand the narrative potential for the finale. Pushing my interest in the film is Nolan’s inclusion of the calculated, behemoth known as Bane. He isn’t the prototypical villain you encounter in a comic book film, especially when one considers there are more popular baddies in Batman’s lore, but he will surely be magnified by the charismatic and menacing Tom Hardy. Midnight showing, here I come!
1. The Master: I’m a Paul Thomas Anderson whore. If you’ve read this blog long enough, you know I will go to great lengths to verbally blow this guy. Five years after There Will Be Blood, you better believe I’ll be promoting his next film like crazy. If you don’t like my PTA diarrhea, 2012 may be a bad year to read me. In any event, The Master tells the tale of World War II veteran Lester Dodd’s (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) return home. Disenfranchised from the horrors he’s seen, Dodd starts a religion and takes in a drifter, Freddie Sutton (Joaquin Phoenix), to be his protégé. Yet, as things progress for Dodd’s religion, Freddie begins to question his leader’s intentions. The original script for this, when it leaked well over a year ago, featured allusions to L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology. Whether these comparisons are intact is unknown. Nonetheless, expect a controversial film that will push a few religious buttons, feature unbelievable camera work from PTA and a polarizing score from Jonny Greenwood.
Additional films on my radar: Moonrise Kingdom, Take This Waltz, The Amazing Spider-Man, Kill Bin Laden, Skyfall, Alps, World War Z, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.