For this list I decided not to consider any of the awards contender films from 2013 that have yet to see international releases, and only films that I was aware of prior to the reports form the Sundance Film Festival (that’s going on right now).
10.’Wish I Was Here’ (Zach Braff)
A credibility-destroying choice to begin with. Honestly, I remember seriously enjoying Garden State, Zach Braff’s debut as a writer/director many years ago. I watched it numerous times in my student days and it looked to be a promising career starting point for Braff. That never came to pass, he stuck with TV show Scrubs long past its sell-by date and appeared in a handful of poor feature films, including Oz the Great and Powerful, before turning to kickstarter last year to raise funds for a new film, almost a decade after his first premiered. I’m a little afraid to watch Garden State again now considering how it doesn’t seem too fondly remembered in general (I haven’t seen it in years), but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t intrigued to see how his sophomore film will finally turn out.
09.’Calvary’ (John Michael McDonagh)
John Michael McDonagh follows up on his hilarious debut The Guard with a similar looking black comedy, again starring Brendan Gleeson, though as a priest this time, in a rural Irish setting.
08.’Transcendence’ (Wally Pfister)
Christopher Nolan’s long-time cinematographer Wally Pfister makes his directorial debut in this intriguing sci-fi thriller, based on a buzzed-about original screenplay concerning artificial intelligence. From the looks of things it appears Pfister’s sensibilities seem quite in tune with Nolan’s, but I’m trying to avoid any further plot details, hoping for an all-too rare smart blockbuster. Stars Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany and Morgan Freeman.
07.’Sabotage’ (David Ayer)
David Ayer follows-up his excellent End of Watch by updating an Agatha Christie mystery as an action thriller. Arnold Schwarzenegger leads an ensemble cast including Terrence Howard and Olivia Williams. I’ve been enjoying Schwarzenegger’s comeback so far and this looks like it could be a further improvement. Ayer also has World War II film Fury out in November.
06.’White Bird in a Blizzard’ (Gregg Araki)
Gregg Araki appeared to leave behind his days of making wild, crazy teen movies with the devastatingly powerful child-abuse drama Mysterious Skin in 2004, but since made one fun but forgettable light-hearted comedy (Smiley Face) then went right back with the bonkers Kaboom. White Bird in a Blizzard though, looks to be a much more mature film, concerning “A young woman whose life is thrown into chaos when her mother disappears”. Teen actress of the moment Shailene Woodley (The Spectacular Now) stars.
05.’Jupiter Ascending’ (Andy & Lana Wachowski)
I’ve been quite vocal in my appreciation of Cloud Atlas, so whatever the Wachowskis were going to turn their hands to next was going to place highly on my list. Though unimpressed by the film’s stars (Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis), this still could have made my number 1 spot until I saw the trailer a few weeks ago. Aside from some of the visuals, it didn’t fill me with hope, but there are plenty of good films with bad trailers (and vice-versa) so I’m still holding out that this could be another amazing slice of sci-fi.
04.’The Grand Budapest Hotel’ (Wes Anderson)
A Wes Anderson film remains a singular experience. I was in a minority in being disappointed in his last film, Moonrise Kingdom (though I’ve yet to see it for a second time, so it could improve), but the sheer strength of his prior body of work far outweighs concern about that. He’s assembled a whopping cast for his new film, featuring a host of returning Anderson company stars plus a few new ones (headed up by Ralph Fiennes) This looks fantastic.
03.’Sin City: A Dame to Kill For’ (Robert Rodriguez & Frank Miller)
Long awaited, long delayed, we first heard talk of a sequel to Sin City before the first film had even opened back in early 2005. In the meantime, Robert Rodriguez seemed happy to churn out sequels to all of his film except the one everyone really wanted. He finally announced Sin City 2 in 2012, but it was then delayed yet again (twice), this year, at last, we should get a chance to see it. The film will reportedly consist of a mixture of adapted and original material, and as before, Rodriguez has again hired an eclectic and expansive cast to bring Frank Miller’s comic-book world to life.
02.’Interstellar’ (Christopher Nolan)
Christopher Nolan’s next film is an original science-fiction thriller co-written with his brother Jonathan. The story apparently concerns wormholes, but I really don’t want to know any more about it, I’m already sold. Nolan managed to get Inception filmed and released (to huge success) without having to reveal key details, and the teaser trailer for Interstellar is a textbook example of how to sell an original movie without giving away anything about the plot. It’s also noteworthy that, unlike most of his previous big films, this is getting a November release, meaning it may well be shaping up to be a potential awards candidate. Career renaissance man Matthew McConaughey leads a very impressive cast.
01.’Boyhood’ (Richard Linklater)
Richard Linklater’s been working on this incredibly ambitious epic for over a decade. Starting in 2002, he filmed for a short period once every year in order to “tell the story of a parent-child relationship that follows a boy from the first through the 12th grade and ends with him going off to college”. Linklater’s already given us a masterclass in long-term storytelling with the Before… series, but this sounds like something else entirely, and something never attempted on film before. I can’t wait to see it.
Some other film’s I’m really looking forward to, David Fincher’s Gone Girl, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy, Tommy Lee Jones’ The Horseman, Atom Egoyan’s Devil’s Knot, Gareth Evans’ The Raid 2, and on the larger end of the scale, Godzilla (header pic), Noah, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and X-Men: Days of Future Past.