Curator's Note: I'm far from done looking backing at 2013 (and playing catch-up with everything I missed, big and small), but we're already nearly a week into 2014 and it's time to look forward to what this year has to offer. (See last year's list for The Most Anticipated Films of 2013.) As always, the "release date" game is a bloody headache. As an American cinephile based in Los Angeles, I'm going to continue adhering to U.S. release dates for all my listings and rankings, this one included. While half of my choices are still without a hard date for their U.S. release I'm using my best judgement (based on similar films' release patterns) to include them here because I believe they will be.
10. How To Catch a Monster (June 19 - Netherlands)
Ryan Gosling, much like Matthew McConaughey, is proving that he only took part in romantic pictures to establish himself in the business so that he could work with true artists and take incredible chances later down the road. After last year's double-punch of The Place Beyond the Pines and Only God Forgives, he is showing up this year behind the camera as writer/director on How to Catch a Monster. It's a fantasy/thriller that has "neo-noir" being attached to its descriptors! The story of a single mother whose teenaged son discovers an underwater world. Might the title actually be literal? Talented beauties (namely Eva Mendes, Saoirse Ronan and Mad Men's Christina Hendricks) sweeten the deal.
9. The Hobbit: There and Back Again (December 17th)
The "butter spread over too much bread" (to borrow a line from Bilbo himself) adaptation of my favorite book continues and concludes by the year's end. Mostly, I'm just eager to see this finally close and hopefully without too much fuss, but after the noticeable step up that was The Desolation of Smaug I'm genuinely psyched as well. They ended that film sooner than I thought they would giving There and Back Again plenty of action to anticipate (including a dragon fight and a battle between five armies).
8. Sin City: A Dame To Kill For (August 22)
A Dame To Kill For made last year's list so I'm still holding out hope it will finally be released (and I'm hoping in eye-popping/gouging 3D too). Here's pretty much what I said last January: 2005's Sin City was one of the most visually striking films of the last decade. The hard black-and-white base with choice colors was an aesthetic that grabbed my eyeballs from beginning to end. The noir detective beat, with a cast of characters gave the style so much substance. It was a dark, dreary, and sometimes disgusting ride, but what a tale! I am both excited and scared to return to the titular metropolis. Much of the original cast (who did not get castrated, shot up, eaten or otherwise disemboweled) will be returning for this one with some new faces like Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
7. Foxcatcher (TBA)
Originally due out during last year's Awards circuit, the latest film from the terrifically talented Bennett Miller (see The Cruise, Capote and Moneyball - no really, see them all if you haven't) tackles the true story of the Olympic wrestling Schultz brothers and John du Pont. I know few details, but unfortunately I know the outcome (damn you IMDb synopsis!) of what I'll only describe as a terrible and tragic event. Besides Miller, who seems to have a knack for telling bizarrely factual American stories in his own quiet way, casting stars against type has me really eager to see it. Steve Carell plays du Pont and Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo play the brothers. A trailer for this leaked a few months back and I got a sneak peek at Carell's performance. Trust me, he's going to be an Oscar contender come 2015.
6. Interstellar (November 7th)
Christopher Nolan has had a free pass to direct whatever big-budget blockbuster he and his brother Jonathan can fathom up for a while now. Last time that brought about Inception. While his Batman trilogy did not end on the highest of notes (the weakest of the trilogy in my estimation, but admirable enough) I'm hopeful in anything entirely original he takes on even if the Interstellar teaser was an utter waste of 90 seconds. Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Matthew McConaughey, Michael Caine (of course) and Casey Affleck set to star in a voyage that takes us past the stars.
5. The Tale of Princess Kaguya (January 30 - Hong Kong)
The latest film from Studio Ghibli (yes, even more recent than The Wind Rises), how could it not make my list? Ghibli is/was a two-headed dragon. Most of us only know or talk about Hayao Miyazaki (deservingly so, he's wildly more prolific than the other head), but Isao Takahata is his partner in goodness and over the years as proved to have just as steady a track record, if significantly smaller: Grave of the Fireflies, Pom Poko and My Neighbors the Yamadas. His latest, The Tale of Princess Kaguya (AKA The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter) looks to be in a similar minimal, hand-drawn style as Yamadas and adapts a Japanese folktale. This marks Takahata's first film for Ghibli in some 14 years, that's something to be exicted about - especially as Miyazaki himself appears to have stepped off the stage for the time being. It's not certain if this will get a U.S. release this year (as they typically cast and record a English language voice-track), but I'm taking my chances.
4. The Grand Budapest Hotel (March 7th)
Wes Anderson has never made a remotely bad film. While I might not have been as over the moon about The Fantastic Mr. Fox and Moonrise Kingdom as everyone aboard the W.A. train, I daresay I'm as excited as any of you to check into The Grand Budapest Hotel. The Anderson films I love most, The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic, are about iconic familial or familiar ensembles stuck together in just as iconic of surroundings. Huh, I guess you could say that about all of Anderson's films. Returning talent (Goldblum, Schwartzmen, Swinton, Dafoe, Norton and of course Wilson and Murray) with new-to-Anderson talent (Ralph Fiennes, Harvey Keitel, Saoirse Ronan and Blue is the Warmest Color's Léa Seydoux) are only some of the known names comprising the ensemble this time around. Just feast your eyes upon this poster to realize the potential here. Mostly, it was the incredible trailer and cast of characters teaser that made me realize this is the return of the Wes Anderson that I love most.
3. Birdman (TBA)
As much as I revere Alfonso Cuarón, even after my saddening second screening of Gravity, my favorite contemporary Mexican director would have to be Alejandro González Iñárritu. Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel and Buitiful are as heavy of dramas as you could find in the Americas before going across either pond to even more bleak territory. Some have even gone so far as to call the man's work "suffering porn." Well, that may change with Birdman, the director's first American film and first comedy about a once big actor, famous for playing a superhero, who manages his life and plans his revival on the stage instead of the screen. Michael Keaton stars (art imitating life eh?), Edward Norton, Naomi Watts and Emma Stone co-star.
2. The Raid 2: Berandal (January 21st - Sundance Film Festival / March 27th)
We're done here. (This also made my list last year. I was a little overly anticipatory for its arrival as they weren't even finished shooting until a few months ago.)
1. Inherent Vice (TBA)
Three letters: P.T.A. He's the single strongest American filmmaker working today and his output just gets more and more surprising. The Master was my #1 film of 2012. There Will Be Blood was my #1 film of 2007. Punch-Drunk Love was damn near the top for 2002, and that's just what he's accomplished in the 21st Century, to say nothing of Magnolia (which would take us to "all-time" territory) and the better-with-each-viewing Boogie Nights. I know nothing outside of a one-sentence plot synopsis of the Thomas Pynchon novel Inherent Vice is inherently based on, or anything about Pynchon at all for that matter. This marks the second time Anderson is "adapting" an existing text (Upton Sinclair's Oil! burns somewhere within Blood). A drug-addled detective beating '70s Los Angeles sounds good enough to me, but bringing Joaquin Phoenix back (the strongest American actor working today) to work with Anderson - what could be better? What?! Other casting choices (Martin Short?, Owen Wilson?, Reese Witherspoon? and Josh Brolin) further bewilder/entice. I just recently saw The Long Goodbye for the first time. Altman being Anderson's favorite filmmaker there's bound to be some inspiration there too - just more fuel to this choice. Nothing comes close to beating this as my most anticipated film of 2014 (okay, The Raid 2 does come pretty close).
Two Far East offerings that have already opened up in their respective territories that will likely be getting a U.S. release this year that may have made this list if I hadn't already seen them (geez, that was a mouthful of a clarifier): Unforgiven and Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons. (Hint: Only one is worth the wait in my opinion.) I'm certain I'd be more justifiable excited about the possible arrival of two new films from Tsai Ming-Liang, Stray Dogs and Journey to the West, if had seen any of the director's previous films. A grave error and one of the many existing canons I plan to marathon this year (Bergman and Godard, you're in my sights too).
Two Westerns are due out in 2014: Jane Got a Gun (which had a very troubled production with cast and a director walking out) and A Million Ways to Die in the West (Seth MacFarlane's follow-up to Ted). If I had more faith in either they could have made my list.
There's a handful of blockbusters that would have made my list if the competition were not so fierce: Edge of Tomorrow, Muppets Most Wanted, How To Train Your Dragon 2, The LEGO Movie (eh, why not), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Godzilla. I'm even more excited to see the following superhero movies: Guardians of the Galaxy, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and X-Men: Days of Future Past. I'm mixed on Captain America: Winter Soldier.
Two films that would have made the list if their trailers hadn't absolutely shattered my hopes and dreams: Noah and Snowpiercer. The former looks like American auteur Darren Aronofsky sold his soul to Paramount and that in hopes to make a Biblical film for everyone they will in fact make it for no one (I can't wait to see what Christian audiences make of the six-armed alien angels!). The latter looks like Korean auteur Bong Joon-ho swallowed a bigger budget than he could handle in what's his first "American" film. Will the film ever see the light of day in the States? And how much will be in tact after Harvey "Scissorhands" Weinstein is through with it? Snowpiercer was my most anticipated film of 2013, second only to Gravity.
Other director-centric films I'm anticipating in 2014:
- George Clooney's The Monuments Men (this once would-be Oscar contender was troublingly pushed to the "dumping field" that is January-February releases, why?)
- Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin (every movie this guy makes looks to be wildly different than the one before it)
- Dylan Kidd's Get a Job (he has not directed a film since 2004's P.S., I'm sure he has a lot to say, and through Bryan Cranston no less)
- The Wachowski Siblings' Jupiter Ascending (nobody repeatedly goes to the well of sci-fi with more ambition)
- Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive (never been the least bit bored by any of his films, and Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston feel like the perfect couple of vampires)
- Jon Stewart's Rosewater (yes, that Jon Stewart)
- Todd Field's The Creed of Violence
- Kelly Reichardt’s Night Moves
- Larry Smith's Trafficker
- Hirokazu Koreeda's Like Father, Like Son
- Gia Coppola's Palo Alto
- David Fincher's Gone Girl (it seemeth insane to have a Fincher film not make my list, but I'm one of the few who have no attachment to the source and just don't find myself dying to see this one, though you can bet I'll still catch it opening weekend)
- David Cronenberg's Map to the Stars
- Denis Villeneuve's Enemy
- Marjane Satrapi’s The Voices
- Tim Burton's Big Eyes
Finally, festival films from 2013 that could have made my list if I ever thought they were getting a U.S. release:
- Terry Gilliam's The Zero Theorum
- Ari Folman's The Congress
- Johnnie To's Blind Detective (last year he also gave us Drug War)
- Jafar Panahi's Closed Curtain (can't to see what he's been up to since This is Not a Film)
- Inese Kjava and Ivars Zviedris' Documentarian
- Jazmín López's Leones
- Hong Sang-soo's Nobody's Daughter Haewon
- Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzan's The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears (the trailer for this truly wowed me)
- Wang Bing's Til Madness Do Us Part
- Xavier Dolan's Tom At the Farm
- Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel's He Maketh a Path to Shine After Him; One Would Think the Deep to Be Hoary (their follow-up to Leviathan)
(Curator's Note: Most of these and others can be found in the crucial list over at Film.com, "The 25 Best Undistributed Films of 2013.")
Well, there's my list of the most anticipated films of 2014. It'll be a miracle if most of them are released. Have I overlooked something or do you know I something I should know about any of these choices? More importantly, which film(s) are you most looking forward to this year? Join the discussion in the comments below. For even more films to look forward to check out lists on the same topic over at /Film and Total Film.