Freelance writer. Melbourne based cinephile. Fond of food.
Published January 1st 2014
Coming to a cinema near you
It's that time of year when film writers start telling you what the most anticipated films are for the coming 12 months. Their lists invariably contain the big studio blockbusters - the sequels, the remakes, the franchises with the merchandise tie-ins and so on. The hype starts now.
These are not the films at the top of my list. I want to see the latest films by the great directors of our time, fresh ideas from up and coming talent and original stories from all corners of the globe. So forget about the usual Hollywood suspects, here are the 10 films to keep an eye out for in 2014.
NB: I deliberately haven't included 12 Years a Slave, The Dallas Buyers Club, Her, Inside Llewyn Davis, Labor Day, Nebraska and The Past as they are all being released in the next few weeks and are getting plenty of media coverage.
Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the inimitable creator of such cinematic landmarks as Amelie, Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children would seem the perfect choice to bring the fantastical Selected Works of T.S. Spivet to the big screen. His ability to conjure up a vivid universe of unique characters and odd-ball detail makes him a natural fit for this journey into the active imagination of a boy genius. This should be that rare case of state of the art special effects being used to enhance innovative storytelling, not as a substitute. With the always entertaining Helena Bonham Carter and Australia's own Judy Davis in pivotal roles, there's much to look forward to here. Already a sizeable hit in its native France, this has all the ingredients to be a world-wide hit.
2. Breathe In
A film with a much more naturalistic feel, Breathe In is by 30 year old writer/director Drake Doremus. This is his follow up to Like Crazy, a small but intense film about the love between two teenagers, one British, the other American, and the complexities of trying to maintain a long distance relationship. It was raw and powerful and made with an assuredness that belied Doremus' young years. It featured two knock out performances from its even younger stars, one of which, Felicity Jones is the star of Breathe In. The English actress plays a foreign exchange student who has a destructive effect on the New York family she's staying with. This is a psychological drama that quietly tickles the dark underbelly of middle class middle aged suburbia, represented by Guy Pearce and Amy Ryan. An understated American Beauty perhaps?
La Jaula de Oro
3. La Jaula de Oro (The Golden Dream)
This looks to be a real highlight. First time Spanish director Diego Quemada-Diez won plenty of awards at festivals throughout 2013 for this drama about Guatemalan teenagers on a long trek to cross the border into the U.S. There have been many films about Hispanics and their struggle to immigrate to the promised land of America, it's a subject full of dramatic potential. La Jaula de Oro looks to be up with the best of them. It's had an enormous amount of praise heaped on it, and with the issues surrounding asylum seekers becoming more prominent in our headlines, this has the potential to really strike a chord when it finally gets released here.
Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu is responsible for some of the most gut-wrenching dramas of recent years, including Babel, 21 Grams, Biutiful and Amores Perros. The prospect of him making a comedy is an intriguing one. Ed Norton plays an actor who once had fame and fortune playing an iconic superhero. Since then he's fallen on hard times and is counting on his upcoming Broadway play to relaunch his career. Co-starring Emma Stone and Naomi Watts, it's clearly going to be a comedy with substance. As with all his previous films, we can count on some great performances from its cast.
The result of the latest trend in film funding, Kickstart, Bridegroom's $385,000 budget was completely donated by the general public. Based on the 11 minute youtube video It Could Happen To You, this is a cry out for marriage equality through the true story of Shane Bitney Crone. After six years with the man of his dreams, his life was shattered when his boyfriend, Tom, died in an accident. The worst was yet to come though, as Tom's family, disapproving of their son's sexuality, refused Shane access to any of Tom's belongings, or even to attend his funeral. Without the option of marriage, Shane, like any one else who's gay, has no more legal rights than if he'd have been a mere flatmate. Another hot button issue with added hankie potential
6. Me Myself and Mum
Also on a gay theme, but with a lot more laughs, Me Myself and Mum is based on the autobiographical one-man play by Guillaume Gallienne. He wrote and directed the screen version and plays himself and his mother in this coming-out tale which won two awards at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and went on to be a big box office hit in France. Like La Cage Aux Folles, this could be that rare comedy that actually translates into an international success.
7. The Voices
Iranian director Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis and Chicken with Plums) is not afraid to mix genres, or animation with live action. The Voices sees her this time straddling the line between comedy and thriller. Ryan Reynolds plays Jerry, a loveable but disturbed factory worker with an attraction to one of his colleagues, played by Anna Kendrick. Romance and murder ensue. Jacki Weaver continues her late career run as international supporting actress du jour. Oh, and Jerry has an evil cat and a kind dog, both of whom have speaking parts.
I'm conflicted about this one. South Korean iconoclast Joon-ho Bong is a master with a camera. His local hits The Host and Mother are testament to that. Snowpiercer, which is his English language debut, stars the stupendous Tilda Swinton in addition to Jamie Bell, John Hurt, Chris Evans, Ed Harris and Octavia Spencer. By all accounts this a futuristic epic with style to burn. Only problem is the Weinstein company have distribution rights to the film in America and have cut big chunks out to make it a more marketable length and easier for folk in small mid-Western American towns to understand what's going on. This will no doubt be the version we get. It's happened before with Asian films that they've distributed. The director's cut will surely surface soon after, just to squeeze a bit more money out of us. Let's hope we don't have to wait too long for it.
This is my one concession to big budget Hollywood studio films. But then again, Christopher Nolan is not your typical Hollywood hit-maker. Such heady fare as Memento and Inception are prime examples of just how innovative he is. He even breathed new life into the Batman franchise with his extraordinary Dark Knight trilogy. Interstellar involves space travel through a newly discovered wormhole, and has a starry cast that includes Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Ellen Burstyn and John Lithgow. We don't need to know any more, we just know we have to see it.
10. Far From the Madding Crowd, Gone Girl and The Keeper of Lost Causes
OK, I'm going to cheat now because I can't get my must-see list down to 10. So here are three book adaptations that look to make a satisfying translation to the big screen.
The remake of Far From the Madding Crowd, because Thomas Hardy's timeless story of a woman torn between men just can't be told enough. Directed by Denmark's Thomas Vinterburg, who's back at the top of his game after the excellent The Hunt, it stars Carey Mulligan as the inexperienced Bathsheba (played by Julie Christie in the 1966 version) who must decide between a safe and secure marriage or the edgy and exciting alternative. Her suitors are portrayed by Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge and Matthias Schoenaerts, although not necessarily in the roles you'd expect.
Recent bestseller Gone Girl is right up David Fincher's alley. It's smart, fast-moving with lots of turns and has an ever resourceful female protagonist. The director of Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Panic Room, Fight Club, The Social Network et al looks to have another winner on his hands, and Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck are perfect in their respective parts.
Speaking of Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the original book really got the ball rolling on an incredible output of crime fiction in Scandinavia. Since the Millennium trilogy there's been a raft of feature films including Headhunters and Easy Money and TV series such as The Bridge and The Killing. The Keeper of Lost Causes is the first of the Department Q series of books and the film version is currently sweeping across Northern Europe. It has the smarts to be the next Scandi breakout hit.
Most of these films don't have release dates yet, but should surface in the second half of the year. I recommend you keep them in mind. I wish you all happy viewing in 2014. Here's to another good year in cinema.