It’s always wonderful to see the year go on and the movies evolve along with it. Because of the politics and marketing/award winning strategies we put up with, it means we have a period of horrible movies at the start of the year (as all of the “best” movies are saved for the end of the year) while all of the main money makers are saved for the summer time. While the wait for quality work does take a while, it’s also fascinating. It’s as if we watch movies age. We see them as immature children at the start of the year (some well meaning, others a complete nuisance), we watch them grow into teenagers that adore action, sex and fun, and then we watch movies gracefully age into dignified adults with qualifications, wisdom and drive.
With a few good movies having come out, we are approaching graduation day, where movies of 2013 will enter the real world and will dazzle us as they did the end of 2012, 2011 and so forth. For any film geek, these next few months will be Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza, New Years and basically every other year ending holiday at once (including the occasional nightmare of a film, we can call those Halloween). To set up my decorations in advance, and because I’ve been waiting a very long time during those initial months of torture of 2013, here are the top ten films you should be looking out for this year.
10. Snowpiercer (설국열차)
Now this film is so far down because it’s already been released in Korea, and the Weinsteins have commanded that twenty minutes be taken out for North American audiences. As I wait to see the full cut, and as I hear good things from those overseas who have already seen the movie, I can safely say I am still excited for this movie. With a well known and talented cast (Chris Evans, Octavia Spencer, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, to name a few) and a non-Hollywood edge (save for that demonized 20 minutes shorter version, I imagine), Bong Joon-ho’s English debut is a very original and clever concept. When most life on Earth has been killed by a second ice age and the only survivors live inside of a train, the class systems of the world work their way even on a constantly moving machine. When the lower class decide to fight against authority and take over the train, we are left with what can only be a brilliant metaphor for the state of the world now. With, ironically, higher ups dictating how the movie should be seen, I’ll just wait for the full story with much anticipation.
9. Big Bad Wolf
This touchy thriller deals with disturbed fathers of murdered children. With different roles, the three fathers will show the different perspectives of such a tragedy: The uniformed, the hostile and the accused. With what seems like a similar mindset of the film Mystic River, only much darker, Big Bad Wolf appears to take a very sensitive and disturbing concept and open up a door of possibilities. Will it be darkly comical? Will it be a shocker? Will it go above and beyond the average human psyche or will it stay within the realms of sanity? Regardless of whether or not the film will pay off, such a risk is fascinating and worthy of some sort of attention, and this Israeli film may be a future entry in the Best Foreign Film category of many awards ceremonies.
8. Inside Llewyn Davis
Well it looks like the Coen brothers are at it again. There are two kinds of Coen brothers movies once you become familiar with their catalogue (and you should be): The grande spectacle (including No Country for Old Men, True Grit, O Brother Where Art Thou?) and the story of the everyday man in perhaps not everyday scenarios (Fargo, The Big Lebowski, A Serious Man). Inside Llewyn Davies falls into the latter category, as the title character (played by Oscar Isaac) is a struggling folk musician trying to make a living. Like most Coen brothers movies, you can expect some dark comedy, as can be seen in the trailers already. Instantly you can see some perfect comic timing from actors like Carey Mulligan, John Goodman and Isaac himself. Apart from the fact that I’m always keen on seeing another movie by the Coen brothers, it will be interesting to see Isaac in a leading role. It will also be worth noting how the film can be applied to today’s economic situation and whether or not the movie makes any sort of statement on it. If not, we can expect a hilarious and emotional ride as per usual, as we watch an everyday man’s triumphs and struggles.
7. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
Another Southern film coming out is this thriller of redemption and self sacrifice. A husband and wife are tested when the wife, played by Rooney Mara, shoots an officer and the husband, played by Casey Affleck, blames himself for the crime and turns himself in to protect her. When he finds out she has given birth, he decides that enough is enough and he breaks out of jail to reunite with them again. Joined by actors Ben Foster and Keith Carradine, amongst others, this movie has a pretty solid cast and a relatable story taken to severe proportions. It seems like it will go against the normal cliches found in stories of self sacrifice, as, similarly to Inside Llewyn Davis, we are dealing with everyday people. We are dealing with people who clearly make mistakes and could very well make more. We are also dealing with not just love, but the complete loss of identity when a father misses his own child’s birth due to his choice to protect his wife. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints looks to be an emotional rush and a very candid film, and with a stellar cast, it could be a fantastic film.
Speaking of humanity’s need to think with their heart, we have Her, an eventual return from Spike Jonze. In a world of iPods and iPhones, where Apple has turned everything into a product of ones self, the appropriately titled Her is about the future where a computer system is built to satisfy the system’s owner; Yet the movie becomes about her, not I. Joaquin Phoenix returns after a brilliant performance in last year’s The Master as a polar opposite of what he played before; He is now a vulnerable, overly nice man who opens up his heart way too often. When the computer, voiced by Scarlett Johansson, only does her job and works for him, he comes into contact with his past, which includes emails from past relationships. His inability to block out his past now renders him connected to his computer, and even amorous with it. Her is yet another clever movie by Jonze in theory, and, seeing his resume, will no doubt be executed with poise. With a statement on how we treasure technology, especially when we suffer emotionally in the real world, Her is a quest for identity and belonging that will fit very will in today’s society.
Oh Lars Von Trier. You always push the envelope, even if it is a little too far. If you cannot tell what a movie titled Nymphomaniac will be about, especially with Von Trier behind the camera, perhaps your innocence should remain intact. If you’re too far gone, then a movie like this may end up being an exceptional one. With, reportedly, real intercourse being filmed, a lot of controversy has already been stirred up by this racy film about sex addiction. However, I can assume we won’t have a Caligula part 2 on our hands, as the teaser trailers have already been released and they are absolutely chilling. With Von Trier’s usually excellent cinematography, we have scenes of Shia LaBeouf preying on a woman in his work outfit (with what may be the role that finally breaks him out of his comfort zone. Hey, that English accent actually wasn’t too bad!) and it is terrifying. To be disturbed so easily and so quickly without even seeing the most intense parts is an accomplishment. Instead of the pointlessness Caligula spewed, we may have a film that speaks about sexual addiction the way Steve McQueen’s underrated film Shame did, and the controversial scenes of sexual activity may very well add to the movie instead of being there just for the sake of it. Whether or not this movie works, we have something that dares to fight what can be shown or mentioned within a movie, and any movie that tries something new is worth a shot, I say.
4. The Fifth Estate
If this movie is as good as it seems or even if it is a massive disappointment, it is still a story that should be told. If it strays far from the truth or sticks closely to it, the impact WikiLeaks has made on the world in recent years needs to be brought to light for the uninformed and to be represented for the aware. Julian Assange is represented not by a biography, but by a perspective adapted from his former co-worker’s (Daniel Domscheit-Berg) book about working with him. Already, this will promise a balance between seeing Assange as a hero and Assange as a man who strives for power. What can we have that will better represent this concern? One of our generation’s leading actors, of course, with Benedict Cumberbatch playing Assange. In a trailer alone, we see Cumberbatch cover all of the bases: He’s captivating, he’s frightening, he’s penetrable, he’s unstoppable. That, mixed with a spot on accent and a complete change in personality, leaves us with a possible Best Actor winner at hand. As well, we have the always wonderful Daniel Brühl as Domscheit-Berg, and we could always use Brühl’s talents on our side of the world, and this could be the movie that propels him to North American cinema even more (if Inglourious Basterds didn’t start that transition already). The Fifth Estate may mirror 2010’s excellent film The Social Network by sharing the change in character of a man who spoke to the world by a website, and it even has the possibility of being even better.
3. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
I cannot wait for a Ben Stiller movie. Never thought I would say that! I don’t think many of us would think that. There’s nothing wrong with Ben Stiller, though. Sure he picks some awful movies, but he always tries in them, right? With The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which he is directing and starring in, we may see Stiller at his absolute best. To finally see a talent that is unaffected by poor jokes and writing is one thing. That’s not the only reason why this movie is to be kept an eye on. Do me a favor and look at the trailer. It’s beautiful. Exquisite. Surreal. Breathtaking. Would you ever picture Ben Stiller accepting such a large responsibility for a movie like this, never mind the fact that it looks excellent and refreshing? Putting the Stiller look at things off to the side, it still looks like a genuinely magical movie. To be able to travel into the working man’s mind as he leaps into his extravagant daydreams is fairly daring. It may have been done before, but at such a critical time in the world, this movie could be the escape we all need. If it doesn’t speak about our current times, it will still be a whimsically poetic film full of charm and wonder. If it does, and it does so c it could be the best movie of the year.
Here we have the most daring film of the year (yes, more daring than a film about sex addicts with recorded pornography), and one that should not be overlooked for any reason. What Alfonso Cuarón is striving for here is astounding. The terrific filmmaker behind Y Tu Mamá También and Children of Men is hoping to break ground again with Gravity, and the trailer alone speaks volumes. Picture George Clooney and Sandra Bullock as the remaining survivors of a broken space shuttle. Now, picture them struggling to survive in space as everything is working against them. What an incredible concept. To watch the five minute extended trailer alone is enough of a thrill ride. Imagine the entire movie with this ringing fear and uncertainty. There is always a possibility that such a movie may not work, but having seen films of survival recently that have worked (127 Hours, Life of Pi) has me assuming that we have another work of gold coming our way. We could have the most thrilling movie of the year here. If not, we have the most courageous film anyways.
1. 12 Years A Slave
You should all be aware of Steve McQueen. No, not just the charming actor, but the challenging director as well. His films Hunger and Shame were ever so powerful with the ways they showed the fight of human spirit and the damages of the human mind. This was just McQueen showing us film as a basic humanistic art form. 12 Years A Slave will be his first film to utilize a much bigger budget, a much larger cast and a much more ambitious challenge. His newest film 12 Years A Slave will show the true story of Solomon Northup (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor), a freed man who was trapped into being owned as a slave again for twelve years. He is followed by an incredible cast, including Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Sarah Paulson, Quvenzhané Wallis, and even more. Last year’s Django Unchained may have shown a former slave getting his rightful revenge and saving his wife, but 12 Years A Slave may not show such a triumphant victory as easily. Instead, with McQueen mastering the film, we may have a very difficult film to swallow. With that being said, we may have a masterful movie of perseverance. With a lot of promise already behind the praise and awards speculation, 12 Years A Slave may be the film that beats every other film this year with everything it has going for it. For now, it’s simply the top film to look out for.