In an age of filmmaking where it seems like there’s a nonstop barrage of remake, reboots, and sequels every month, sometimes it’s refreshing to be reminded that there are still folks in the filmmaking business who continue to put out quality work on a pretty regular basis (which is to say nothing of the new talent that comes onto the scene every year). So before the film where The Avengers go back in time to stop the Transformers from sinking the Titanic makes $300 million its opening weekend, let’s take a moment to look ahead at some of the more interesting fare being offered later this year.
1. Gravity (releases October 5th) – Little is currently known about this project, and if the trailers are any indication, this will at the very least be a spectacular visual experience. If Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ (to which this film is already drawing multiple comparisons towards) showed outer space as an outstanding marvel, worthy of awe and wonder, then this film provides the opposite viewpoint and portrays outer space as a hostile terrain, full of danger and death traps around every corner.
2. 12 Years a Slave (October 18th) – Based on a regrettable true story, this film follows the journey of a free black man in 1841, who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in the deep south for a dozen years of his life. Having garnered heaps of praise after a recent screening at the Toronto International Film Festival, almost everything about this film points towards it being a serious awards contender down the road – though that certainly isn’t the only reason to see it. Slavery and Civil War themed films are hard to pull off without falling into traps of becoming weepy or melodramatic, but early buzz says that this film opts for a more sobering and admittedly brutal portrayal of the events at hand.
3. Blue is the Warmest Color (October 25th) – This sprawling, nearly three hour drama about the currently most under-represented romantic pairing in all of cinema, centering on the romantic relationship between two young French women, was the big winner at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, and reports from multiple festivals it’s played at make it sound like one of the most daring and ambitious romantically themed films in a long time. If done right, this has the potential to be one of the most timely and important films released thus far in this very young decade, if not one of the best period.
4. The Wind Rises (Limited release on November 8th) – Anybody who really loves film will eventually come across Hayao Miyazaki, and the entire Studio Ghibli canon. And in what is apparently Miyazaki’s final film before taking a well earned retirement, he appears to have abandoned the more fantastical and child friendly elements of his previous works, and opted for a more realistic tale. The film is a biopic of Jiro Horikoshi, a Japanese fighter plane designer who would eventually go on to design the planes used in the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor (among other well known career highlights). A big departure for Miyazaki, and hopefully it ends his career on a high note.
5. The Wolf of Wall Street (November 15th) – A brand new Martin Scorsese film is a noteworthy occasion in and of itself for any self proclaimed film buff, no matter the subject material (though the title should offer a helpful hint or two). Having begun his career at the tail end of Hollywood’s self proclaimed ‘Golden Era’, Scorsese’s decades long career has earned him a good amount of longevity with general audiences and film aficionados alike, thus cementing any new project from him as an event worth taking note of.
6. Nebraska (November 22nd) – Accomplished satirist Alexander Payne’s newest film won lead actor Bruce Dern the Best Actor award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, and is also noteworthy for being the first of his directed films that he didn’t help write himself, which is to say nothing of the more timid and understated tone, both traits new for Payne’s body of work, who usually has a tendency of creating living caricatures out of the cast of characters in his films. Here it looks as if he’s working with a more grounded and melancholic sort of character journey, aided by some appropriate black and white cinematography.
7. Inside Llewyn Davis (December 13th) – In what seems like one of the safest bets of the year, as far as having a guaranteed quality cinematic experience goes, we have the latest outing from the immensely talented writing-directing team of Joel & Ethan Coen. With this, you have a capable pair of filmmakers behind the camera, and a very intriguing assembled cast chronicling the ups and downs of a fictional folk singer set in the 1960’s. Sounds like a recipe for a good time at the movies if there ever was one.
8. August Osage County (December 25th) – Featuring the most impressive ensemble cast of the year (look it up), we have this rural family drama based on a play by ‘Killer Joe’ scribe Tracey Letts, who also penned this film adaptation. If Letts’ previous work is any indication, this won’t be just another run of the mill, holiday season Oscar fest. So here’s hoping some of the writer’s trademark oddness and folksy Southern Gothicism carries over into this one.
9. The Past (December 25th) – The latest from arguably cinema’s purest living dramatist, premiering in America late this Winter is Asghar Farhadi’s followup to the internationally acclaimed ‘A Separation’. Having switched locales from Iran to France, this seems to share similar thematic and narrative elements with his past films, though Farhadi is a skilled enough writer that he’ll hopefully be able to apply his filmic traits in yet another mannered, and shocking bit of filmmaking.
10. Her (Wide release on January 10th) – Spike Jonze’s much anticipated followup to the divisive, but nonetheless essential ‘Where the Wild Things Are’, concerns a lonely recent divorcee (played by Joaquin Phoenix) who forms an unlikely bond with a Siri-esque machine, voiced by Scarlett Johansen. While the notion of a man falling in love with a machine (and seemingly vice versa) might prove to be too ponderous and preciously meta for most casual viewers, hopefully proper emphasis will be applied to the thematic and metaphorical implications of society’s increasing over-reliance on technology, moreso than the more literal minded narrative on display.