2011 has proven to be one of the most exciting recent years in film-watching, as the most awaited productions confirmed the expectations and many others rose to overcome them. Around late February I'll highlight my favorites, after I have the chance to watch some relevant works I'm still missing. Until then, and while the Oscar race takes some notes on this edition's pole positions, allow me to suggest why 2012 has everything to be as big as its precedent. After the text, a list of what I most want to see this year.
Auteurs like David Cronenberg, Woody Allen, Nicolas Winding Refn or, scandalous surprise, Terrence Malick, make it straight from last year. Huge returns from Quentin Tarantino and Paul Thomas Anderson. While the Coen Brothers wrote their first screenplay directed by other than themselves, Charlie Kaufman grabs the directing wheel for the second time, after the ungratefully underrated Synecdoche NY. The extravagant Tim Burton hits the year with two films and the long forgotten Walter Hill and Brian de Palma sign their production sheets too. First-timer screenwriter Wentworth Miller, celebrated for the TV series Prision Break, has his writings put into visuals by Chan-wook Park, while also from television arrives Seth McFarlane, the creator of Family Guy. After Blue Valentine, writer/director Derek Cianfrance has the chance to prove himself great, and so has Tom Hooper with his first work after the Oscar for Best Director with The King's Speech. Kathryn Bigelow was well known from the cult circuit but, like Tom, has now the pressure of her first feature after the big success of The Hurt Locker. Fortunately, Pixar won't leave us alone and releases its first princess-tale ever, Brave, after the recent The Princess and the Frog and Tangled, by Disney.
From other spectrum, we'll have premieres by Giorgos Lanthimos, Abbas Kiarostami, Rodrigo Cortés, Michael Haneke, Icelandic rising star Baltasar Kormákur and Dario Argento.
That promising are also Sacha Baron Cohen, Alfonso Cuáron and Steven Spielberg, which will bring one of two versions of the life of the US. President Abraham Lincoln, the other from Timur Bekmambetov being far gruesomer. On the high concept adaptations, there are Joe Wright and Baz Luhrman, while on the low profile, independent, dark stuff returns Andrew Dominick, four years after the extraordinary The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Between the auteur way of doing things and the massive studio-controled budget, return the Wachowski Brothers with another sci-fi epic movie, after writing history with The Matrix trilogy. Summer and Christmas holidays will cheer us with the usual super-heroes, sequels, reboots and new franchises, chiefly by Gary Ross and, in a whole different powerful level, Ridley Scott, Christopher Nolan and Peter Jackson.
(written by Giorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou; directed by Giorgos Lanthimos)
w/ Aris Servetalis, Johnny Vekris, Ariane Labed.
"A Nurse, a Paramedic, a Gymnast and her Coach have formed a service for hire. They stand in for dead people by appointment, hired by the relatives, friends, or colleagues of the deceased. The company is called Alps while their leader, the Paramedic, calls himself Mont Blanc. Although the Alps members operate under a discipline regime demanded by their leader, the Nurse doesn’t…" (from Film Press Plus)
(written by Tom Stoppard, based upon previous work by Leo Tolstoy; directed by Joe Wright)
w/ Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Kelly McDonald, Emily Watson, Aaron Johnson.
"Trapped in a loveless marriage, Anna, looks for a better life, but finds only a more complicated one."
(written by Brenda Chapman and Irene Mecchi; directed by Brenda Chapman and Mark Andrews)
voices by Kelly McDonald, Emma Thompson, Kevin McKidd, Billy Connolly.
"Determined to make her own path in life, Princess Merida defies a custom that brings chaos to her kingdom. Granted one wish, Merida must rely on her bravery and her archery skills to undo a beastly curse. "
(written by Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer, based upon previous work by David Mitchell; directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski)
w/ Tom Hanks, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Hale Berry, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant.
"Six stories set in a different time and place become intricately related to each other."
(written and directed by Andrew Dominick, based upon previous work by George V. Higgins)
w/ Brad Pitt, Ben Mendelsohn, James Gandolfini, Scott McNairy
"Jackie Cogan is a professional enforcer who investigates a heist that went down during a mob-protected poker game. "
(written and directed by David Cronenberg, based upon previous work by Don DeLillo)
w/ Robert Pattinson, Paul Giamatti, Juliette Binoche, Sarah Gadon, Jay Baruchel.
"Follows a multimillionaire on a 24-hour odyssey across Manhattan."
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES
(written by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan; directed by Christopher Nolan)
w/ Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Joseph-Gordon Lewitt, Anne Hathaway, Gary Oldman.
"Eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, the terrorist leader Bane arrives in Gotham City, pushing it and its police force to their limits, forcing its former hero Batman to resurface after taking the fall for Harvey Dent's crimes."
(written by Seth Grahame Smith; directed by Tim Burton)
w/ Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeifer, Eva Green, Helena Bonham Carter, Chloë Moretz.
"A gothic-horror tale centering on the life of vampire Barnabas Collins and his run-ins with various monsters, witches, werewolves and ghosts. Based on the cult TV series."
(written and directed by Quentin Tarantino)
w/ Jamie Foxx, Leonardo Di Caprio, Joseph Gordon Lewitt, Samuel L. Jackson, Kerry Washington, Sacha Baron Cohen, Christoph Waltz.
"With the help of his mentor, a slave-turned-bounty hunter sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner."
(written and directed by Abbas Kiarostami)
w/ Ryo Kase, Denden, Rin Takanashi.
A relationship between a student who works as a prostitute to pay for her tuition and a brilliant mathematician who is one of her clients. (not from IMDB).
FRANK OR FRANCIS
(written and directed by Charlie Kaufman)
w/ Nicholas Cage, Jack Black, Steve Carell, Kevin James (not enough info).
A quarrel between a 29-times Oscar nominee filmmaker and a film critic blogger (not from IMDB).
(written by Joel and Ethan Coen; directed by Michael Hoffman)
w/ Alan Rickman, Cameron Diaz, Colin Firth, Stanley Tucci, Cloris Leachman, Tom Courtenay.
"An art curator enlists the services of a Texas steer roper to con a wealthy collector into buying a phony Monet painting."
THE GREAT GATSBY
(written by Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce, based on previous work by F. Scott Fitzgerald; directed by Baz Luhrmann)
w/ Leonardo Di Caprio, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher, Tobey Maguire.
"Nick Carraway, a Midwesterner now living on Long Island, finds himself fascinated by the mysterious past and lavish lifestyle of his neighbor, Jay Gatsby. He is drawn into Gatsby's circle, becoming a witness to obsession and tragedy."
THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY
(written by Guillermo del Toro, Frank Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson; directed by Peter Jackson)
w/ Martin Freeman, Andy Serkis, Ian McKellan, Luke Evans,Benedict Cumberbatch, Richard Armitage, Cate Blanchett, Elijah Wood, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee, Orlando Bloom.
"Bilbo Baggins, a Hobbit, journeys to the Lonely Mountain accompanied by a group of dwarves to reclaim a treasure taken from them by the dragon Smaug. "
(written by Tony Kushner, John Logan and Paul Webb, based upon previous work by Doris Kearns Goodwin; directed by Steven Spielberg)
w/ Daniel Day Lewis, Joseph Gordon Lewitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Jared Harris, James Spader, Sally Field, John Hawkes.
"The sixteenth President of the United States guides the North to victory during the Civil War. "
(written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson)
w/ Philip Seymor Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Laura Dern, Lena Endre.
"A 1950s-set drama centered on the relationship between a charismatic intellectual known as "the Master" whose faith-based organization begins to catch on in America, and a young drifter who becomes his right-hand man. "
(written and directed by Woody Allen)
w/ Woody Allen, Ellen Page, Jesse Eisenberg, Penélope Cruz, Alison Pill, Alec Baldwin, Roberto Begnini.
A romantic comedy following two different couples around the city of Rome. (not from IMDB)
ONLY GOD FORBIDES
(written and directed by Nicolas Winding Refn)
w/ Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vithaya Pansringarm, Yayaying.
"A Bangkok police lieutenant and a gangster settle their differences in a Thai-boxing match."
(written by John Spaihts and Damon Lindelof; directed by Ridley Scott)
w/ Naomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Patrick Wilson, Idris Elba.
Prequel to the Alien's saga. "A team of explorers discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, leading them on a journey to the darkest corners of the universe. There, they must fight a terrifying battle to save the future of the human race."
(written by Wentworth Miller; directed by Chan-wook Park)
w/ Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska, Delmot Mulroney, Jackie Weaver.
"A teenage girl mourning the death of her father deals with an uncle who mysteriously shows up to meet the family."
(written and directed by Seth McFarlane)
w/ Mark Whalberg, Mila Kunis, Seth McFarlane, Patrick Warburton, Giovanni Ribsi.
"A story centered on a man and his teddy bear, who comes to life as the result of a childhood wish."
UNTITLED TERRENCE MALICK PROJECT
(written and directed by Terrence Malick)
w/ Rachel McAdams, Ben Affleck, Jessica Chastain, Rachel Weisz, Javier Bardem, Michael Sheen.
"A romantic drama centered on a man who reconnects with a woman from his hometown after his marriage to a European woman falls apart."
ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER
(written by Simon Kinberg and Seth Grahame Smith, based upon Seth's own previous work; directed by Timur Bekmambetov)
w/ Benjamin Walker, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Dominic Cooper, Rufus Sewell.
"President Lincoln's mother is killed by a supernatural creature, which fuels his passion to crush vampires and their slave-owning helpers. "
THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN
(written by Alvin Sargent, James Vanderbilt and Steve Kloves, based upon previous work by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee; directed by Sam Raimi)
w/ Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans.
"Teenager Peter Parker grapples with both human problems and amazing super-human crises."
(written by Adam Herz, John Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg; directed by John Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg)
w/ Seann William Scott, AlysonHannigan, Jason Biggs, Mena Suvari, Katrina Bowden, Shannon Elizabeth, Tara Reid.
"Jim, Michelle, Stifler, and their friends reunite in East Great Falls, Michigan for their high school reunion. "
"A retired couple deals with aftermath of the wife suffering from a debilitating stroke."
(written by Zack Penn and Joss Wheddon; directed by Joss Whedon)
w/ Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Jereny Renner, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson.
"Nick Fury and the international agency S.H.I.E.L.D. bring together a team of super humans to form The Avengers to help save the Earth from Loki & his various membered army."
(written and directed by Paul Weitz, upon previous work by Nick Flynn)
w/ Robert de Niro, Paul Dano, Julianne Moore, Olivia Thirlby
"Working in a Boston homeless shelter, Nick Flynn re-encounters his father, a con man and self-proclaimed poet. Sensing trouble in his own life, Nick wrestles with the notion of reaching out yet again to his dad."
BULLET TO THE HEAD
(written by Walter Hill and Alessandro Camon, based upon previous work by Alexis Nolent; directed by Walter Hill)
w/ Sylvester Stallone, Jason Momoa, Christian Slater, Sarah Shahi.
"After watching their respective partners die, a cop and a hitman form an alliance in order to bring down their common enemy."
CASA DE MI PADRE
(written by Andrew Steele; directed by Matt Piedmont)
w/ Will Ferrel, Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna.
"Scheming on a way to save their father's ranch, the Alvarez brothers find themselves in a war with Mexico's most feared drug lord."
(written by Aaron Guzikowski, based on previous work by Arnaldur Indriðason and Óskar Jónasson; directed by Baltasar Kormákur)
w/ Mark Whalberg, Giovanni Ribsi, Kate Beckinsale, Ben Foster, Luke Haas.
"To protect his brother-in-law from a drug lord, a former smuggler heads to Panama to score millions of dollars in counterfeit bills."
(written by John Logan, based upon previous work by William Shakespeare; directed by Ralph Fiennes)
w/ Ralph Fiennes, Jessica Chastain, Brian Cox, anessa Redgrave, William Hurt, Gerard Butler.
"A banished hero of Rome allies with a sworn enemy to take his revenge on the city."
(written by Sacha Baron Cohen, Alec Berg, David Mandel Jeff Schaffer; directed by Larry Charles)
w/ Sacha Baron Cohen, Anna Faris, Megan Fox, John C. Reilley, Ben Kingsley.
"The heroic story of a dictator who risks his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed."
(written by Dario Argento, Enrique Cerezo, Stefano Piani, Antonio Tentori, based upon previous work by Bram Stoker; directed by Dario Argento)
w/ Thomas Kretschmann, Rutger Hauer, Asia Argento, Marta Gastini, Unax Ugalde.
"The tale begins with Jonathan Harker, journeying by train and carriage from England to Count Dracula's crumbling..."
THE EXPENDABLES II
(written by Sylvester Stallone and Dave Callaham; directed by Simon West)
w/ Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Norris, Jason Statham, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren.
"Mr. Church reunites the Expendables for what should be an easy paycheck, but when one of their men is murdered on the job, their quest for revenge puts them deep in enemy territory and up against an unexpected threat."
(written by Tim Burton; directed by Tim Burton)
voices by Wynona Ryder, Catherine O'Hara, Martin Short.
"Young Victor conducts a science experiment to bring his beloved dog Sparky back to life, only to face unintended, sometimes monstrous, consequences."
(written by Alfonso and Jónas Cuarón and Rodrigo García; directed by Alfonso Cuarón)
w/ George Clooney, Sandra Bullock
"The lone survivor of a space mission to repair the Hubble telescope desperately tries to return to Earth and reunite with her daughter. "
THE HUNGER GAMES
(written by Gary Ross and Billy Ray, based upon previous work by Suzanne Collins; directed by Gary Ross)
w/ Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson.
"Set in a future where the Capitol selects a boy and girl from the twelve districts to fight to the death on live television, Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her younger sister's place for the latest match. "
UNTITLED KATHRYN BIGELOW PROJECT
(written and directed by Josh Radnor)
w/ Josh Radnor, Elizabeth Olsen, Zac Effron, Allison Janney, Elizabeth Reaser, Richard Jenkins.
"When thirty-something Jesse is invited back to his alma mater, he falls for a young 19-year-old college student and is faced with the powerful attraction that springs up between them"
(written by William Nicholson, based on previous work by Herbert Kretzmer, Victor Hugo and Alain Boublil; directed by Tom Hooper)
w/ Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter, Russel Crowe.
"An adaptation of the successful stage musical based on Victor Hugo's classic novel set in 19th-century France, in which a paroled prisoner named Jean Valjean seeks redemption."
(written by Merrit Johnson and Andy Bellin; directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman)
w/ Amanda Seyfried, James Franco, Juno Temple, Hank Azaria, Peter Sarsgaard, Sharon Stone, Demi Moore.
"Story of Linda Lovelace, who is used and abused by the porn industry at the behest of her coercive husband, before taking control of her life. "
MEN IN BLACK III
(written by Etan Cohen, David Koepp, Jeff Nathanson and Michael Soccio, based upon previous work by Lowell Cunningham; directed by Barry Sonnenfeld)
w/ Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Alice Eve, Emma Thompson, Josh Brolin.
"Agent J travels in time to MIB's early years in the 1960s, to stop an alien from assassinating his friend Agent K and changing history."
(written and directed by Brian De Palma, based on previous works by Alain Corneau and Natalie Carter)
w/ Naomi Rapace, Rachel McAdams (in talks, both).
"A young businesswomen plots murderous revenge after her boss and mentor steals her idea."
THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES
(written by Derek Cianfrance, Darius Marder and Ben Coccio; directed by Derek Cianfrance)
w/ Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Rose Byrne, Eva Mendes, Ben Mendelsohn.
"A motorcycle stunt rider considers committing a crime in order to provide for his wife and child, an act that puts him on a collision course with a cop-turned-politician. "
(written and directed by Rodrigo Cortés)
w/ Robert de Niro, Sigourney Weaver, Cillian Murphy, Elizabeth Olsen, Joey Richardson, Tobey Jones.
"Psychologist Margaret Matheson and her assistant study paranormal activity, which leads them to investigate a world-renowned psychic"
SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN
(written by Simon Beaufoy, based upon previous work by Paul Torday; directed by Lasse Hallström)
w/ Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Kristin Scott Thomas, Amr Waked, Rachel Stirling.
"A fisheries expert is approached by a consultant to help realize a sheik's vision of bringing the sport of fly-fishing to the desert and embark son an upstream journey of faith and fish to prove the impossible, possible."
(written by Don Winslow and Shane Salerno, based upon Don's previous material; directed by Oliver Stone)
w/ Blake Lively, John Travolta, Emile Hirsch, Uma Thurman, Aaron Johnson, Benicio Del Toro.
"Pot growers Ben and Chon face off against the Mexican drug cartel who kidnapped their shared girlfriend. "
SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD
(written and directed by Lorene Scafaria)
w/ Steve Carrel, Keira Knightley, Melinda Dillon, Patton Oswalt, Connie Britton.
"As an asteroid nears Earth, a man finds himself alone after his wife leaves in a panic. He decides to take a road trip to reunite with his high school sweetheart. Accompanying him is a neighbor who inadvertently puts a wrench in his plan. "
(written by John Logan, Patrick Marver, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, based upon previous work by Ian Fleming; directed by Sam Mendes)
w/ Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes, Helen McCroy, Javier Bardem, Bérénice Marlohe.
"Bond's loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost."