The #1 and #2 most anticipated movies that emerged from our staff nomination process this year are, taken as a pair, indicative of the site’s philosophy as a whole. We’ve always worked to promote an environment where it’s okay to love both Psycho and Sound of Music, where going from the multiplex to the art house is normal, where no genre or scale are left out of conversation. In other words, we like both kinds of music: country and western.
It’s not like the top choices this year offer a twist ending or anything. Both are brimming with the potential to be excellent, so it’s unlikely that you’ll throw up your arms in disgust or anything. However, the full list itself might elicit some strong reactions — particularly because it reflects a growing need to look outside of studio pictures to fill a spandex-lined void. There’s franchise love here because the big stuff is still able to light our fire, but the number of smaller, more intimate films is growing against a monolithic tide. On that front, what you might notice most of all is what big-buzz blockbusters didn’t make the cut.
As usual, we’ve chosen 52 because it represents the optimism that there will be at least one great movie, on average, per week. Some we’ve watched and are excited to see launch from the festival circuit, others have the right combination of concept and collaborators. At the very least, we offer this as a guide for filling your calendar and as a beacon of hope for a fantastic new cinematic year.
52. The Final Member
When You Can See It: TBA (via Drafthouse Films)
The Hook: What better way to kick off a list than with penises? (Note: it’s incredibly difficult to kick with a penis.) One of the fortuitous hazards of attending Fantastic Fest, this engaging documentary features Siggi Hjartarson, the founder of the Icelandic Phallological Museum who has collected members from all creatures great and small. The only one missing? A human’s. Back-of-the-class snickering aside, the movie is a compelling look at obsession. Hopefully it will be released with information on how to donate.
51. Life Itself
When You Can See It: TBA
The Hook: We’re film critics, so naturally we tilt toward Roger Ebert. Scratch that. We’re human beings, so naturally we tilt toward Roger Ebert. This documentary about his life — executive produced by Martin Scorsese and directed by Hoop Dreams director Steve James– is currently in post-production and has a few days left on a crowdfunding campaign, but we’ll see it at Sundance. After that, it’s certain for a theatrical release, critics will critique a movie about a critic, and the world will implode.
When You Can See It: February 12th
The Hook: This reboot from Jose Padhila has the potential to be a violent satirical punch or a Total Recall-style trainwreck, but it’s the sense of nostalgia that keeps bringing us back. If by some miracle it hasn’t be studioed to slick death, it might blow minds while blowing up buildings.
49. Child’s Pose
When You Can See It: February 19th (NYC)
The Hook: Earning high praise from a lengthy festival run which saw pit-stops at the Berlinale, Karlovy Vary, Toronto and more, this drama from Calin Peter Netzer is a raw look at a mother’s love when it’s applied to dangerous extremes. Luminita Gheorghiu plays a woman whose son has killed a child in a car accident, responding to the tragedy with smugness and bribery even as her son resents her meddling.
When You Can See It: TBA
The Hook: We’d be basing this film’s inclusion solely on the script from writer/director William Monahan (and it’s a good one), but the film also features Oscar Isaac coming off a stellar turn in Inside Llewyn Davis. The plot involves a suicidal artist heading out to the desert…where he runs into his homicidal Doppelganger.
47. The Interview
When You Can See It: October 10th
The Hook: Ah, the Pineapple Express is rolling again. Seth Rogen and James Franco are joining forces alongside Lizzy Caplan for a comedy about a talk show host and producer who get stuck in the middle of an assassination attempt (featuring a dude that looks suspiciously like Kim Jong-un). Plus, Rogen and Evan Goldberg are also directing after the ridiculousness of This is the End. Worth it for the inevitable cokehead Michael Cera cameo alone.
46. The Giver
When You Can See It: August 15th
The Hook: Finally, Lois Lowry’s indispensable novel about a painless society will see the big screen. Taylor Swift sounds like stuntcasting, but Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges help legitimize. Director Phillip Noyce is probably best known in the modern era as the guy behind Salt, but it’s his work on Rabbit-Proof Fence that earns the emotional trust here.
45. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
When You Can See It: January 17th
The Hook: Speaking of which, Noyce also directed Patriot Games which saw Harrison Ford playing Jack Ryan. Plus, Kenneth Branagh starred in Rabbit-Proof Fence, and he’s directing Chris Pine as Jack Ryan here. It’s a small cinematic world for this holdover from last year’s list which fell prey to a scheduling change. Fingers crossed that the January release isn’t the usual kiss of death.
44. The Immigrant
When You Can See It: TBA
The Hook: For whatever reason, James Gray is a divisive filmmaker, but his Two Lovers was a calmly destructive drama and proved him capable of patient filmmaking with power. His latest features Marion Cotillard as a young woman forced into prostitution by a man played by Joaquin Phoenix. It promises to be a fierce genre blend.
43. The Boxtrolls
When You Can See It: September 26th
The Hook: Laika is a group of true magicians, churning out stunning visual work and endearing adventures. This one, based off the book “Here Be Monsters,” boasts a stellar voice cast including Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Elle Fanning and more.
42. 300: Rise of an Empire
When You Can See It: March 7th
The Hook: The guy who did Smart People is doing the sequel to 300? Yes, and there’s no telling how that wildcard will turn out, but it should be fun to be kicked back into the world of brave soldiers and mythical war. Going this long without a sequel was madness.
41. Big Bad Wolves
When You Can See It: January 17th (limited)
The Hook: This gem from Israel made our list of favorite foreign films in 2013, and it’s featured here because it finally sees a non-festival public in a few weeks. It involves a string of murders, tool-based revenge and some wickedly dark comic moments.