As has become par for the course over the past few years, Hollywood’s own AFI FEST has brought out the big guns for its star-studded Galas screenings, with the festival set to open with Hitchcock and close with Lincoln - and yet, as exciting as both of those titles are (seriously, Anthony Hopkins as Hitchcock? Steven Spielberg directing Daniel Day-Lewis as ol’ Honest Abe? it’s all a bit too good), the five films I am most anticipating will arrive smack in the middle of the festival. Some of these titles come with significantly less fanfare than either of the fest’s big guns, and some are just as primed for awards season domination, but all five of them are at the top of my movie-going list.

After the break, take a look inside my AFI FEST-addled brain to get a sense on five films I think (hope?) are the true winners of this year’s festival.

Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook

While it’s never wise to count out David O. Russell, his first (of many, it seems) collaborations with Bradley Cooper didn’t seem like it would be racking up all the glowing accolades it has received since premiering at TIFF. Is Silver Linings Playbook not just another kooky love story about kooky kooks falling kookily in love, but a true contender for Best Picture (still better, could it be both?) that comes complete with a killer cast? Seems like it. The film will show twice as a Special Screening at the festival, and it seems wise to expect both screenings to start with sold out tickets and end with still more glowing praise from pleased audiences.

Life of Pi

Life of Pi AFI FEST

To say I was not excited about Ang Lee‘s Life of Pi is perhaps overstepping the emotional involvement I once felt to the film – mainly, it was positively zilch. It all sounds insane and “unfilmable” and possibly disastrous. And to load it with an unknown actor and the still-not-dead gimmick of 3D didn’t add to the appeal in the slightest. And then. One of the (very slight) drawbacks to working in this racket is that I so rarely see trailers first on the big screen, so it’s always a genuine surprise when I do get my first look at something in a theater – and my first look at the Life of Pi trailer came in such a way, and it blew me the hell away. I can’t remember the last time a trailer gave me actual chills, but Pi did, and now it’s not only of my most anticipated films of AFI FEST, but of the year.

The Hunt

The Hunt AFI FEST

Thomas Vinterberg‘s was a divisive pick at this year’s Cannes Film Festival that still proved to be a winner for star Mads Mikkelsen, who got a Best Actor Prize out of the deal. Centered on a small town torn apart by lies (maybe?), secrets (could be?), and tremendous distrust (definitely), The Hunt sounds like a small-scale drama that packs a massive punch. If any other film at the festival seems more primed to knock out its audience emotionally, I haven’t yet heard about it.

Room 237

Room 237 AFI FEST

Rodney Ascher‘s creative examination of The Shining was a festival favorite early in the year – exciting the Midnight audiences at Sundance to the point that I very nearly considered actually attempting a late night screening to take it in (that, clearly, did not happen). The film has continued on throughout the fest circuit, alternately delighting and inspiring audiences to the point that fine, fine, you’ve got me, I’ll hit a midnight to see it (what, you say, its latest screening time is 9:15PM? double sold!).

Ginger and Rosa

Ginger and Rosa AFI FEST

Much like Silver Linings Playbook, Sally Potter‘s Ginger and Rosa is already pulling in lots of awards season buzz – and for a good reason, as it certainly sounds like young Elle Fanning‘s performance here is career-defining. And that’s saying something because, after all, the fourteen-year-old has already rounded out her resume with a pile of “career-defining” performances. As one-half of the eponymous best-pal-ship that is Ginger and Rosa, Fanning is tasked with some heavy emotional lifting as she and her best friend (Alice Englert) come of age in the tumult of 1960s. I’d watch that any day of the week.

Be sure to also take a look at Allison’s five most anticipated films, right HERE.

For more AFI FEST 2012 coverage, keep it locked right here at Film School Rejects.

What are you seeing at this year’s AFI FEST? Let us know in the comments below.


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