Ones to Watch in 2010

As I stated in my previous post, 2010 has left much to be desired in terms of quality cinema. The trend will probably continue as the Summer Movie season approaches. However, recent reviews from the Cannes film festival suggest that many a good film lies ahead in the next few months (ie: Another Year), and several Sundance hits also open in limited release this summer, so things may actually be picking up…

Anyways, here are some of my ‘must see’ films for 2010:

Glorious 39 (TBA)
Okay, I’m sort of cheating with this one since I already saw it at TIFF last fall, but that’s why I’m staring with it. This was one of the stronger films I saw at the festival, so I encourage all to see it. Combining the intrigue of a Hitchcock thriller with the flowing artistry of Atonement, Glorious 39 dramaticizes the days preceding World War II. The summer of 1939 was reportedly one of the nicest summers on record, and the film plays with the idea of “the calm before the storm” as things spiral out of control for Anne Keyes (a truly spectacular Romola Garai), an adopted daughter of an upper class British family. Anne becomes entangled in the murder/cover-up of one of her friends, and the extent to which she is deceived and betrayed by her own family members paints a chilling portrait of of pre-war Britain.

The rest in order of release:

Winter’s Bone (June 11, limited)
2005 saw the breakout performance of Vera Farmiga in the underseen Down to the Bone, directed by Debra Granik. Granik finally returns with Winter’s Bone, a hit from this year’s Sundance Film Festival. (The film won prizes for directing and screenwriting). Winter’s Bone follows the journey of one girl (Jennifer Lawrence) as she searches for her dead-beat drug-dealing dad. Early word on Lawrence’s performance is strong, with many critics saying that she offers a performance of raw emotion akin to that of Farmiga’s teaming with Granik. Lawrence stole the show from Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger in last year’s The Burning Plain, so I can’t wait to see what she does in a lead role.
The Kids are All Right (July 7, limited)

Another Sundance hit, Kids stars Julianne Moore and Annette Bening as a same-sex couple whose life whose relationship is thrown for a loop when their two children seek out their sperm-donor father. Kids looks to be a humorous take on modern family living, and Bening and Moore will surely make an early start on this year’s Best Actress race. Directed by Lisa Cholodenko (Laurel Canyon, “Six Feet Under”).

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (Sept 23, limited)
Comingsoon.net says, “The film revolves around different members of a family, their tangled love lives and their attempts to try to solve their problems.” Okay, this sounds like most, if not every, Woody Allen movie; however, Allen returns to London for a fourth time with Stranger, and he’s assembled a great cast: Anthony Hopkins, Naomi Watts, Josh Brolin, Christian McKay, and the inevitable weak link- Frieda Pinto. Reviews from its premiere at Cannes were mixed to mildly positive, but Woody Allen’s films generally follow the pattern of hit-misfire-hit-misfire, and since 2009’s Whatever Works fell into the latter category (although I liked it), here’s hoping for another great comedy from the Woodman.

Never Let Me Go (Oct 1 - limited)
Based on the exceptional novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go explores the lives of three students (Keira Knightly, Carey Mulligan, and Andrew Garfield) who struggle with notions of love and identity against the strange situation of their boarding school. The studio is making no effort to keep the plot details a secret, which is quite disappointing because much of the novel’s power comes from how subtly Ishiguro reveals the devastating circumstances of the student’s lives. The fact that this is being marketed as a sci-fi thriller also suggests a mishandling of the material, but I’m hoping that the cast and director Mark Romanek (One Hour Photo) overcome my doubts.

The Tempest (Winter 2010)
Not only is The Tempest my favorite Shakespeare play, but this much delayed project seems interesting for a few reasons. First, Julie Taymor’s 1999 film Titus is one of the best cinematic adaptations of Shakespeare of all time. Second, Taymor’s trademark visual palette easily complements the fantastical nature of The Tempest (I can’t wait to see how she imagines the harpy banquet). Finally, Taymor has changed the gender of the lead character: Prospero is now Prospera, and will be played by the great Helen Mirren. The Tempest also features Djimon Hounsou, Alfred Molina, and Ben Whishaw

Barney's Version (TBA)
Based on the novel by Canadian author Mordecai Richler, which was summarized by the publisher as "Ebullient and perverse, thrice married, Barney Panofsky has always clung to two cherished beliefs: life is absurd and nobody truly ever understands anybody else. But when his sworn enemy publicly states that Barney is a wife abuser, an intellectual fraud and probably a murderer, he is driven to write his own memoirs." Paul Giamatti stars as Barney and Rosamund Pike plays his post-wedding love interest. Should be fun!

Girl Soldier (TBA)
Canadian Content Alert! Canadian author/journalist Kathy Cook’s novel “Stolen Angles: The Kidnapped Girls of Uganda” is being adapted for the big screen. Uma Thurman stars as Sister Caroline, a nun who, while teaching at a boarding school in Uganda, her makes it her mission to free her students from exploitation and poverty. Thurman has spoken passionately about the need to tell this true story about the plight of child soldiers, so Girl Soldier promises to be a compelling and inspiring drama.

Rabbit Hole (TBA)
Nicole Kidman stars as Becca Corbett, a mother whose life turns into hell when she loses her son in an accident. Rabbit Hole is based on the play for which Sex and the City’s Cynthia Nixon won a Tony. The past few years have been unkind to Nicole Kidman: all her strong work has been in obscure or relatively under-seen films (Dogville, Margot at the Wedding, Birth) and her high profile films have mostly been flops (Nine, The Stepford Wives, The Invasion). Hopefully, this will be the hit she needs.

This barely covers my list of 2010 hopefuls, so here are a few more films for which I’m equally excited:
Inception - July 16. Dir: Christopher Nolan (The Dark Night). Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, and Marion Cotillard.
Hereafter - December. Dir Clint Eastwood (Millon Dollar Baby). Starring Matt Damon and Bryce Dallas Howard.
Black Swan – TBA. Dir: Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler). Starring Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, and Winona Ryder.
The Fighter – Nov 26. Dir: David O’Russell (I Heart Huckabees). Starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, and Amy Adams.
Tree of Life – TBA. Dir: Terrence Malick (The New World). Starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn.