Sunday, February 3, 2013

My Top 13 Most Anticipated Films of 2013

Lucky Number 13

      Forget the Super Bowl. When your team's not represented, it's a tawdry affair. A massive marketing bonanza. Lest we forget that all the so-called "great" commercials can be viewed online on our time, at our convenience. Forget football. Let's talk movies. 
      2013's movie schedule is truly astonishing to behold. How foolish I must have been to think 2012 was the anomaly, an indicator of how conditioned our myopic thought-processes have become. How we're taught to believe that bearing witness to such excellence month after month is an elusive desire. But the outlier I thought I discovered may in fact have been the primal markings of an exciting new trend in which first-rate craftsmanship is the standard currency. 2013 promises a cornucopia of original stories, science fiction forays, major superhero films, unexpected sequels, classic adaptations, exciting prequels, and so, so much more. I'm positively ecstatic. 
      The line-up is tantalizing. Expectations, however, are a fickle matter. Execution is where excellence unveils its true self. A cinephillia's anticipation is irrelevant when the matter of quality is discussed. Merit is the real dollar sign of art. Only time will tell if the exchange between moviegoer and moviemaker is satisfactory. 
      The crux of any anticipated list is that rarely can our impressions of these films be tangibly informed. The only way to mitigate the "informed" part, though, is by plunging into the list a month late. Which is what I did. Hello, February. 
      Surveying the populated landscape can be accomplished more successfully by employing a little more time, caution, and scruple. Some of these films have released trailers, others merely unveiled images; a tactic that invariably fails to elicit my curiosity. Some have yet to offer even a minor glimpse of what's to come. I'm looking at you, Rover. But honestly I prefer it this way. I avoid trailers like the plague. 
      Each moviegoing experience presents an opportunity to be awed, surprised, thrilled. They are canvasses of discovery unfolding, almost always, at 24 frames per second. What the film is actually about is of no interest to me once I've put my trust in the hands of the director and his collaborators. They are my shepherds of sensory fulfillment. 
      I'm a firm believer in the auteur theory. I believe strongly that a director is primarily responsible for the final look of a film. Screenplay is an indispensable asset, too, and a good number of the directors whose work I'm eagerly anticipating are writer-director filmmakers. They have proven in their careers a high competency in delivering sound scripts. It was Kurosawa who famously said an average director can make a passable film out of a good script, but not even a great director can make a good film out of a terrible script. Thankfully, all of these directors have demonstrated proficiency in the written word or exhibited, through the writings of another, an awareness of what constitutes effective screenwriting.
      The concepts, stories, and actors are a vital component of my consideration as well. Injecting excitement into the scrutinizing process is the coalescence of all these multitudinous elements. The final integral factor in my decision-making process is instinct. I may hopelessly cringe at some of my imprudent predictions when I look back on this list at year's end, but the blame will fall squarely on my shoulders. 
      What's intoxicating about a new crop of movies isn't any one specific title, but the countless new opportunities they offer to revitalize our capacities for invigoration, awe, shock, and exhilaration. There's no doubt many of these films will feature prominently in my year-end Top Ten list. 

13). The Rover (David Michod)

      An idiosyncratic choice only by artifice. The mysterious elements surrounding an Abrams film are plain in terms of what David Michod's film offers for inspection. Or perhaps we're convening at an infant stage in the film's production (according to IMDB, it's still filming) and not much can be divulged. I suppose any credentials I may have thought belonged exclusively to private detectives actually now belong exclusively to private detectives. Philip Marlowe I am not.  Well, at least Chandler's and Hawkes' version. Robert Altman might have considered my attributes vital. What I can discern about The Rover is that it is a futuristic western set in the Australian desert. Beyond the fact that David Michod is directing, and that Robert Pattinson, Guy Pearce, and Scoot McNairy are all starring, not much else is known. But those factors are more than enough to inflate my intrigue and whet my appetite. I loved Michod's first-feature Animal Kingdom, as it earned a spot on my Top 10 of 2010 list. Why should I expect anything different from his sophomore effort? Squashed are my prospects of procuring detective work. Thriving, however, are my predictive powers. Allow me to flex my prognosticative muscle. The Rover is going to wow. Release date: Late 2013 (hopeful assumption)

12). Twelve Years a Slave (Steve McQueen)

      Steve McQueen is two for two in the director's chair and I fully expect him to make it three in a row. Hunger and Shame are exceptional character dramas with tour de force performances from the irresistible, statuesque Michael Fassbender. A performance of similar depth and emotion can be expected from Mr. Fassbender in Twelve Years a Slave, which also flaunts as co-stars Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Michael Kenneth Williams, and Sarah Paulson. Amazing, right!? I suppose it is natural to expect comparisons between this film and Tarantino's Django Unchained given the subject matter. But the comparisons will be utterly pointless. The narrative and aesthetic intentions of both directors could not be more discordant. And that's a good thing because they're both tremendously skilled in their particular brand of world building. McQueen's film will have the critics foaming at the mouth with glee. What I'm anticipating from the bold British artist is another gritty, psychologically harrowing, meticulously composed film. Sophisticated, rugged art cinema is his niche. Release date: September 6 (Brazil)

11). Before Midnight (Richard Linklater)

      Richard Linklater's films are feats of character concentration. Interior epics of mood, sentiment, emotion, wit. Before Sunrise is the de facto litmus test of modern romanticism. A perfectly ambiguous ending to Before Sunset triggered discussions among faithful or faithless romantics about what may have happened to Celine (Julie Delphy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke). What you felt mattered and it extended beyond the physical limitations of the screen. Important, too, is Linklater's approach to dialogue. It is poetic in speech; assonance, rhyme, meter, syntax all cohere beautifully. His characters are vessels of emotion. Witnessing their interactions is magical. And the whole matter of that ambiguous ending is a masterstroke of narrative design, and I can't begin to conjecture whether Jesse caught that plane. Whatever's happened in the nine years since that moment, I harbor the utmost faith that Before Midnight will be every bit as romantic, effectual, and poetic as its predecessors. Release date: January 20 (Sundance)

10). Kick-Ass 2 (Jeff Wadlow)

       Kick-Ass was one of my favorite movies of 2010. It delivered everything I could have expected and then unleashed an ass kicking of so much more. It was an experience as brutal, hilarious, and exciting as I could have hoped, packaging everything I love about movies into an incendiary, audacious box of Crash! Bang! Beep! Buzz! What I'm expecting from Kick-Ass 2 is, therefore, pretty predictable. More brutality, hilarity, and excitement. And more onomatopoeia. The original cast reprise their roles in addition to welcoming some promising newcomers, chief among them being one of my favorite comedians, Jim Carrey. YEPPPPPPPPPPP! Release date: June 28

9). Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel and Ethan Coen)
      The Coen Brothers make movies fairly regularly. I love every movie they make and I love them for their prolific output. Well, prolific if you consider the output of the man at the forefront of obscurity, Terrence Malick (though it seems he is planning to spoil us over the next few years with an increasingly timely pace). Frankly, wherever the Coen Brothers go, I'm eager to follow. That Inside Llewyn Davis revolves around the blossoming folk scene of '60s New York has me reveling. That the film showcases the enormously talented, and quite underutilized Oscar Issac, who may finally have found the role that fulfills his first name legacy, has me doing backflips. And I'm not the kind of person who should be doing backflips. From all presumptive and explanatory accounts, Inside Llewyn Davis will ebb and flow to music, which is a hypnotic staple of the Coen Brothers' experience (thank you, Carter Burwell!) and a vital tool in their robust arsenal. Release date: December 4 (Belgium)

8). Elysium (Neill Blomkamp)

      District 9 is all the evidence I need to confirm the prodigious talent of Neill Blomkamp. His short film Alive in Joburg, which preceded District 9, simply reaffirmed this confirmation. Blomkamp's ability to tantalize viewers is on par with Michael Jordan. Elysium is his sophomore effort and I'm hoping the MJ comparison is not premature. Matt Damon is one of my favorite actors (look at my banner, folks!) and in Elysium he plays a cyborg tasked with a grave responsibility, imperiling the very existence of those he is fighting desperately to protect. Preservation of an entire race is at stake. Damon's character must infiltrate a space utopia run by an imposing Jodie Foster. Yep. This film fits all the requirements of dark and daring intrigue. I'm confident the execution will match the conception. Release date: August 9.

7). Pacific Rim (Guillermo del Toro)

      I'll just rely on the bewitching talents of Guillermo del Toro to entice your curiosity. Here's the official synopsis courtesy of IMDB: When an alien attack threatens the Earth's existence, giant robots piloted by humans are deployed to fight off the menace. Let me be the first to say WOW! Here's a tried-and-true concept that few filmmakers can successfully navigate. James Cameron is an example of someone who can. Michael Bay is not. Guillermo del Toro may be the best equipped of the bunch. He is a maximalist magician with an expansive imagination that accommodates enormous flights of fancy. Watch Pans Labyrinth and you'll be singing the same effusive music. Let there be no mincing of words. This is a fanboy's wet dream. And the passionate del Toro is precisely the guy capable of transforming that dream into reality. Release date: July 12 

6).Star Trek Into Darkness (J.J. Abrams)

      Refusing an avenue to comic chicanery, which has by publication of recent news morphed into a galactic convergence of astronomical proportions, Mr. Star J.J. Abrams is soldiering ahead with what most everyone who has seen Star Trek (2009) expects to be an even bolder and more marveling visual achievement. Abram's predisposition to all things cosmic presumes an acuity of design that mere mortals like us dare only dream. His first trek into space demonstrated perfectly what confident, shrewd blockbuster filmmaking entails. Bet high on visual delight. Then implant an enriched character universe. Joss Whedon took heed of this message with the magnificently pleasing Avengers, and I have no doubt that Mr. Abrams will succeed again in his second go-round. I'm expecting Star Trek Into Darkness to be another fanciful exploration into the majestic and the mundane, teetering delicately along that artistic balance between effective visual flamboyance and dimensional character building. Release date: May 17 

5). The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese)

      It's Martin Scorsese. My love for this man knows no bounds. Inevitable is The Wolf of Wall Street's lofty placement on my list. Capitalizing on the cultural zeitgeist—the undulating shocks perpetrated by a Wall Street banker unfettered in his dealings. This is a topical matter worthy of Scorsese's psychodramatic dissection. And those who frequent my blog know that my other favorite area of interest is high finance. It catapults me into fits of fascination like a Wall Street banker who has too much money at his disposal and no scruples to guide his fiscal fury. Bolstered by a terrific cast that includes an Oscar starved (or snubbed) Leonardo DiCaprio, a resurgent Matthew McConaughey, a fit Jonah Hill, an Oscar-winning Jean Dujardin, and an extremely likable Kyle Chandler, who has become Hollywood's go-to bureaucrat (Argo, Zero Dark Thirty), The Wolf of Wall Street meets all the prerequisites of another exhilarating Scorsese experience. Release date: Late 2013 (purely an assumption)

4). Gravity (Alfonso Cuaron)

      Dogged and foreboding but deeply humane, Alfonso Cuaron's Children of Men is one of the singular science fiction achievements to explode on screen in recent years, a potent display of deft visual skill, narrative economy, emotional strength, and restraint i.e. he knows exactly when to unleash an invigorating long take, opening us up to dream-like environs, or when to impart subtle, clarifying moments that breed character reflection. Advance buzz suggests that Gravity may be even more breathtaking, boasting a career-defining performance by Sandra Bullock. One thing I know for certain. Alfonso Cuaron is if nothing a man of extraordinary ambition. Whatever we are ultimately subjected to, it will be profound. Release date: October 4

3). The World's End (Edgar Wright)

      As a feature-film director, Edgar Wright's batting a thousand. The World's End completes his informal "blood and ice cream" trilogy that includes Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, two films that sharply embody self-referential, subversive, character-centric filmmaking. Comprised of relatable characters, synergistic casting, trenchant humor, and anchored by riveting stories, all of Wright's prior films reflect a deep reverence for the experience of watching movies, rewarding viewers with visual feats only a supreme showman could mastermind. He honors the sacrosanct covenant between moviegoer and moviemaker. His astonishing mastery of the language of cinema emboldens him to sculpt experiences that are emancipated from excess style, and instead focus on discovery. His films are passages into altered realities and states of mind we rarely confront. All I can be is grateful for his almost divine command of cinema, and the dynamic, artistic flourishes it affords. Release date: October 25 

2). Only God Forgives (Nicolas Winding Refn)

      A little movie by the name of Drive just so happened to be my favorite of 2011. The two men primarily responsible for my enjoyment of that film, Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling, are reuniting here for another exciting crime thriller—also my favorite genre. Mike Tyson's uppercut would intimidate me from engaging in just about anything, but it could not scare me away from seeing this film. With such mastery of tone and atmosphere, and a remarkable filmography that features the Pusher Trilogy, Bronson, and Valhalla Rising, Refn has proven himself to be an exceptional visual stylist. He has discovered the key that unlocks the alluring mystery between balance and precision, style and substance, art and commerce, violence and profundity. And Ryan Gosling is perhaps one of maybe two or three men on this planet who could convince me, despite my staunch heterosexuality, to experiment. The guy is an adonis whose sole purpose for being put on this planet is to seduce men and women. His arresting charm, striking good looks, and galactic talent, captured through the lens of a Refn film, is impossible to resist. Release date: May 23 (Denmark)

1). The Grandmaster (Wong Kar-wai)

      The fact that Wong-Kar wai is directing should be motivation enough. This is a man who has an an undeniable reverence and compassion for human life. It seeps through every frame of his films. It's safe to say that a similar compulsion drives me to his work, one borne from his meticulous management of mood, emotion, and energy. Four visually polished, sumptuous films, which I consider modern exemplars (Days of Being Wild, Chungking Express, In the Mood for Love, 2046) and a few others that I absolutely adore (Fallen Angels, Happy Together), comprise his marvelous catalog. Then, too, I realize that the narrative thrust of The Grandmaster pivots on the rich legend of martial arts master Yip man, whom I've learned from Wilson Yip’s titular film Ip Man, is an immensely fascinating figure. Throw in the fact that Bruce Lee is one of Yip's signature disciples and I’m thoroughly hooked. One of my all-time favorite actors Tony Leung Chiu Wai is tasked with the plum role, which means a mesmerizing performance is certain to unfold. If there is only one film you watch all year, let it be this one. Release date: January 8 (debuted in China)

Honorable Mentions: Anchorman: The Legend Continues, The Counselor, Ender's Game, Fruitvale, The Great Gatsby, Man of Steel, Monsters University, Much Ado About Nothing, Mud, Nymphomaniac, Oldboy, The Place Beyond the Pines, Side Effects, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Snowpiercer, To The Wonder, Trance, Upstream Color, The Zero Theorem 

Firmly On My Radar: A Good Day to Die Hard, Fast 6, The Heat, Her, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Iron Man 3, Like Someone in Love, The Monuments Men, A Most Wanted Man, Oz: The Great and the Powerful, Stoker, This Is The End, Thor: The Dark World 

      Anything on my list that peaks your interest, captures your taste, motivates your viewing? How about the numerous films not on my list(s)? Feel free to share your thoughts and anticipations for the year in film. 


  1. An exemplary list, Mr. V. I need to be romanced a bit more by most all except Star Trek and Die Hard, which have had me since hello many moons ago. But let some interesting set news, or a good trailer come a'calling, and I'll join you on the Bench of Anticipation for more of these movies.

    1. Thank you, Craig!

      I can understand your tepid appraisal and need to be coaxed. The great thing about the movies is we know whether they're good or bad when we see them. No one can convince us otherwise. Tastes are wonderfully subjective. I hope these films deliver for you as much as I expect them to deliver for me.

      I really hope Die Hard hearkens back to its glory days. I absolutely loathed the last film. But the fact that this one has garnered an R rating is auspicious. It needs to maintain that rugged exterior to effectively convey McClane's tough-guy charm.

  2. The Grandmaster, Pacific Rim, and Gravity would be my top 3 picks from your list. Never even heard of The Rover.

    1. Happy to hear it, buddy! I think those three films have the potential to be among our favorites as we reflect on this year in film. I wasn't much aware of The Rover until I did a little investigative work on IMDB. I hope it gets released this year.

  3. Pacific Rim, Star Trek, and Iron Man III top my list. I'm sure you see a pattern there...

    1. Haha! You need not be a first-class analyst or think tank hot shot to recognize that pattern. Nothing wrong with those picks, either. As you can tell, I'm very excited for Pacific Rim and Star Trek. Iron Man 3 is going to have to demonstrate some kind of return to form, though if it wants to earn my money. I didn't enjoy the second very much. Of course, the first film was brilliant. Anything that recalls comparisons to 1 and not 2 will have my vote of confidence.

  4. I haven't yet caught up on my 2012 viewing, and now you're giving me 13 (my lucky number!) new films to set my sights on, only 2 or 3 of which I was aware of. And many of them would slot into my own Top 13. Though the one I'm looking forward to most is your #3: the third in the Cornetto trilogy.

    1. Hey, Nate!

      Haha, I apologize for inundating your schedule with so many movies. But I guess that means I'm doing a damn good job. So thanks!

      I figured you'd be eager to catch Wright's concluding act to his Cornetto trilogy. I remember you pointing out your admiration for him in one of my other posts. I also can't wait to see what visceral cultural bomb he has unleashed for us this time. With Pegg and Frost returning, there's no doubt this film is going to rock our worlds.

  5. Pretty great list here, though I admit I've not ever heard of a few of these. I'm looking forward most to Man of Steel, Star Trek II, Iron Man III, The Great Gatsby, Fast and Furious 6, Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing, I, Frankenstein, Machete Kills, The Hobbit Part II, 300: Rise of Empire, The World's End, Thor II and Sin City II. Yeah, not a lot of drama here for this chica.

    1. Great picks, Mel! If I recall correctly, the mantra that guides your box office purchases are action-oriented, special effects assisted, popcorn thrilling blockbusters. Nothing wrong with that mindset. The cost of a movie ticket has risen exponentially over the last few decades, and when a home setting is perhaps more expedient (at least economically) for viewing dramas and comedies, the rationale for big-budget extravaganzas makes significantly more sense. Of those films you've mentioned that I did not include, I think Machete Kills and 300 have the potential to captivate me. But I'm not sold at this juncture.

      Thanks for sharing your picks :)

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