The year in movies so far has been quite solid. We’ve had an instant Pixar classic, the thrilling reinvention of a beloved series, a thought-provoking sci-fi thriller, a charming showcase for the industry’s finest actor and one of the most inventive romantic comedies I’ve seen in years — and that’s just my top five.
But if the lineup of movies yet to come comes close to living up to its promise, we ain’t seen nothing yet. The list that follows is a veritable roll call of my favorite directors (only Paul Thomas Anderson, Steven Spielberg and Alfonso Cuaron seem to have taken the year off), with a few Jason Bateman appearances to boot.
Here are the ten films I’m most looking forward to, in order, followed by an alphabetical list of runners-up:
1. A Serious Man (Oct. 2)
Three films in three years from the Coen Brothers is almost too good to be true, and if A Serious Man approaches the quality of No Country For Old Men and Burn After Reading, I’ll be a happy man. I don’t know much about this film — which is how I like to go into the Coens’ movies — except that it’s based on their father and promises to be their most personal work yet. That prospect has me doubly excited.
2. Where the Wild Things Are (Oct. 16)
Director Spike Jonze adapts Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s book (he wrote the screenplay with Dave Eggers). Jonze has made only two feature films — Being John Malkovich and Adaptation — but they’re two of my favorite films of the past ten years. I’m curious to see how he’ll do apart from screenwriter Charlie Kaufman. If the trailer is any indication, he done good.
3. Broken Embraces (Nov. 20)
Speaking of winning streaks, Pedro Almódovar has barely missed a step in the 20+ years he’s been directing films. His string over the past decade — All About My Mother, Talk to Her, Bad Education and Volver — is simply astonishing. His love of cinema seeps through the pores of every frame. His latest is another showcase for Penelope Cruz, who should have won the Oscar for Volver.
4. Fantastic Mr. Fox (Nov. 13)
Here’s another celebrated indie director tackling a famous children’s book — Wes Anderson taking on the Roald Dahl tome (which I’ve never read). Anderson’s last film, the uneven The Darjeeling Limited, found him a little too entrenched in his comfort zone. Perhaps working in stop-motion animation will set him free.
5. Up in the Air (Dec.)
Strong word of mouth about the script and early screenings of this Jason Reitman dramedy have pushed it up this list. Reitman is coming off an Oscar nomination for the delightful Juno and seems like a good fit for this tale of a corporate downsizer (played by George Clooney) who has a crisis of conscience. Bonus points for the first Jason Bateman appearance on the list.
6. The Informant! (Sept. 18)
Steven Soderbergh continues his “one for me, one for them” pattern, following the epic Che with this knee-slapper of a true story about a complete idiot (Matt Damon) who conspires with the feds to turn in his crooked bosses. The exclamation point in the title is a perfect touch that captures the zany atmosphere promised in the trailer.
7. Extract (Sept. 4)
Writer/director Mike Judge returns to the workplace after 1999’s cult classic Office Space, this time focusing on a beleaguered middle manager (Jason Bateman sighting number two!) and a cast of wacky characters surrounding him. The trailer promises a lot of laughs, including a potentially scene-stealing turn by the underrated Ben Affleck. And bonus points for the casting of drop-dead beauty Mila Kunis.
8. Nine (Nov. 25)
Director Rob Marshall’s last stab at a Broadway musical (Chicago) raked in a boatload of Oscars. The cast of Nine brings their own boatload of Oscars to the table. Daniel Day-Lewis, Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Marion Cotillard, Judi Dench and Sophia Loren have all won the little golden guy at least once. Kate Hudson must have felt quite intimidated, and Fergie seems to have wandered onto the wrong movie set (but we’ll see how that goes). Seeing all of these people sing and dance is a fascinating prospect.
9. Zombieland (Oct. 9)
All I know about this film is that the trailer makes me want to see it tomorrow. If Zombieland hits a nerve, I predict Woody Harrelson’s character will emerge as a cult favorite on par with Kurt Russell’s Snake Plisken.
10. Me and Orson Welles (Nov.)
I’m interested in anything director Richard Linklater releases, and this low-key tale about a young man (Zac Efron) who breaks into the theater world under the tutelage of Welles seems promising. Claire Danes plays the love interest.
Avatar (Dec. 18) – James Cameron’s first feature film since Titanic
Couples Retreat (Oct. 9) – Jason Bateman sighting number three, with a Vince Vaughn chaser.
The Invention of Lying (Sept. 25) – Jason Bateman yet again (in a small role); Ricky Gervais wrote this film about a world where he’s the only person capable of lying. Jennifer Garner is the woman he woos.
It’s Complicated (Dec. 25) – Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin in a romantic comedy for adults. Lots of potential there.
The Lovely Bones (Dec. 11) – Peter Jackson tackles Alice Sebold’s wonderful, haunting novel. I have doubts about whether this book can translate to the screen but if they pull it off it could be powerful.
The Men Who Stare at Goats (Nov. 6) – George Clooney and his Good Night and Good Luck writing partner team up for a film about military men who conduct telepathic experiments on animals.
The Princess and the Frog (Nov. 25) – A return to hand-drawn animation by Disney, featuring the studio’s first ever Black princess.
Shutter Island (Oct. 2) – Not the sort of film I ordinarily watch, but this creepfest is directed by Martin Scorsese and stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo and Ben Kingsley.
Whip It (Oct. 9) – Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut follows a young woman (Ellen Page) who finds her calling in the roller derby.