The first part of this post was relatively easy. They are all films that will with 100 percent certainty be released at some point this year. Now comes the tricky and fun part: foreign films, films that may not make it past limited release or out of the festival circuit, or may not be ready in time for awards runs. This is where I hope for surprises.
Everything I just said in the preamble can be thrown out for this pick. I simply forgot to add it to part one, an oversight because I was concentrating on films I hadn't yet seen. Miyazaki's swan song about Jiro Hirikoshi, the inventor of the Mitsubishi Zero, the plane that did so much damage during the attack on Pearl Harbor, has been met with adoration since its release in Japan and on the festival circuit, but has come in for some controversy in Japan for appearing anti-Japanese (and also because the film contains a lot of smoking). The film is decidedly less fanciful than any previous Miyazaki work, but no less subtle and human.
Koreeda's latest also has a firm date (tomorrow, in fact), but could find difficulty expanding much beyond the top 10 or so markets. It's the story of two children switched at birth, one going to a rich family, one to a poor family, and the social consequences of the mishap. It sounds simplistic, but so does every Koreeda logline. His perspective and storytelling skill, and his keen eye for casting, make every film of his exciting though. One saving grace as far as releasing goes might be that Netflix picked up his last film, I Wish, very quickly.
Christoph Waltz plays a computer genius tasked by an Orwellian corporate boss to solve the "zero theorem," a mathematical formula that will prove whether or not life holds any meaning. Gilliam has gone wildly off track in his career since Fear and Loathing, but the trailer that leaked last year (and was quickly pulled) made this look like a throwback to Brazil both in story and form. That's a tall order though. Can he pull it off?
Lynn Shelton is stepping up to the big time with her cast for Laggies, a dark comedy about a woman on the verge of 30 (played by Keira Knightley) who rejects her boyfriend's marriage proposal and ends up hiding out with a new friend, a 16-year-old girl (played by Chloe Grace Moretz). Sam Rockwell co-stars. The film premiers in a few days at Sundance, where it is sure to be bought.
Jeremy Renner will play Gary Webb, an investigative reporter who found connections between the CIA, Nicaraguan Contras and the crack epidemic in Los Angeles. After denials of the story, his paper backed off and he eventually found himself unemployable (though was later vindicated). Features a crazy support cast as well: Michael Sheen, Andy Garcia, Ray Liotta, Barry Pepper, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rosemarie DeWitt, Paz Vega, Oliver Platt, Richard Schiff and Michael K. Williams.
The always bleak and gritty Inarritu goes comedy for his latest film, about an actor known for playing action roles (Michael Keaton) who takes the lead in a staging of Raymond Carver's What We Talk About When We Talk About Love and has to battle his ego in the process. At the very least, I'm interested to see what his take on comedy is, and I'm glad to see Keaton getting back into the game lately. Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts and Zach Galifianakis co-star.
Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon's first trip, around the North of England, was an amazing, hilarious journey of cutting humor and oddball impersonations with a sullen undercurrent to it. This time the trip takes them to Italy for their hijinks. Like the first film, this will be a feature-length cut of the television series version aired in the UK by the BBC. Also premiering at Sundance, where it is sure to be bought.
The third installment of the I Love You series (following Paris and New York) finds a disparate group of international directors (Im Sang-soo, Paolo Sorrentino, Guillermo Arriaga to name a few) in Rio de Janeiro. Each film is an amalgam of short films with a loose throughline that stitches them all together. The films are hit and miss, but in the two previous there have been some really surprising and great films hidden within and I expect the same for Rio.
In a future ice age, the few remaining humans are stuck, having survived on a massive train called the Snowpiercer, which runs on a perpetual motion engine. As the train makes its way around the globe, the same class system that existed outside begins to form inside. The film is stuck in limbo right now, with the Weinsteins wishing to cut the film down for an American audience, which has gotten considerable backlash online. Though a Korean film, it features a worldwide cast including John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Ed Harris, Allison Pill, Song Kang-ho and Chris Evans.
Benedict Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing, the cryptographer who cracked the Enigma code, helping the Allies to win WWII, who was then criminally prosecuted and chemically castrated for being gay, which was still illegal in England at the time. The script for the film was at the top of the 2011 Black List, a compilation of the best unproduced screenplays in Hollywood.
A surprise entry to this year's Sundance Film Festival, Boyhood is the film that Linklater has been shooting for more than 12 years, following the life of a young boy growing up in real time. It'll be a rough three-hour cut showing at the festival and he'll have a lot of work to do to cut it down in time for any of the fall festivals or for release, but we've been waiting for a long time to see this. Ethan Hawke co-stars.
Based on the Japanese folktale, the Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, this is Takahata's first film in almost 15 years, since he made My Neighbors the Yamadas. Princess Kaguya could see the same kind of release as The Wind Rises, where it gets a weeklong run in NY/LA to qualify for the Oscars, before a 2015 dubbed release, but Takahata's films have not been met with as wide a theatrical acclaim as Miyazaki's films.