As the Toronto Film Festival unofficially marks the cinematic world's descent into the dark hell known commonly as awards season, I thought it was high time for my picks as the best to look forward to in the months ahead. Since it's only two days away, I won't be including my current "can't wait!" movie of the moment, The Black Dahlia, though I do hope with every fibre of my being that it lives up to my exceedingly high expectations. It currently occupies the desktop of my brand spanking new laptop, so it best be worth that honour.
Anyway, I scoured and scraped through the planned release dates, and I finally whittled it down to a grand total of 20 films that I simply can't wait to arrive at the multiplex, or, perhaps more preferably, the nearest art-house. These are the films I'd skip lectures to see (although let's hope it doesn't come to that)- these are the films I'd walk for an hour just to get to. These are my most anticipated of the rest of 2006.
20. Marie Antoinette (Sofia Coppola) (release- UK & USA: 20th October)
Little more than a fattening confection (in the metaphorical sense), it seems, but what a gorgeous confection it looks like! Kirsten Dunst looks magnetic as the legendary French queen, who, from the looks of the trailer, gains the chagrin of her people as she has wild and frivolous parties. Infamously booed at Cannes, it has actually recieved some positive reaction, and, if it looks doubtful to recieve much awards traction, it should still be a fascinating experience.
19. Casino Royale (Martin Campbell) (release- UK & USA: 17th November)
Bond's back, blonde and, by the looks of it, better than ever. The trailers seem to promising a darker, rawer feel to the long series, and let's hope a return to Bond's beginnings mean a fresh start for the series itself. Daniel Craig looks a very promising choice, in my eyes.
18. Stranger than Fiction (Marc Forster) (release- UK: 1st December; USA: 10th November)
The concept is genius: a man hears the narration of what seems to be his own life, but when it seems to announce his death, he's forced to investigate. Will Ferrell? Let's hope he can tone himself down. The presence of stars like Emma Thompson (as the narrator) and Maggie Gyllenhaal should help.
17. Infamous (Douglas McGrath) (release- UK: TBC; USA: 13th October (limited))
Another Capote? Festival reports are saying this is just as good. Little-known British actor Toby Jones tackles the writer this time around, apparently focusing more on his sexuality and the attraction between him and murderer Perry Smith (hey look, it's Daniel Craig again!). Sandra Bullock is also getting positive buzz for her performance as Capote's best friend Harper Lee (the role that garnered Catherine Keener an Oscar nom last year).
16. Bug (William Friedkin) (release- UK: TBC; USA: 1st December (limited))
This fascinating-sounding adaptation of what sounds like an intense stageplay is from Exorcist director Friedkin, and stars Michael Shannon as a man who sees insects everywhere, and Ashley Judd as the woman who holds up with him. Hopefully this will be an uncompromising psychological piece, because that's what I like best. If it ever gets released here, of course.
15. Inland Empire (David Lynch) (release- TBC)
Lynch is always one to watch, whether it's a masterwork (Mulholland Drive) or a mystery (Lost Highway), and I'd be a fool it I didn't counter in this as one to watch. Lynch favourite Laura Dern and Mulholland star Justin Theroux are two actors who begin to confuse themselves with the roles they're playing. At a reported time of 172 minutes, will this transfix or will it bore? Let's hope it's released soon so we can find out.
14. Starter for Ten (Tom Vaughan) (release- UK: 13th October; USA- February TBC)
A terrific looking British film about James McAvoy in his first year at university. As someone who's about to start the experience himself, this should be an entertaining and insightful, and hopefully fun, look at someone who sounds a lot like me.
13. The Painted Veil (John Curran) (release- UK: TBC; USA: 19th January)
A delicious cast of Naomi Watts, Edward Norton, Liev Schreiber and Diana Rigg star in this adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham's novel, already adapted for Greta Garbo in the 1930s. I hope this isn't as stale and cold as Curran's previous film, We Don't Live Here Anymore, and hope the lack of buzz on it is just because no one's seen anything yet.
12. Scenes of a Sexual Nature (Ed Blum) (release- UK: 3rd November; USA: TBC)
This tiny little British film looks a tad slight- a cast of various couples on Hampstead Heath one afternoon- but it has a killer cast- Hugh Bonneville, Andrew Lincoln, Sophie Okonedo, Catherine Tate, Eileen Atkins, Gina McKee, Polly Walker and Ewan McGregor (playing gay once again)- and has been touted as an enjoyable affair.
11. The Last King of Scotland (Kevin MacDonald) (release- UK: 12th January; USA: TBC)
Idi Adim's regime as Ugandan dictator in the 1970s is the subject of this very positively recieved new film from Touching the Void director MacDonald, and Forest Whitaker is touted as a Best Actor nominee for his role as Adim. Looks fascinating.
And the Top 10:
10. Breaking and Entering (Anthony Minghella) (release- UK: 10th November; USA: 8th January (limited), Jan TBC elsewhere)
Minghella’s newest film looks like a more reticent, low-key affair than his previous efforts like The English Patient or The Talented Mr. Ripley, and unlike them it’s also not a period piece: instead, architect Jude Law is drawn to a young thief's refugee mother (Juliette Binoche), straining his relationship with girlfriend Robin Wright Penn. My excitement for this one rose considerably when Kris Tapley gave it a rave.
9. Apocalypto (Mel Gibson) (release- UK: 5th January; USA: 8th December)
After all Gibson's coverage in the media recently I'm surprised they're still pushing ahead with this one, but then they did put a shitload of money into it. I find the Mayans a distressingly untouched subject, and, although Gibson says this is more an action film than a thinking piece, it still looks terrific. I admire Gibson for sticking to his guns and making it in the Maya language, even if I don't admire him for his recent behaviour.
8. The Good German (Steven Soderbergh) (release- UK: 9th March; USA: 25th December)
What a Christmas present for you Americans! I'm pumped for the latest Soderbergh-Clooney collaboration for the simple fact that it's in black-and-white; and with Cate Blanchett and Tobey Maguire co-starring and an enticing plot mixture of mystery and romance, colour me excited. You've got long enough to do so, mind you- March 9th?!
7. Goya's Ghosts (Milos Forman) (release- UK & USA: TBC)
It seems Milos Forman's long awaited project is having trouble finding a US distributor, although whether this is because it's not very good- or perhaps too daring?- remains to be seen. Natalie Portman stars as the muse of Spanish painter Francisco Goya (Stellan Skarsgard) who is labelled an heretic by a monk (Javier Bardem). It sounds like juicy project, and certainly looks good from the few pictures released, and hopefully it will find release before it's too late for the awards season, which it should be a major contender in.
6. Paris, je t'aime (various) (release- UK & USA: TBC)
A jumble of 20 different stories, representing the 20 differing arrondissements of the romance capital of world (and the start of the title), each segment of this long-awaited film has been made by a different director, ranging from Alexander Payne to the Coen brothers and Olivier Assayas to Wes Craven, and they're all preoccupied with that fascinating subject: love. Stars including Natalie Portman, Gena Rowlands, Steve Buscemi, Nick Nolte, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Miranda Richardson and Juliette Binoche form the multi-national cast. I was so tempted to pop in and see this when in Paris earlier this year; let's hope I made the wise decision and it pops up with a release date soon.
5. Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus (Steven Shainberg) (release- UK: 10th November; USA: 10th November (limited))
Nicole Kidman looks set to give another terrific performance as Diane Arbus, the artist who gained fame with her photographs of the marginalised people in the USA. The trailer shows a film with the same off-kilter edge as Shainberg's last film Secretary, and I hope that he's kept that same feeling that made Secretary's exploration of dark sexual behaviour so fascinating and interesting. Robert Downey Jr. co-stars as part of his renaissance.
4. Little Children (Todd Field) (release- UK: TBC; USA: 6th October)
After his emotionally devastating but ultimately rather distancing debut In The Bedroom, Todd Field here adapts an acclaimed novel about surburban adultery and parenthood, and has the rather indelible cast of directing Kate Winslet, yet again tipped for an Oscar nomination. The trailer is itself an expertly crafted piece of art, and it’s to be hoped the film follows suit. Reviews so far have been kind and cruel in equal measure, but the one thing they’ve all agreed on is Winslet’s wonderousness- and hey, if I’m going to sit through Flushed Away for her, I’ll most definitely sit through this.
3. Children of Men (Alfonso Cuaron) (release: UK: 22nd September; USA: 25th December (limited))
Due out very soon here in the UK, this has been promisingly moved to a December release in the US, and festival reports are saying that Cuaron’s dark-looking apocalyptic drama is one of the year’s best films. Starring a to-die-for cast of Julianne Moore, Clive Owen, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Caine, it’s set about thirty years in the future, where women are mysteriously infertile and the youngest person on the planet, an eighteen year old, has just died. This looks exactly like my kind of film, and rest assured I’ll be seeing it as soon as I possibly can.
2. The Fountain (Darren Aronofsky) (release- UK: 16th February; USA: 22nd November)
Darren Aronofsky’s long-awaited follow-up to his 2000 effort Requiem For a Dream, and his first collaboration with partner Rachel Weisz, was infamously booed at it’s premiere in Venice, but reports say it received just as much applause, and I personally can’t wait to see this, a film which sounds like it could be, and indeed is, so many different things at once. A multi-angled sci-fi time-travelling romance, it stars Hugh Jackman (certainly the one to watch this year) as a man who travels centuries to try to save his dying wife (Weisz). The charismatic duo of Jackman and Weisz are already demonstrating from this clip that they’ll make a transfixing pair, and Aronofsky’s incomparable visual style is sure to make this an experience not to be missed.
1. The Nativity Story (Catherine Hardewicke) (release- UK & USA: 1st December)
Two years ago, Mel Gibson (see #9) tackled the bloody end of the life of Jesus Christ- this year, Thirteen director Catherine Hardewicke explores the beginning of it, with Keisha Castle Hughes, in her first major role since her stunning debut in 2003’s Whale Rider, starring as Mary, mother of the baby Jesus. It is bound to be fascinating to see a cinematic representation of what we’ve all seen so many times at junior schools, and I hope and assume that Hardewicke’s raw style from Thirteen will add an intriguing new dimension to the tale. Whether this’ll satisfy my strange, atheistic interest in the subject, we shall find out this Christmas.