The stuff that didn’t make the list.
There are a great many other 2012 releases that could end up being better than anything I’ve listed above. For various reasons, however, they didn’t make my personal cut.
Steven Spielberg‘s Lincoln (TBD) might look like a big omission, and the idea of Daniel Day-Lewis playing Lincoln is madly appealing. But Spielberg’s two films in 2011 were both efforts that I could only admire in part; neither moved me as I think he wanted them to. And the biopic, even one constrained in scope, is a frequent delivery system for broad, bland storytelling. I hope for better from Lincoln, but I’m feeling cautious about it now.
Another big omission for many will be Paul Thomas Anderson‘s The Master (TBD). I’m eager to see what he does with the story of a guy who creates his own sort of religion, but PTA’s movies don’t excite me on a deep level the way some others do. I admire his work — he has a precision balanced with an odd, icy empathy that I find very intriguing, if not deeply moving — but I don’t get a wild William Castle buzz of excitement when I think about a PTA movie. That said, The Master still stands as a movie of tremendous interest in 2012.
I didn’t pick The Hobbit (Dec 14), The Avengers (May 4) or The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3) because, while I guess those movies will be entertaining, they also feel like known quantities. I don’t expect to be surprised by them, and so they fall down the list. Of the three, Marc Webb‘s Spider-Man is the one I most want to see, because I think it has the most to lose, and consequently might end up feeling like the biggest success if it works.
I don’t expect to love either movie, but when it comes to literary adaptations, there are two other objects of serious curiosity for me: Ang Lee‘s Life of Pi (Dec 21), because I want to see what he can do with a boy in a boat with a handful of animals, and a lot of subtext about religion and faith. In 3D, no less. And the adaptation of Salman Rushdie‘s Midnight’s Children (Oct) is simply a ‘how the hell is that going to work’ sort of movie.
Additional honorable literary-related mentions go to David Cronenberg‘s adaptation of Don DeLillo‘s Cosmopolis (TBD), and Baz Luhrmann‘s 3D version of The Great Gatsby (Dec 25). Cosmopolis could be Robert Pattinson‘s chance to really prove himself, and a chance for Cronenberg to find liveliness in a story that is mostly constrained to a very small space. And Andrea Arnold‘s Wuthering Heights (TBD) is certainly on my radar, based on the degree to which I’ve liked her previous films.
For action, there are two big picks that just missed the list: Skyfall (Nov. 9) and The Bourne Legacy (Aug. 3). I’m not a Sam Mendes fan at all and generally find the Bond films to be interminably dull. But Casino Royale was a big fun kick in the ass, and I hope to see Daniel Craig‘s third Bond outing pick up where that left off in terms of getting my pulse racing. And that cast (Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Judi Dench, Albert Finney, Berenice Malohe and Naomie Harris) is tough to beat. The Bourne Legacy, meanwhile, might build on what Jeremy Renner did in Mission: Impossible. I like the guy a lot as a slightly different action star, and he’s also got an incredible supporting cast (Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Albert Finney, and Oscar Isaac) under the direction of Tony Gilroy, who was one of the prime architects of the existing Bourne films.
On the more genre-oriented front, I really want Walter Hill‘s return to action, Bullet to the Head (April 13), to be loads of fun, even though I have my deep concerns. And Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon‘s The Cabin in the Woods (April 13) looks like it could be a great ride. They face off against one another in April, so that’s a good genre weekend, if nothing else.
Off to the side, there is 7 Days in Havana (TBD), featuring seven short stories about Havana from different directors, which is appealing just for the segment directed by Gaspar Noe. Omnibus films are rarely truly good, but I want to see anything Noe makes. There is also The ABCs of Death (TBD), the horror omnibus with 26 short films by established and upcoming horror talents.
Finally, I’d love to have picked the Coen Brothers‘ Inside Llewyn Davis (TBD), but I left it off the list because I don’t see that making even a Toronto debut unless they race like hell to get it finished. But you never know.