Getting your hands on tickets is the easy part. Finding a hotel within 50km nominally harder. Making selections much, much worse. But the toughest bit is not regretting your choices. And there are LOTS of choices, but a yes to one thing means a no to another, so you have to make your selections strategically.
Anomalisa – Written and co-directed by Charlie Kaufman, the brilliant mind behind Being John Malkovich and Adaptation. This is Kaufman’s first time exploring a story through stop-motion animation, my favourite kind of animation. It really gives me such an appreciation for a filmmaker’s eye, because every single thing on screen has not only been painstakingly planned but then hand-crafted. So even if the story’s no good, it’s always a feast for the eyes, but I’m willing to bet this one is worthwhile: a motivational speaker is crippled by the banality of his life. It’s kind of reminding me of Mary and Max, one of the best things I’d seen in a good long while.
Black Mass – I’m not sure if I’m super interested in this one myself, but everyone else sure is, so I feel like I need to flag down this bandwagon and inquire about seating. Johnny Depp, who I don’t really care for, stars as notorious gangster Whitey Bulger who spent 30 years as an FBI informant. I feel like we’ve seen Johnny Depp in this role a hundred times before (okay, 4 times, but still) so I’m not sure I’m it for anything other than Benedict Cumberbatch, and can he do a Boston accent?
The Danish Girl – Eddie Redmayne stars as Lili Elbe, the 1920s Danish artist who was one of the first recipients of sexual reassignment surgery, in this biopic directed by The King’s Speech’s Tom Hooper. I totally get why I’m supposed to be into this movie, but I’m a little worried it’s just Oscar bait. Bonus points for having Alicia Vikander portray Ebe’s wife. Interesting note: Nicole Kidman was attached for years to star in Edmayne’s role.
Demolition – This is the opening night premiere and likely to be The Big Ticket. It stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a grief-stricken investment banker intent on unravelling his whole life, until a kindly but burdened customer service agent (Naomi Watts) responds to one of his ranting letters of complaint. Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club, Wild).
Dheepan – Sounds like an interesting and complex drama about a Tamil Tiger soldier who flees the Sri Lankan civil war bound for suburban Paris. Won the Palme D’or at Cannes this year.
The Dressmaker – I haven’t read this book yet, but it’s on my list. Stars Kate Winslet as a butcher. Just kidding. She would be the dressmaker, returning to small-town Australia, bringing bits of Parisian couture with her to fix the native hemlines and her own personal life. Dubiously co-stars Liam Hemsworth, which makes me think maybe I shouldn’t take this one too seriously.
Eye In The Sky – Helen Mirren and Aaron Paul (weird couple alert!) star in this one, about a drone mission that gets dicey when a little girl stumbles into the kill zone.
The Family Fang – Directed by and starring Jason Bateman, it tells the story of two grown siblings (Nicole Kidman being the second) forced to move back home after their estranged prankster parents (Christopher Walken, MaryAnn Plunkett) have an accident. I have a feeling this will be one of those disappointing Jason Bateman movies, but I am absolutely still moved to see it. Someone talk me out of it.
Forsaken – The Sutherland men star in this Canadian movie, which right away makes me not want to see it. And it’s a western. But it co-stars one of Sean’s childhood friends, which plops it center on his to-watch list. And on the plus side, I doubt we’ll have much competition for these tickets.
Freeheld – This one is a priority for me as it sounds really really good and chock-full of stellar performances. Starring Julianne Moore and Ellen Page as a couple who take on a police union when one of them gets a terminal illness and wants to leave her benefits to the other. A true story that was a big moment for LGBT rights.
I Smile Back – Possibly a riskier choice among these contenders, it stars Sarah Silverman as a drug-addicted New Jersey housewife, and as you can imagine, it’s probably not about how that turned out really well for her. I’m not necessarily a big Silverman fan, but I do have a thing for Josh Charles, who plays her husband, and at least on paper, this one has potential for surprise.
The Lady in the Van – Maggie Smith plays a high-born homeless woman (who lives in a van down by the river?) who befriends the man whose driveway she’s living in. I don’t know much about this but usually if Maggie Smith’s in it, I’m there. Other intriguing names: James Corden and Jim Broadbent.
Legend – Tom Hardy plays identical twin gangsters. I’m definitely in camp Hardy and I bet he’ll be great, but I do wish this was a bit more of a departure for him.
The Lobster – Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz and John C. Reilly star in this one that sounds absolutely bananas. In the future, single people are arrested and incarcerated in a creepy hotel where they have 45 days to hook up with a new mate – or else! Or else what? Or else they get turned into animals, apparently. So there’s that. Obvious potential to be disastrously bad, but might also be a highlight if done well. And it should be a break from all the heavy drama the pervades this list.
Lolo – I have a persistent crush on Julie Delpy, so it will be hard for me to resist this satirical comedy even though it sounds like a cross between How Stella Got her Groove Back (workaholic Violette finds romance while on a spa vacation) and Cyrus (her new beau soon has doubts when witnesses her unusual relationship with her 20-year-old son.)
Maggie’s Plan – Greta Gerwig stars as a young woman so determined to have a baby she ends up embroiled in a weird relationship with a curious couple (Ethan Hawke, Julianne Moore). Greta Gerwig is a bit hit or miss with me, but I do think she’s interesting to watch and she takes some interesting chances. I’d much rather hit or miss than the dozens of bland actresses who are her contemporaries.
The Martian – A big priority for me because this is one of my favourite reads from last year, and when I passed the book on to non-literate Sean, it because his favourite as well. But this is a Ridley Scott blockbuster that’s bound to be at the top of lots of lists, and then there’s always the potential that they’ll screw up a book that you love, and that potential seems very real with Ridley Scott at the helm.
Room – The problem is, I really loved this book as well, so I’m feel like I’m setting myself up for disappointment by tempting fate twice. But it’s a fascinating story – a woman (Brie Larson) is held captive in a single room for YEARS, and bears a child in there, who has never seen the outside world. Then they escape, and now they have to learn to live in the world, which turns out to be the challenging part of the equation!
Son of Saul – A prisoner of Auschwitz forced to burn bodies takes it upon himself to rescue one such body, that of a little boy he takes for his son, and give him a proper burial. Bound to be gut AND heart-wrenching. Better to leave this one for when I’m not so burned out on movies?
Spotlight – Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Michael Keaton are a real-life team of reporters who take down the rapey, child-molesty Catholic Church. Subject matter may make it harder for me to lust after John Slattery, and isn’t that the whole point? Yes, I’ve missed the point. What was my point?
Trumbo – Bryan Cranston is Dalton Trumbo in this biopic about the Hollywood screenwriter who is blacklisted for being a Commie.
Victoria – About a young Spanish party girl who somehow becomes the get-away driver for a bank-robbing foursome. Not my usual fare, but super interested in its apparently being shot in a single extended take.
Where to Invade Next – Michael Moore’s most recent “documentary”, bound to be buzzed-about and controversial, and the only film of its kind on the docket.
Honestly, I think it would be difficult to lose with this line-up, and I’ve sadly had to leave lots of really great choices on the cutting room floor (but of course may happily reconsider them when we’re making actual selections, depending on how lucky we get).
What did I miss? Which would you choose? Matt, are we on the same page at all?