DAILY | Most Promising Films of 2013

Sundance opens next week, and then it’s off to the races: Rotterdam, Berlin, SXSW, and then a brief breather before the big one, Cannes. Of course, not all the films we’re looking forward to in 2013 will necessarily premiere at a festival. To anyone wondering which titles are rousing up the most anticipation, I’d recommend starting with Neil Young‘s list. It’s a simple one: 50 titles and their directors, ranked.

Before Midnight

For those looking for more than names to stoke the flames of anticipation, though, there’s plenty out there to turn to. Head first to Ioncinema, where the staff is currently counting down their “Top 100 Most Anticipated Films of 2013.” The list actually goes to 200—and beyond, if you count Nicholas Bell‘s list of “Top 15 Most Anticipated Miniseries or Made for Television Films of 2013,” where he’s got notes on upcoming work from Jane Campion, Sean Durkin, Steven Soderbergh, Alfonso Cuarón, and more. But it’s the top 100 that get the full Eric Lavellee treatment: background, the gist of the project, and predictions regarding the release date, the venue of the premiere, that sort of thing.

Each of Indiewire‘s “50 Indie Films We Want To See In 2013” sports notes on the cast, a probable release date, plus a pitch: “Why It Might Be a Must-See.” Similarly, the Playlist, though their list goes to 100. Dozens of Criticwire contributors each name a title and explain what’s promising about it, and Indiewire‘s asked several industry folk about upcoming highlights in general.

And you’ll find more lists, some annotated, some not, from Stephanie Abrahams (Time), Melissa Anderson (Voice), Jason Bailey (Flavorwire), Dennis Cooper, Peter Keough (Phoenix),, Tom Shone, Marlow Stern (Daily Beast), and Team Twitch. The Brits are looking forward to several films Americans have already seen, but still: Robbie Collin (Telegraph), the Guardian, Mark Kermode, Little White Lies, and Emma Simmonds (Arts Desk). Then there’s Philippa Hawker in Australia. Specialized lists: Jerry Beck (Cartoon Brew, animated features), Kyle Buchanan (Vulture, ubiquitous actors), Chris Clow (, “geek movies”), Jacob S. Hall (, sci-fi) and Jeff Sneider (Variety, studio fare).

Here’s a more or less unranked, nowhere-near-comprehensive selection of titles that leap out to me, at least, with snippets from what’s being said about them. Particularly since Ioncinema‘s still counting down, I’ll post updates if and when anything strikes me. The emphasis here, by the way, is on films that have not yet been screened for anyone anywhere.


First, let’s note that Michael Sicinski, writing into Criticwire, is “waiting with bated breath for Godard‘s Goodbye to Language. While I am not indiscriminate in my embrace of his late work (I have some problems with a few of them), I do think this current phase easily stacks up with anything the man has ever produced. Works like Histoire(s) du Cinema, In Praise of Love, and Film Socialisme will stand not only as masterworks of intellectual cinema, but of European high modernism, or whatever is currently replacing it. So what will the man, now 82 years old, do with 3D? God only knows…”

Richard Linklater‘s Before Midnight. “Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke (aka Celine and Jessie) are back, like the star-crossed Halley’s comet of romantic cinema,” swoons the Guardian. “Following on from the glorious Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, Linklater’s latest reportedly finds the lovers in Greece. But the rest remains a beautiful mystery.”

Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity. The Playlist: “Astronauts attempt to return to earth after debris crashes into their space shuttle, leaving them drifting and alone in space…. Cuarón had a bitch of a time financing this 3D-shot, effects-driven film until he finally landed with the A-list cast of Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.”

Spike Jonze’s Her, with Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Samantha Morton and Olivia Wilde, will be “a bizarre little number about a man who falls in love with a computer operating system,” as the Guardian puts it.


James Gray’s Lowlife, with Joaquin Phoenix (again), Jeremy Renner, and Marion Cotillard. The Playlist: “In search of a new start and the American dream, a Polish immigrant is manipulated into a life of prostitution by a charming but wicked man on the mean streets of Manhattan, until a dazzling magician tries to save her.”

An as-yet-untitled film from Joanna Hogg, “who memorably documented the foibles of the English middle-class on Unrelated and Archipelago,” writes the Guardian. ‘All we know is that it’s a ‘London Project‘ that finds roles for Viv Albertine, Liam Gillick and her regular collaborator Tom Hiddleston.”

Everyone knows Asghar Farhadi’s The Past will be an “emotional social thriller” starring Bérénice Bejo and Tahar Rahim, but no one, it seems, knows anything more.

Thomas Arslan’s Gold, with Nina Hoss, Marko Mandic, Peter Kurth, and Uwe Bohm, set to premiere in Berlin; here’s more.

Denis Côté‘s Vic & Flo ont vu un ours, “the portrait of two recently released prisoners (Pierrette Robitaille and Romane Bohringer) who learn to live in a sugar shack deep in the forest,” as described by Ioncinema‘s Eric Lavallee.

Roman Polanski’s Venus in Fur, with Emmanuelle Seigner and Louis Garrel. Adapted from the play, this “erotic two-hander,” as Indiewire‘s Nigel M. Smith calls it, “centers on a desperate actress who tries her darnedest to win over an aloof director.”

The Wolf of Wall Street

Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, with Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughey, Jonah Hill, Jon Favreau, Kyle Chandler, Jean Dujardin, Margot Robbie, “and even directors Rob Reiner and Spike Jonze in small parts,” notes the Playlist. “A New York stockbroker refuses to cooperate in a large securities fraud case involving corruption on Wall Street, the corporate banking world and mob infiltration.”

Terry Gilliam’s The Zero Theorem, with Matt Damon, Christoph Waltz, Ben Whishaw, Tilda Swinton, and David Thewlis. At Indiewire, Jay A. Fernandez tells us it’s the “story of a computer hacker trying to discover the reason for human existence while dealing with the constant obstacles thrown in his way.”

Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises is “an account of the life and work of Jiro Horikoshi, celebrated aeroplane designer and the man behind the deadly second world war Zero fighter” (Guardian).

Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin, with Scarlett Johansson as “an extraterrestrial in voluptuous female form making her way through rural Scotland” (Playlist). Based on the novel by Michel Faber.

Kelly Reichardt’s Night Moves, with Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, Peter Sarsgaard. The Playlist: “A drama centered on three environmental terrorists who plot to blow up a dam.”

Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color, a “cryptic relationship story about a pair of character trapped in an ageless organism, or something like that” (Eric Kohn, Indiewire).

Bruno Dumont’s Camille Claudel, 1915, with Juliette Binoche. Today we learned that it’ll be premiering in Berlin.

Inside Llewyan Davis

Joel and Ethan Coen’s Inside Llewyn Davis “recreates the early-’60s New York folk-singing scene.” Jason Bailey: “They’ve assembled a knockout cast: the wonderful Carey Mulligan, Flavorwire fave Alex Karpovsky, his Girls co-star Adam Driver, and (here’s the most exciting part) Coens mainstay John Goodman, making his first appearance in a Coen Brothers film since O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive, with Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, Mia Wasikowska, John Hurt, and Anton Yelchin. The Playlist: “Adam and Eve, a reclusive vampire couple who’ve been together for centuries, have their peaceful lives interrupted by her younger sister, Ava.”

Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, an adaptation of “Solomon Northup’s remarkable account of being kidnapped and sold into slavery for a dozen years in the middle of the 19th century.” Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn calls it potentially “one of the more accurate recreations of slavery life in America. (Take that, Django Unchained.)”

Lynn Shelton’s Touchy Feely, with Rosemarie Dewitt as “a massage therapist who suddenly finds the human body repulsive,” Ellen Page, Ron Livingston, Allison Janney, and Scoot McNairy. Indiewire‘s Peter Knegt: “Featuring multiple storylines, it’s a departure from the focused three person narratives of both [Your Sister’s Sister] and its predecessor, Humpday.”

Hong Sang-soo’s Nobody’s Daughter Haewon “depicts the life of a college girl after her mother leaves her to live in Canada,” according to the Chosunilbo. It’ll premiere in Berlin.


Park Chan-wook’s Stoker is “about a woman grieving her father’s loss who takes a shine to a stranger claiming to be her Uncle Charlie. Sound familiar?” asks Peter Keough. “So it should: screenwriter Wentworth Miller says, ‘The jumping-off point is actually Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt.’ It stars Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, and Matthew Goode.”

Bong Joon-ho’s also making his English-language debut with Snowpiercer, based on the graphic novel Le Transperceneige. The Playlist: “At the end of the world, a train transports survivors of a nuclear ice age…. The film boasts a superb cast that includes Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton, Song Kang-ho, John Hurt, Octavia Spencer, Allison Pill, Ed Harris, and Ewen Bremner.”

Lars von Trier’s The Nymphomaniac, with Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgård, Shia LaBeouf, Christian Slater, Connie Nielsen, Willem Dafoe, Udo Kier and Uma Thurman. The Playlist: “A self-diagnosed nymphomaniac recounts her erotic experiences to the man who saved her after a beating.” The Guardian notes, too, that this one, “from the get-go, has been sold on the promise (or threat) of actual sex scenes.”

Paradise: Hope, “the concluding chapter of Ulrich Seidl‘s incredible trilogy holds the brightest torch for 2013,” declares Ioncinema‘s Nicholas Bell.

Also at Criticwire, Calum Marsh: “La Ultima Pelicula, co-directed by Mark Peranson and Raya Martin and starring The Color Wheel‘s Alex Ross Perry, is easily my most anticipated film of 2013.”

Werner Herzog’s Queen of the Desert is a “biopic of Gertrude Bell, starring Naomi Watts and Robert Pattinson,” notes the Guardian. “Bell was an influential traveller, Arabist and secret diplomat in the British imperial possessions in the middle east—notably Iraq.”

Only God Forgives

Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives, with Ryan Gosling, Kristen Scott Thomas, and Tom Burke. Jason Bailey: “Gosling called the script, which concerns an Englishman living in Thailand who runs a boxing club for his criminal family, ‘the strangest thing I’ve ever read, and it’s only going to get stranger.'”

Xavier Dolan’s Tom à la ferme, with Caleb Landry Jones, Evelyne Brochu, Lise Roy, Mélodie Simard, and Eric Bruneau. “A take on Michel Marc Bouchard’s play,” notes Indiewire‘s Peter Knegt, “the story follows Tom (Dolan), a man coping with the death of his boyfriend. When he heads to meet the deceased’s family at their rural farm, it becomes clear his mother was not aware of her son’s relationship with Tom (or his sexual orientation), and things spiral out of control.”

Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, with Alec Baldwin, Cate Blanchett, Bobby Cannavale, Louis C.K., Andrew Dice Clay, Sally Hawkins, Peter Sarsgaard, and Michael Stuhlbarg, tells “the story of the final stages of an acute crisis and a life of a fashionable New York housewife,” according to Dave Itzkoff in the New York Times.

Joe Swanberg’s Drinking Buddies, with Anna Kendrick, Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, and Ron Livingston. Eric Kohn: “The story, about a possible romance between two employees at a Chicago brewery, sounds like just the sort of basic premise that Swanberg could use to construct a charming, perceptive look at ordinary people rendered fascinating through the director attentiveness to behavior.”

Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium, with Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Alice Braga, and Diego Luna is “set in 2159,” notes Melissa Anderson, “and [pits] the cosseted rich who live on the space station of the title against the 99 percent, barely surviving on a destroyed Earth.”

Mood Indigo

To be mentioned, honorably: Steven Soderbergh’s Side Effects and Behind the Candelabra, Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring, Spike Lee’s Oldboy, George Clooney’s Monuments Men, David Michod’s The Rover, Danny Boyle’s Trance, Michel Gondry’s Mood Indigo, Pedro Almodóvar’s I’m So Excited, Ben Wheatley’s A Field in England, Richard Ayoade’s The Double, John Michael McDonough’s Calvary, Edgar Wright’s The World’s End, Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners, Atom Egoyan’s Devil’s Knot, Scott Cooper’s Out of the Furnace, Errol Morris’s Freezing People Is Easy, Matthew Weiner’s You Are Here, Michael Winterbottom’s The Look of Love, Sebastián Silva’s Magic Magic.

Films that Neil Young and others suggest might not make it onto screens until 2014: David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars, Aleksei German’s History of the Arkanar Massacre, Claire Denis‘s The Bastards, Albert Serra’s The Story of My Death, Jessica Hausner’s Amour Fou, and Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel.

And then there are 100—that’s right, one hundred—titles definitely slated for 2014 that Ioncinema‘s already anticipating. Nicholas Bell‘s got notes, too, on the top 11.

Updates, 1/12: First, thanks to Tom Hall for noting in a comment below that I missed out on making note of Arnaud Desplechin’s AKA Jimmy Picard. To Tom’s pitch, which has me sold, let me add Coming Soon‘s summary of Reality and Dream: “Published in 1951, Devreux’s work focuses on a Native American soldier using the alias Jimmy Picard (to be played by Del Toro) who, following World War II, is troubled by psychosomatic illness. Working with Devereux (Amalric), the two form a bond of friendship amidst their professional, medical relationship.”

Ain't Them Bodies Saints

And then, a few additions from Ioncinema. How could I have forgotten David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints with Rooney Mara, Ben Foster and Casey Affleck? “Embracing the atmosphere and tone of a modern-day Western, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints tells the story of an outlaw who escapes from prison and sets out across the Texas countryside to reunite with his wife and the daughter he never met.”

La Grande Bellezza (English translation would be ‘The Great Beauty’) sees [Paolo] Sorrentino reteam with Toni Servillo in what is said to be Fellini-esque venture…. The story of an aging journalist Jap Gambardella (Toni Servillo) who bitterly recollects his passionate, lost youth. A portrait of today’s Rome.”

The story of “a young woman who becomes a prostitute for pleasure,” François Ozon’s Jeune et Jolie “sees model-turned-actress Marine Vacth (Klapisch’s Ma part du Gâteau) in the lead and will once again have the participation of Charlotte Rampling of Swimming Pool fame.”

Updates, 1/15: And all of them from Ioncinema.

Pascale Ferran‘s follow-up to Lady Chatterley (2006) will be Bird People with Anaïs Demoustier. Nancy Tartaglione at Deadline: “[Josh] Charles plays an American arriving at Paris’ Charles De Gaulle airport who checks into a local hotel, turns off his cell and laptop and starts a new life. The relationship drama’s details are sparse, but it’s described as very contemporary—and daring—and incorporates a supernatural element.”

Bertrand Bonello’s Yves Saint Laurent with Gaspard Ulliel “will focus on the period running 1965 to 1976 when Yves Saint Laurent was at the peak of his powers, culminating with the 1976 Russian collection, considered by many as his most influential.”

I Used to Be Darker

Matthew Porterfield‘s I Used to be Darker “is about a young woman named Taryn, a Northern Irish runaway, who finds herself pregnant in Ocean City, MD, she seeks refuge with American relatives in Baltimore. But Aunt Kim and her husband, Bill, have problems of their own: they’re trying to handle the end of their marriage gracefully for the sake of their daughter Abby, just home from her first year of college.”

Hirokazu Koreeda’s Soshite Chichi ni Naru: “Translated as ‘And then I Become a Father,’ this sees Fukuyama Masaharu play an elite, unlikable, money-driven, businessman who works for a major corporation. He encounters the biggest crisis of his life when he finds out that he had unwittingly raised somebody else’s son for the past 6 years because his own son was accidentally switched at birth.”

Abdellatif Kechiche’s Le bleu est une couleur chaude (Blue Is a Hot Color) “centers on Jocelyne (Adèle Exarchopoulos), who is 15 years old and is certain of two things: she is a girl, and girls go out with boys. On the day in which she spots Emma’s (Léa Seydoux) blue hair on the Grand Place, she senses that her life is about to change.”

Zal Batmanglij’s The East, co-written with Brit Marling, “centers on a private contracting firm tasked with protecting big corporations from radical environmentalists and anti-business extremists, who tasks its best and brightest agent, Sarah Moss (Marling), to infiltrate a mysterious terrorist organization known only as ‘The East.'”

David O. Russell’s American Bullshit, with Christian Bale, Jeremy Renner, Amy Adams, and Bradley Cooper: “An FBI sting operation in the 1970s called Abscam leads to the conviction of United States Congressmen.”

Blue Is the Warmest Color

Nadav Lapid’s The Kindergarten Teacher, his followup to Policeman, is “the story of a female Don Quixote, who strives to save the world through the poetry of a child, and of a pensive child who has no desire to be saved.”

Robinson Devor’s You Can’t Win, with Michael Pitt, Jeremy Allen White, Will Patton, Hannah Marks, Louisa Krause, Julia Garner, “is an adaptation of adventurer (Pitt) Jack Black’s 1926 autobiographical novel of the same name which tells of his experiences in the hobo underworld, freight-hopping around the still Wild West of the United States and Canada while he explores the topics of crime, addiction, criminal justice and human folly.”

Updates, 1/16: Two more from Ioncinema. First, Catherine Breillat

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