Daily | Most Promising Films of 2014

David Cronenberg

David Cronenberg at work on ‘Maps to the Stars’

I’ll carry on pointing out noteworthy best-of-2013 lists over the coming days and weeks; the Oscars won’t be presented until March 2, so we’ve still got a lot way to go. But today’s for looking ahead, and more than a few sites have been posting lists of the most anticipated films of 2014. Among them: BlackBook, HitFix, TheWrap, and most helpfully, Micropsia. Critics for the New York Times are also looking ahead to the year in culture (art, music, video games, and so forth), and as for film, Manohla Dargis is looking forward to back-to-back retrospectives at Film Forum, The Complete Hitchcock and Tout Truffaut; A.O. Scott to re-viewing Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida; Stephen Holden to Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac; and Jeannette Catsoulis to Frank Pavich’s Jodorowsky’s Dune.

As I scan the previews, these are some of the titles that’ve caught my eye. Not all of them are guaranteed to premiere in 2014, but still. And note that word “premiere”; several 2013 festival favorites are set to open in the States over the coming months, but they won’t be listed here. Also, I’m sure I’ve overlooked several forthcoming films that ought to be here, so comments are welcome.


Jean-Luc Godard‘s Adieu au langage. Following The Three Disasters, his contribution to 2013’s omnibus film 3X3D, this new feature will see Godard further his work in three dimensions. The short synopsis: “A married woman and a single man meet. They love, they argue, fists fly. A dog strays between town and country. The seasons pass. A second film begins…” And Wild Bunch has a longer one. Back in June, we posted an entry on Daniel Ludwig‘s report from the set. Meantime, in the new issue of Artforum, J. Hoberman revisits Godard’s trailers; and Jonathan Rosenbaum‘s just posted his 1972 review of Godard on Godard: Critical Writings by Jean-Luc Godard.

Alain Resnais‘s Aimer, boire et chanter (Life of Riley). Premiering in Berlin next month, Resnais’s 21st feature is based on Alan Ayckbourn’s play, and at the playwright’s site, the short synopsis reads: “Friends and family gather to remember the unseen and dying George Riley’s life. As they look back on lives lived or might have lived, George plots a final farewell which threatens to upset all their future lives.” With Sabine Azéma, Sandrine Kiberlain, Caroline Silhol, André Dussolier, Hippolyte Giradot, and Michel Vuillermoz.

Manoel de Oliveira‘s A Igreja do Diabo (The Church of the Devil). From the IMDb: “Three connected stories set in Brazil following a visit of devil to earth, a case of adultery and the delusions of an ornithologist.” With Alex Sander, Fernanda Montenegro, Lima Duarte, and Ricardo Trêpa.


Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice. PTA’s adaptation, the first of any of a novel by Thomas Pynchon, features Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Katherine Waterston, Reese Witherspoon, Jena Malone, Joanna Newsom, and Benicio del Toro. Robert Elswit’s the cinematographer and, once again, Jonny Greenwood’s composed the score.

Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. In “The Spectacular Next: Ten Movies to See in 2014,” Calum Marsh notes in the Voice that the film’s “set in 1920s Europe, was shot on three different formats and in three different aspect ratios, and stars Ralph Fiennes, Willem Dafoe, Adrien Brody, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray, Tom Wilkinson, Jude Law, Owen Wilson, and Tilda Swinton—and that’s just a partial list. The world isn’t ready for this much twee.” Premieres in Berlin.

Richard Linklater‘s Boyhood. “He’s been shooting it for some twelve years now with his Before star Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, and newcomer Ellar Coltrane, who plays their son, a kid we’ll see age from 7 to 18.” Jennifer Vineyard recently spoke with Linklater and Hawke for Vulture. The title will likely change, by the way.

David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars. Writing for the Globe and Mail, Liam Lacey notes that this’ll be “Cronenberg’s first film set in Los Angeles, and he couldn’t have a better guide in screenwriter-novelist Bruce Wagner, the most acerbic chronicler of Hollywood since Nathanael West… The cast includes John Cusack as a famous pop psychiatrist, Julianne Moore as his celebrity client, and Olivia Williams as his wife and the manager of their drug-addicted child star (Evan Bird). Mia Wasikowska is their mentally disturbed daughter; Robert Pattinson is the limo driver she befriends.”

Werner Herzog‘s Queen of the Desert. The IMDb lists this one for 2015, but I’m letting Diego Lerer‘s optimism get the better of me. Nicole Kidman, who’ll play Gertrude Bell, a traveler, writer, archaeologist, explorer, cartographer, and political attaché for the British Empire, recently told Leslie Felperin in the Guardian: “It is a huge endevour, so I’m in the midst of researching her right now…. She’s the female Lawrence of Arabia. She was English, and basically defined the borders between Iraq and Jordan that exist today, borders that she negotiated between Churchill and different Arab leaders. She went out to the desert with the Bedouin and all the different tribes that were feuding at the turn of the 19th century.” Also cast: James Franco, Robert Pattinson, and Damian Lewis.

Abel Ferrara’s Welcome to New York. We’ve been playing cat-and-mouse with the trailer for months, and at the moment, you can watch it here. Gérard Depardieu stars as Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and Jacqueline Bisset plays DSK’s former wife, Anne Sinclair. Adam Cook spoke with Ferrara for the Notebook in August.

Woody Allen’s Magic in the Moonlight. Back in October, the Guardian‘s Andrew Pulver reported that details “are thin on the ground, though it has finished shooting in the south of France and is currently in postproduction. An extensive cast list has been previously revealed, including Colin Firth, Eileen Atkins, Downton Abbey’s Marcia Gay Harden, Theatre de Complicté’s Simon McBurney, Emma Stone and Jacki Weaver. The plot has been described as a romantic comedy taking place over two decades, in the 1920s and 30s.”

Peter Bogdanovich’s Squirrels to the Nuts. The IMDb synopsis: “A married Broadway director [Owen Wilson] falls for a prostitute-turned-actress [Imogen Poots] and works to help her advance her career.” Also featuring Jennifer Aniston, Kathryn Hahn, Will Forte, Richard Lewis, Cybil Shepherd, and Rhys Ifans. Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach are producing. In September, Katey Rich filed a report from the set.

Gone Girl

Ben Affleck in ‘Gone Girl’

David Fincher’s Gone Girl. Mark Olsen for the Los Angeles Times: “The thriller is currently set for release on Oct. 3. Gillian Flynn is writing the adaptation of her own book, the story of a man (Ben Affleck) whose wife (Rosamund Pike) disappears on their fifth anniversary after they have moved from New York City back to the small Missouri town he is from.”

Terrence Malick’s Knight of the Cups and/or Voyage of Time, and who knows, there may be another one as well. Knight may or may not feature Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchett, Nick Offerman, Imogen Poots, Antonio Banderas, and Freida Pinto. We can be sure, though, that Emmanuel Lubezki has shot it and that Jack Fisk has served once again as Malick’s production designer. As for Voyage, in September, Dominic Patten reported for Deadline on the legal mess it’s run into. “Narrated by Brad Pitt and possibly others, the ascent of man docu has accumulated more that 3300 minutes of raw footage from 175 shooting days around the world and several hundred pre-visual effects shots.”

Gregg Araki’s White Bird in a Blizzard. Premiering at Sundance: “Based on the acclaimed novel by Laura Kasischke, White Bird in a Blizzard tells the story of Kat Connors, a young woman whose life is turned upside down by the sudden disappearance of her beautiful, enigmatic mother. Cast: Shailene Woodley, Eva Green, Christopher Meloni, Shiloh Fernandez, Gabourey Sidibe, Thomas Jane.”

Marjane Satrapi’s The Voices. Another Sundance title. “This genre-bending tale centers around Jerry Hickfang, a lovable but disturbed factory worker who yearns for attention from a woman in accounting. When their relationship takes a sudden, murderous turn, Jerry’s evil talking cat and benevolent talking dog lead him down a fantastical path where he ultimately finds salvation. Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Gemma Arterton, Anna Kendrick, Jacki Weaver.”

Anton Corbijn’s A Most Wanted Man. The adaptation of John le Carré’s bestseller will also premiere at Sundance. With Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe, and Robin Wright.

Steve James’s Life Itself. The doc based on Roger Ebert’s memoir is headed to Sundance.


Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner. Timothy Spall plays J.M.W. Turner in the British director’s first period drama since Topsy-Turvy (1999). Also cast are Marion Bailey, Dorothy Atkinson, and Paul Jesson; and Dick Pope’s the cinematographer.

Christian Petzold’s Phoenix. Featuring Barbara‘s Nina Hoss and Ronald Zehrfeld, the film’s set in “the post-Second World War era, focusing on a woman who has survived the Holocaust,” Geoffrey Macnab reported for Screen back in May. “Presumed dead, she returns home under a new identity to find out if her husband betrayed her.”

Yorgos Lanthimos‘s The Lobster. The Guardian‘s Xan Brooks: “Set in a dystopian near future, The Lobster focuses on a group of single men and women who are brought to a sinister hotel and ordered to find a life partner within 45 days. Those who fail to find a mate are then transformed into animals and released into the woods.” With Léa Seydoux, Jason Clarke, Ben Whishaw and Olivia Colman.

Tsai Ming-liang’s Xi You (Journey to the West). “I have become tired of cinema,” Tsai wrote in the press notes for Stray Dogs, and yet, here we are. Xi You, featuring Lee Kang-sheng and Denis Lavant (!), will premiere in Berlin’s Panorama section.

Hou Hsiao-hsien’s The Assassin. A wuxia film set during the Tang dynasty. Nearly a year ago now, David Bordwell reported on a visit to the set: “When it comes to mise-en-scène, no stone is left unturned. In fact, just about every stone, and everything else, is at some point toyed with by Hou himself…. I venture this guess: this will be a Hou film first, and a wuxia film a distant second. It will likely be a wuxia film unlike any other.”

Apichatpong Weerasethakul‘s Cemetery of Kings. In September, Apichatpong told Geir Ivar Lien: “It features Jenjira, my regular actress, and Banlop, the soldier guy from Tropical Malady. It is about sleeping and dreaming.” More from Patrick Brzeski in the Hollywood Reporter.

Sils Maria

Juliette Binoche in ‘Sils Maria’

Olivier Assayas‘s Sils Maria. “Written by the director, the screenplay focuses on actress Maria Enders [Juliette Binoche],” reports Fabien Lemercier for Cineuropa. “20 years after becoming famous by playing the role of Sigrid, a character who fascinated that of Helena and led her to suicide, Maria, at the top of her international career, is asked to take part in the play again, but this time in the role of Helena. Kristen Stewart will be the personal assistant of Maria, Chloë Moretz the young actress who takes over the role of Sigrid, Tom Sturridge her boyfriend, and Daniel Brühl the theatre’s director.”

Terence Davies’s Sunset Song. An adaptation of Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s 1932 novel set in North East Scotland starring Agyness Deyn and Peter Mullan. In June, Michael Rosser reported that shooting was scheduled for August and that Davies would follow up with A Quiet Passion, an Emily Dickinson biopic starring Cynthia Nixon.

Roy Andersson’s A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence. From the Swedish Film Institute: “Two world-weary men on a sales trip selling joke items provide an insight into a chaotic world of the present, past and future; a world of dreams and fantasies. Diverse lives and circumstances are paraded before us, reminding us both of the grandeur of life and the vulnerability of man.”

Emir Kusturica’s On the Milky Road (formerly Love and War). In August, Swide reported: “Taking place between Bosnia and Serbia, this is essentially a love story that is told through the eyes of Emir Kusturica’s character, who after the death of his wife chooses to leave the bigger cities in favor of isolation.” With Monica Bellucci.

Ulrich Seidl’s In the Basement, a doc that “seeks to depict Austrians’ relationships with their basements and to define the specificities of Austrian basements—and if in fact such specificities exist.”

Peter Strickland’s The Duke of Burgundy. A “dark melodrama, which follows the intense relationship between two women. Starring Sidse Babett Knudsen (Borgen) and Chiara d’Anna.”

Mia Hansen-Løve’s Eden. The French electronica scene in the 90s. With Félix de Givry, Pauline Etienne, Laura Smet, Brady Corbet, and Greta Gerwig.

Dominik Graf’s Die geliebten Schwestern. Ah, the summer of 1788, when two sisters fell for the same writer, Friedrich Schiller. Premiering in Competition at the Berlinale. With Hannah Herzsprung, Florian Stetter, and Henriette Confurius.

Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Winter Sleep. With Haluk Bilginer.

Marco Bellocchio’s La prigione di Bobbio. The true story of a noble woman in the 17th century who was forced to become a nun.

Lisandro Alonso‘s Sin Titulo. With Viggo Mortensen.

Michael Winterbottom’s The Trip to Italy. Reunites Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon “for more delectable food, some sharp-elbowed rivalry, and plenty of laughs.” Premiering at Sundance.


Jeff Nichols’s Midnight Special. IMDb: “A father and son go on the run after the dad learns his child possesses special powers.” With Kirsten Dunst, Michael Shannon, and Joel Edgerton.

Ira Sachs’s Love Is Strange. Premiering at Sundance: “After 39 years together, Ben and George finally tie the knot, but George loses his job as a result, and the newlyweds must sell their New York apartment and live apart, relying on friends and family to make ends meet. Cast: John Lithgow, Alfred Molina, Marisa Tomei, Darren Burrows, Charlie Tahan, Cheyenne Jackson.”

Joe Swanberg‘s Happy Christmas. Premiering at Sundance: “After a breakup with her boyfriend, a young woman moves in with her older brother, his wife, and their 2-year-old son. Cast: Anna Kendrick, Melanie Lynskey, Mark Webber, Lena Dunham, and Joe Swanberg.”


Chloë Grace Moretz and Keira Knightley in ‘Laggies’

Lynn Shelton’s Laggies. From Sundance: A “coming of age story about a 28-year-old woman stuck in permanent adolescence. Unable to find her career calling, still hanging out with the same friends, and living with her high school boyfriend, Megan must finally navigate her own future when an unexpected marriage proposal sends her into a panic. Cast: Keira Knightley, Sam Rockwell, Chloë Grace Moretz, Ellie Kemper, Jeff Garlin, Mark Webber.”

Michael Tully’s Ping Pong Summer. Sundance: “1985. Ocean City, Maryland. Summer vacation. Rap music. Parachute pants. Ping pong. First crushes. Best friends. Mean bullies. Weird mentors. That awkward, momentous time in your life when you’re treated like an alien by everyone around you, even though you know deep down you’re as funky fresh as it gets. Cast: Susan Sarandon, John Hannah, Lea Thompson, Amy Sedaris, Robert Longstreet, and Marcello Conte.”

David Zellner‘s Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter. Another Sundance title: “A lonely Japanese woman becomes convinced that a satchel of money buried in a fictional film is, in fact, real. Abandoning her structured life in Tokyo for the frozen Minnesota wilderness, she embarks on an impulsive quest to search for her lost mythical fortune. Cast: Rinko Kikuchi.”


1/2: Doug Cummings reminds me that we can look forward to Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s Deux Jours, Une Nuit (Two Days, One Night). Michael Rosser for Screen back in June: “Marion Cotillard and Fabrizio Rongione play the leads alongside a variety of Belgian actors including Olivier Gourmet, Christelle Cornil and Catherine Salée. The film follows 30-year old Sandra (Cotillard) and her husband (Rongione) on their hunt across the city for colleagues prepared to sacrifice their bonuses so she can keep her job.”


Florian David Fitz in Christoph Hochhäusler’s new film

Christoph Hochhäusler is currently editing his new as-yet-untitled film. When shooting wrapped in September, he posted a first still.

1/6: Ioncinema‘s Eric Lavallee reminds us that Wim Wenders is currently shooting Every Thing Will Be Fine. The “3D drama stars James Franco, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Rachel McAdams, and Marie-Josee Croze.” The IMDb synopsis: “One day, driving aimlessly around the outskirts of town after a trivial domestic quarrel, a writer named Tomas accidentally hits and kills a child. Will he be able to move on?”

There’s more anticipation going on at The Credits, the Dissolve, the Guardian, the Playlist, and Twitch.

Meantime, as Kyle notes in a comment below, Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar is due in November and chances are, you’ve seen the first teaser. You also probably already know about the first trailer for Transcendence, the directorial debut of cinematographer Wally Pfister, who’s shot several of Nolan’s features.

Update, 1/19: “The 50 Indie Films Indiewire Wants to See in 2014.”

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