Most Anticipated Films of 2021 – Part 2

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Come, I Will Take You There (directed by Alain Guiraudie)

Alain Guiraudie directed the amazing queer take on Hitchcock in Stranger by the Lake that pushed boundaries and delivered a fantastic suspense story. This next feature follows a young man who begins to develop feelings for an older sex worker. At the same time, the city they live in experiences a violent terrorist attack. It’s also a Christmas movie. All these disparate elements intrigue me and knowing what he was able to do in Stranger by the Lake I am interested to see how Guiraudie blends them all together to make something remarkable.

Decision to Leave (directed by Park Chan-wook)

Park Chan-wook is one of the top tier South Korean directors who has made splashes internationally with pictures like Oldboy and The Handmaiden. His next film follows a detective investigating a murder in a rural mountainous region of Korea. The main suspect appears to be the victim’s wife but the detective begins falling for her. Park has reteamed with his co-writer Jeong Seo-kyeong who helped him write the vampire film Thirst and the aforementioned The Handmaiden. I suspect the story while sounding fairly straightforward will employ some twists and turns we don’t expect coming.

Don’t Look Up (directed by Adam McKay)

Adam McKay didn’t quite wow me with his last feature Vice, but I love the guy’s ideology and he is intent on pushing audiences to examine leftists ideas. You should check out this Jacobin interview to get some insight into his thinking. This next feature stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence as astronomers trying to warn the public about an asteroid that is on course to destroy the planet. The film will be released through Netflix so no worrying about going to the theater to see this one. I am expecting it will work as a metaphor for the way the public seems to plug their ears over climate change and I hope McKay pulls it off with as much humor as he has in earlier work.

Don’t Worry Darling (directed by Olivia Wilde)

Booksmart was a total surprise for me in 2019 and it got me excited to see what Olivia Wilde can do in the director’s chair. Instead of wild sex comedy like her previous film, this is a psychological horror film that stars Florence Pugh. Pugh plays a housewife in the 1950s who uncovers a dark secret about her husband (played by Harry Styles). Chris Pine is also in the cast and billed as the leader of “a mysterious cult-like worksite” which has me intrigued. My first guess was that the husband was a serial killer but this sounds like something more complex than that. 

Earwig (directed by Lucile Hadzihalilovic)

I can’t say I fell in love with Hadzihalilovic’s film Evolution, but I do respect its craft and silent filmmaking. It was a story told in pure images, without dialogue. Earwig is another foray into the surreal with Albert, a middle-aged man hired to look after Mia, a little girl with ice for teeth. They live in an apartment with closed off windows, never leaving, in a repetitious day after day pattern. Suddenly, the pattern changes and the voice on the phone tells Albert he will need to bring Mia to Paris and everything gets much worse. I know this is going to be a slow, strange picture and I am fascinated to see what Hadzihalilovic gives us.

The French Dispatch (directed by Wes Anderson) 

This is being billed as an anthology of three stories coming out of a fictional newspaper in an imagined French city. The cast is your mix of Wes Anderson returning regulars: Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Saoirse Ronan, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzmann, and Bob Balaban. Plus, we get some new faces to the Wes Anderson troupe: Timothee Chalamet, Jeffrey Wright, Lea Sedouyx, Kate Winslet, Elizabeth Moss, Christoph Waltz, and Henry Winkler. There’s also word this is going to be a musical? Which would be a new one for Anderson but a welcome change.

The Green Knight (directed by David Lowrey) 

Originally scheduled for last week, this A24 picture has been bumped to sometime in the summer of 2021. David Lowrey who previously directed the surprisingly good A Ghost Story appears to be going in an entirely different type of film with The Green Knight. Dev Patel stars as Sir Gawain, King Arthur’s nephew sent on a quest to defeat the deadly Green Knight. Along the way, Sir Gawain must face ghosts, giants, and duplicitous strangers. The bits seen in the trailer hint at a spooky almost horror-like tone which meshes quite well with the bleak time period.

In the Earth (directed by Ben Wheatley)

Ben Wheatley has delivered some ambitious films in the last handful of years and the best of them resonate in my mind still. I can’t quite get Kill List or A Field in England to fade, two great examples of powerful visual horror. This film is about a world ravaged by a deadly virus but focuses on the intimate story of a scientist and park scout searching for plants that might help cure or treat the disease. Over the course of one night, the forest seems to come alive with the intent of killing them both and they face an unending horror. This sounds like it could be extremely relevant to what humanity is facing today and I think Wheatley works best in smaller productions.

Madres Paralelas (directed by Pedro Almodovar)

When Pedro Almodovar has a film coming out it’s a must-see. The director has aged into his role as a director who always delivers something so gorgeous looking and unexpected. Almodovar knows he works best with female protagonists and has reteamed with his most frequent muse Penelope Cruz. This film will follow two mothers and their children who are born on the same day in the same hospital. The film explores the parallels over the next two years as these mothers go through struggles in raising their children as well as how they handle their respective relationships.

Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon (directed by Lily Ana Amanpour) 

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night was a fantastic film…The Bad Batch was shockingly terrible. I still give Lily Ana Amanpour a chance for her next picture, hoping it is more of the former than the latter. South Korean actress Jun Jeong-seo (seen in Burning) stars as a young woman with dangerous powers who escapes from a mental asylum and wanders through New Orleans. Behind the camera, she has the cinematographer from Hereditary and the editor of The Witch. Here’s hoping it is the best work of her career and really takes her filmmaking to the next level I am hoping she can reach.

Nightmare Alley (directed by Benecio del Toro) 

Benecio del Toro’s next effort is a remake of a cult horror film. An ambitious carny joins up with a female psychiatrist and the two get up to nasty, nefarious things manipulating others as they go. The cast is made up of a lot of big names. Bradley Cooper and Cate Blanchett star in the lead roles. They are supported by Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Ron Perlman, Rooney Mara, and David Strathairn. As with all del Toro productions I am expecting a very gothic, stylized look with some fantastic horror designs.

The Northman (directed by Robert Eggers)

The director of The Witch and The Lighthouse looks ready to return with a film about Vikings. Alexander Skarsgard is a Nordic prince whose father is murdered and goes on a crusade of revenge. This is another film whose cast is packed to the rafters due to the reputation Eggers has gotten from his previous work. Nicole Kidman plays Skarsgard’s mother with additional cast including Willem Dafoe, Ethan Hawke, and Bjork. Eggers also brings back Anya Taylor Joy, Kate Dickie, and Ralph Ineson who played the daughter, mother, and father respectively in The Witch.

Red Rocket (directed by Sean Baker)

Sean Baker has delivered some life-affirming and challenging stories in his films Tangerine and The Florida Project. He just wrapped this quietly filmed picture starring Simon Rex. Baker also brought the cinematographer from Waves which means this will be another gorgeous looking film. Plot details have been kept totally secret so who knows what the story be, only that it will be equal parts funny and deeply humane.

Soggy Bottom (directed by Paul Thomas Anderson)

This will be a return to PT Anderson’s roots, the San Fernando Valley. This has been the setting for Boogie Nights, Magnolia, and Punch-Drunk Love, so that bodes well for the film. All we know of the premise is that it’s about a high school student who is also a famous child star. Cast in this main role is Cooper Hoffman, the son of the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman. I am always there for Anderson, who directed my favorite film of the 2010s, The Master.

The Souvenir Part II (directed by Joanna Hogg) 

Joanna Hogg’s first Souvenir film was a revelation, a funny & heartbreaking exploration of a young woman’s first romance with an older junkie. This will be a continuation of the story of Julie, the young filmmaker. Tilda Swinton returns to play the mother, but not a lot of plot details have come out. Richard Ayoade (The IT Crowd) is also cast in a supporting role.

The Tragedy of Macbeth (directed by Ethan Coen)

Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand will star in the first film solo-directed by Ethan Coen. It is of course, based on the famous Shakespeare play. It will be interesting to see how one half of the Coen Brothers works without the other and will answer some questions if their success is purely collaborative.

Triangle of Sadness (directed by Ruben Ostlund)

Ruben Ostlund must like shapes. His last film, The Square was an uneven but still entertaining satire about the fine arts world. This dark comedy takes place on a yacht where a celebrity couple has gone on a cruise in the Mediterranean. The captain of the vessel (played by Woody Harrelson) ends up being a rabid Marxist who sinks the boat. The survivors are marooned on an island where I am guessing we get a lot of lampooning of class issues and probably some sex comedy. One interesting element is how the immigrant cleaning woman on the boat becomes the leader of the island because she is the only one who knows how to cook.

The Woman in the Window (directed by Joe Wright)

Coming to Netflix at some point in 2021, this film, penned by Tracy Letts, stars Amy Adams as an agoraphobe put in a Rear Window like situation. It appears the woman she watches from her apartment window is murdered. Rounding out the cast are Gary Oldman, Anthony Mackie, Brain Tyree Henry, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Julianne Moore. It’s a good cast and the Rear Window plot is always one that works if done right. With this being a digital release there’s really no reason not to give it a chance.

Zola (directed by Janciza Bravo)

Janicza Bravo gave us the abrasive and hilarious Lemon in 2018, starring her partner and muse Brett Gelman. Bravo has also made many short films that have that same dissonant tone, blending horror and cringe comedy. You know that sitting down to watch her work will make you deeply uncomfortable in all the best ways. This film is based on a Twitter thread where a Detroit waitress made 148 posts detailing her trip to Florida with a stripper named Jessica. The tweets garnered cult popularity, and now we have this movie. I have complete faith Bravo will make something wild and unafraid, prodding at the audience to react. Can’t wait.

The Zone of Interest (directed by Jonathan Glazer) 

Jonathan Glazer makes very interesting movies. He started with Sexy Beast, followed that up with Birth, and topped himself with Under the Skin. This next film is a Holocaust picture based on a novel that tells its story from the point of view of a Nazi officer who falls in love with his boss’s wife. I assume this will be the surface level story as Glazer does not make conventional films. He commented in a recent interview about studying photographs of the “haunted faces” of Holocaust victims. A recent short film was also cited by the director as an exploration of the themes he wants to explore in Zone of Interest. I know he will take us on a bizarre and strange journey for sure.

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