Alpha Gang (directed by David and Nathan Zellner)
I haven’t followed the Zellner brothers through every film they’ve made, but I really enjoyed Kumiko, Treasure Hunter. It was strange but extraordinarily endearing, a very interesting vibe you don’t find in most movies. I have Damsel on my “to be watched” list. They have a penchant for choosing film genres that are familiar and then doing something a bit askew with them. Alpha Gang is about a group of aliens who come to Earth to conquer the planet. They start experiencing human emotions upon arrival, and their plans crumble. It sounds like the makings of a bad sketch, yes? But I fully expect they will present it in such a way that you’re surprised at every turn. Set to star Andrea Riseborough, Jon Hamm, and more.
Baby, Box, Broker (directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda)
Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters was my favorite film of 2019 for a good reason. He was able to bring out profound moments of humanity from his script and actors, a reflection on the large chunk of our society that gets left behind. For this picture, he’s in South Korea to tell a story about “baby boxes.” These are receptacles set up so parents can anonymously drop off infants they find they are unable to care for. The babies are then made “wards of the state” and put into a foster care system. Song Kang-ho, who played the Kim patriarch in Parasite, is set to star.
Barbie (directed by Greta Gerwig)
Upon reflection, I realized Greta Gerwig hasn’t directed a movie I’ve disliked. From Frances Ha to Lady Bird to Little Women, I have enjoyed all of them, some more than others, but have disliked none of them. Margot Robbie is set to star as Barbie herself, with Ryan Gosling providing back-up as Ken. There’s no word on the tone or plot of the movie, but this could go in any direction. I don’t think an eye-winking parody of the Barbie doll phenomenon is the move; I actually think a very earnest narrative would work best. I don’t think there should be any “toys come to life” angle but just make these real people and maybe play up class & wealth as a theme. I eagerly await just a glimpse of what this thing will be.
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. Then, 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 will be a slow, strange picture, and I am fascinated to see what Hadzihalilovic gives us. This one is making the film festival circuit now, with a theatrical/streaming release date coming soon.
The End (directed by Joshua Oppenheimer)
I regretfully haven’t yet seen Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence. They are two clearly searing documentaries that also look to be tough watches, probably why I haven’t jumped at them yet. This will be the director’s first foray into fictional narrative films, and he certainly seems to have bitten off a lot. It will be an apocalyptic musical starring Tilda Swinton. The story is centered around the last human family left alive on Earth. The movie was just announced in October, so there’s a good chance this might not get released until 2023.
Fresh (directed by Mimi Cave)
This will be Mimi Cave’s directorial debut and stars Sebastian Stan and Daisy Edgar-Jones. The story concerns dating in the modern era for women by focusing on a woman whose new boyfriend reveals some dark appetites. I’m guessing this won’t turn out like Fifty Shades? However, no matter how the story goes, it’s going to look absolutely spectacular as Pawel Pogorzelski, the cinematographer for Hereditary and Midsommar is onboard. If you want to make a great contemporary horror flick, then, in my opinion, he is definitely a good sign of what’s to come.
The God Beside My Bed (directed by Rick Alverson)
Rick Alverson is making the best critiques of American culture out there right now. The Comedy and Entertainment are ruthless in how they go after white people and people of privilege. He ostensibly makes the most uncomfortable satires you could imagine, and for me, there’s very little that’s better. This picture has Alverson filming in Brazil, where his story revolves around ideas of “American cultural relevance” and the obliviousness of Americans to how they are perceived outside of their own country. If ever there was a time to go gloves off and just eviscerate the exceptionalism myths, it’s right now.
Hatching (directed by Hannah Bergholm)
Coming out of Finland and debuting at the Sundance Film Festival, we have Hatching. The story is about a 12-year-old gymnast who is hyper-fixated on keeping her mother happy. Things change when the girl discovers a strange egg and begins caring for it. What hatches out of upends everything. Comparisons are being made to Let The Right One In and The Babadook, so it has definitely captured my attention. I’m always up for new & different contemporary horror; I just hope it doesn’t lean too heavily on its metaphors and lets the audience discover the subtext on their own.
Hit the Road (directed by Panah Panini)
Panah Panini is another feature debut filmmaker in 2022. Hit the Road had a lot of positive buzz coming out of Cannes and won Best Film at the London International. The story centers on a mysterious trip made in haste by a family. The dog is very sick, the father is sporting a broken leg, and the youngest child cannot sit still. The film begins during this chaos, and throughout the story, we learn about what has happened and where these people are going. Word is the picture is very political and highly confident for a first-time feature.
Infinity Pool (directed by Brandon Cronenberg)
Possessor was one of the most unflinchingly brutal movies I’d seen in a long time, so I approach Brandon Cronenberg’s work partially cowering but intrigued. The official synopsis of the picture is very vague, telling us it’s about a couple who are wealthy and young enjoying a vacation at an all-inclusive resort. However, outside the grounds of the hotel is something perilous. If this is anything like Possessor, expect zero sentimentality from the director and visual effects that will melt your brain.
The Killer (directed by David Fincher)
This is the second of Fincher’s films with Netflix, and it is set to be a big deal. The director re-teams with his Seven screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker to tell the story of a contract killer experiencing an intense psychological breakdown. The killer is played by Michael Fassbender. This is the first time Fincher has worked in the thriller vein since 2014’s Gone Girl, and he’s always felt very comfortable in those types of movies. It sounds like this may release sooner than we realize, so keep an eye on Netflix for when it drops.
Killers of the Flower Moon (directed by Martin Scorsese)
Since wrapping The Irishman, legendary director Martin Scorsese has been working away on this one. It’s an adaptation of a novel that was based on actual events. In the 1920s, the FBI began investigating the murders of Osage people after oil was discovered on their land. Jesse Plemmons is set to star as the lead investigator. He’ll be pitted against Robert DeNiro as the main antagonist. Leonardo DiCaprio, Brendan Fraser, and John Lithgow are also set to star. I’d bet money we see this released in the fall in time for awards considerations.
Knives Out 2 (directed by Rian Johnson)
The first Knives Out was a pleasant surprise, a bit of intelligent mainstream entertainment. Johnson is back along with Daniel Craig as Benoit Blanc. All that’s known is that he’ll be investigating another murder that I will guess has many twists and turns along the way. His potential allies and suspects are played by Dave Bautista, Edward Norton, Janelle Monae, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr, Jessica Henwick, and Ethan Hawke. The first Knives Out was very much about a certain aesthetic, so as long as Johnson delivers that again, I expect this one will be a fun watch.
Landscape with Invisible Hand (directed by Cory Finley)
Cory Finley’s Thoroughbreds was a revelation of a film. Though she appears in so much, it was a rare treat to see Anya Taylor-Joy given a complex, meaty part and do amazing things with it. Finley’s next is a science fiction picture where an alien occupation has ruined the job market. A married couple finds one of the few lucrative ways to make money is to broadcast their sex life to these curious alien overlords. This eventually leads to them hating each other, and fun ensues. Tiffany Haddish is involved with more information to come. Maybe a 2022 release, but also a good chance we won’t see it until 2023.
The Listener (directed by Steve Buscemi)
My experience with Buscemi as a director is limited to The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire, but I can say I am very impressed with his work in the television venue. This will be a single actor film and stars Tessa Thompson as Beth, a helpline volunteer who helps suicidal people work through crisis moments or lends an ear to a lonely person. The last year has been rough for Beth, with a growing number of more intense calls. Her personal story is revealed as she talks to callers, eventually allowing us to see how she’s fighting to manage her own dark thoughts.
Master Gardener (directed by Paul Schraeder)
Though not everything he’s made lately is excellent, when Paul Schraeder delivers the goods (see First Reformed, The Card Counter), it simply blows everything out of the water. He’s best when depicting lonely men unable to come to terms with modernity. Sometimes they are far gone into madness like Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver. Lately, though, Schraeder has been presenting even more complicated protagonists struggling against a system that has clearly shown itself to be cold and uncaring, often juxtaposed to a political issue (the environment, torture of POWs in US custody). All we know about this one is it is focused on a horticulturist in love with two different women. But, knowing Schraeder, that will just be the start.
Men (directed by Alex Garland)
Alex Garland is a director I haven’t fallen in love with, but I deeply respect his work. Ex Machina, Annihilation, and Devs are all overflowing with big ideas and present the audience with wild images. His latest horror/science fiction drama stars Jessie Buckley as a woman getting away from things after the death of her husband. She ends up in the English countryside, where the bulk of the story takes place. No more details are known, but if it reflects Garland’s previous work, there will be a heavy psychological component, and our main characters will be forced to deal with her reality unraveling somehow.
The Menu (directed by Mark Mylod)
Mark Mylod has done wonders as one of the creative forces behind HBO’s Succession, and now he’s in the director’s chair with Adam McKay producing. Anya Taylor-Joy (does this woman rest?) and Nicholas Hoult are a foodie couple invited to a secluded island for a luxurious dining experience. Of course, there’s something darker beneath the surface for audiences to discover. Ralph Fiennes, John Leguizamo, and Judith Light will co-star. I’m not going too far out to say you should expect heavy satire here, mainly aimed at the privileged classes and their gross consumption.
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 escaping from a mental asylum and wandering through New Orleans. Behind the camera, she has the cinematographer from Hereditary (he’s getting some solid work in 2022) 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. Shown to film festival audiences but waiting for a larger release window.
Nobody’s Hero (Alain Guiraudie)
Stranger by the Lake was an incredibly shocking film and a welcome breath of fresh air in queer cinema. Director Alain Guiraudie delivered a tense Hitchcock-esque story while presenting gay men without any shame, enjoying their sexuality. This feature takes place on Christmas Eve in the French city of Clement-Ferrand when a terrorist act occurs. The city descends into panic, but in the middle of all of this, the protagonist finds himself falling in love with an aging sex worker. I’m incredibly interested to see how all this plays out as Stranger at the Lake had such a strange pace and tone.
On Barren Weeds (directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
The Wild Pear Tree is a true revelation of a film, and Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan deserves much of the credit. His work feels literary, like watching a dense and complex novel unfold on-screen yet never losing touch of the humanity that underlies all the characters. He’s returning to the Anatolia region, this time telling the story of a depressed schoolteacher who finds some semblance of peace in the teachings of a colleague. Knowing Ceylan, this will be a slow burn, probably three hours long, but with a story and characters that remain with you for a long time after.
Rebel Ridge (directed by Jeremy Saulnier)
Jeremy Saulnier’s second and third films (Blue Ruin and Green Room) are some of the most intense and affecting film experiences I’ve had in the last decade. He’s taken the revenge film and turned it on its head, making the protagonists more complicated and delivering challenging stories. His fourth film, Hold the Dark, a Netflix exclusive, was painfully bad. However, I believe that may be because he didn’t write that picture. Rebel Ridge has Saulnier back in the writer-director seat. John Boyega was set to star but backed out due to “family issues.” Now Aaron Pierre (The Underground Railroad) is in the starring role. Not much is known about the plot at this time.
Peter Pan & Wendy (directed by David Lowery)
David Lowery delivered with The Green Knight, and now he’s set to retell the classic story of Peter Pan in his own way. Actual children will be playing the title characters with Jude Law as Captain Hook and Jim Gaffigan as Smee. This is Lowery’s second collaboration with Disney; he previously directed Pete’s Dragon, which I have not seen but have heard excellent things about. I’m not typically a fan of the current trend to make “live-action” remakes or reboots of classic Disney films, but with Lowery onboard, I am intrigued. Hoping he’s allowed to put his signature style on the picture.
Pleasure (directed by Ninja Thyberg)
This film has already generated some attention when A24 sold the rights to Neon after director Thyberg refused to allow a “toned down” R-rated cut. The story is A Star is Born but set against the Southern California porn industry. A Swedish immigrant named Bella Cherry arrives in America determined to fuck her way to the top of the medium. This looks to have a measured sense of humor about itself and pulls no punches on the myriad of directions a young sex worker can go in the industry. I think this may be one of those sleeper hits that will be a massive critical hit when it drops sometime (soon?) in 2022.
Poor Things (directed by Yorgos Lanthimos)
Yorgos Lanthimos is one of the most consistently satisfying directors for me right now. I completely understand how many people are turned off by his work, a mix of brutal violence and the driest comedy possible. This film is about a woman (Emma Stone reuniting with Lanthimos post-The Favourite) who is stuck in an abusive relationship. Her solution to this problem is to have her brain replaced with that of her unborn child, her father, performing the surgery. Willem Dafoe plays her surgeon father. As with all this director’s work, it will be odd but ultimately incredibly thought-provoking.
Spaceman (directed by Johan Renck)
I haven’t seen HBO’s Chernobyl, but I know it’s something that should be high on my list of things to watch. That mini-series director Johan Renck is helming this adaptation of a novel about an astronaut being sent to investigate a large cloud of space dust. He also forms a friendship with a giant spider (is Jon Peters producing this?). Carey Mulligan plays the astronaut’s wife but even more intriguing to me is Adam Sandler is playing the astronaut. I usually hate his work, but he is generally pretty good anytime he is in an artsier film (see Uncut Gems).
The Souvenir Part II (directed by Joanna Hogg)
Writer-director Joanna Hogg told a remarkable story of a young woman in her first semi-serious relationship who ends up having to face down the specter of addiction and eventually loss in The Souvenir. She returns alongside Honor Swinton-Byrne (Tilda’s daughter) as the director in this semi-autobiographical movie. Joanna (the character) is making her student film, and it’s all about what happened to her in the last picture. It’s a pretty interesting concept to have the main character from a previous film spend the next one deconstructing what happened and how they are processing it. The first was so good I cannot wait to see the follow-up.
Three Thousand Years of Longing (directed by George Miller)
When George Miller makes a movie, you have to pay attention. This epic fantasy romance is about a scholar who encounters a Djinn who grants the requisite three wishes. Their exchange and the consequences of the wishes have more significant effects than anticipated. Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba are starring in the two key roles. With Miller, it’s hard to know exactly what to expect, but you can be assured this is a gorgeous-looking movie and likely has some surprises in the narrative, challenging our expectations. His work on Mad Max: Fury Road proved he still has it after decades.
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) is 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 island leader because she is the only one who knows how to cook. Filming was delayed twice due to COVID-19 so expect this to be released around mid-2022.
The Whale (directed by Darren Aronofsky)
The Brendan Fraser renaissance continues with him taking the lead role in Darren Aronofsky’s new picture. Now, I am no fan of Aronofsky’s mother!, which was one of the most wildly misguided films I’ve ever seen. I knew exactly what his metaphors were, and man did he wield them like a hammer on the audience. This picture is about a morbidly obese man trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter after he ran away following coming out of the closet. That’s a lot, and the only thing that worries me is how Aronofsky is not the most sensitive or subtle of directors. However, he made The Wrestler a fantastic film, and it sounds like it shares some elements with this one. Whatever the case, it should at the least be interesting.
White Noise (directed by Noah Baumbach)
Baumbach’s Marriage Story is just one of the all-time great performance movies. He’s reuniting with Adam Driver and Greta Gerwig to present an adaptation of one of the most relevant pieces of American literature written in the late 20th century, Don DeLillo’s White Noise. This is the story of a professor at a midwestern college who is almost paralyzed with fear over his own mortality. That is exacerbated when a very vaguely defined crisis begins to unfold, serving to bring out the depths of neuroses from him and the people around him. It sounds like a movie Baumbach was born to make, and I hope they do justice to DeLillo’s masterwork.
The Zone of Interest (directed by Jonathan Glazer)
Jonathan Glazer makes riveting 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 Glazer to explore the themes he wants to focus on in Zone of Interest. I know he will take us on a bizarre and strange journey for sure. Glazer reportedly shot the film over the late summer/fall of 2021. I’d expect a release date near the end of 2022.