Imposing expectations of existing movies on those that haven't yet been released is unabashedly superficial, but fun. With that in mind, here's some anticipated 2011 releases that call to mind cinematic experiences from 2010. Of course, I offer this list with the caveat that it's only intended as a tidy way to survey movies past and future in a single package. I look forward to the next year's releases (occasionally) proving me wrong.
Next Year's "The American": "Carancho"
Pablo Trapero's engrossing drama about an ambulance chaser (Ricardo Darín) drawn into a dangerous affair with a young doctor (Martina Gusman) may not directly parallel George Clooney's jaded hitman in Anton Corbijn's slow-burn thriller, but both feature daring middle-aged men whose edgy lives appear to have reached their breaking points.
Next Year's "Black Swan": "The Wolverine"
Darren Aronofsky will make his first big studio effort with this "X-Men" sequel, but "Black Swan" served as his first real creature feature. Can the modern master of unsettling psychodrama take Hugh Jackman to the same dark depths where he recently dragged Natalie Portman?
Next Year's "Cyrus": "Jeff Who Lives at Home"
The Duplass brothers continue their unconventional commercial emergence with this odd action-comedy starring Jason Segel. Taking their audacious improvisatory routine — which worked out nicely with "Cyrus" — into weirder terrain, their fourth feature will hopefully provide a nice alternative to the current action-comedy standard (er, "The Other Guys"?).
Next Year's "Daddy Longlegs": "Cold Weather"
Like the Safdie brothers' surrealist portrait of bizarre family bonds, Aaron Katz's third directorial effort (a hit at SXSW 2010) begins with echoes of mumblecore angst before drifting into several delightfully unexpected genres at once: It mocks the classic detective story and embraces it, while mainly delving into the nature of sibling bonds.
Next Year's "Everyone Else": "Certified Copy"
Maren Ade's well-received relationship drama garnered comparisons to vintage Eric Rohmer. Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami's clever riff on "Before Sunset" takes a much deeper metaphysical direction, but in both cases, the chemistry of the two leads speak volumes about the nuances of male/female romance.
Next Year's "GasLand": "Hot Coffee"
Josh Fox's moving documentary on America's fracking problem has been recognized as a profound tearjerker since it premiered at Sundance. The 2011 festival brings "Hot Coffee," a McDonalds exposé with a stranger hook (the litigation against the fast food restaurant by coffee burn victims) but seems poised to get viewers riled up in a similar fashion.
Next Year's "The Human Centipede": "The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)"
Well, obviously. But this spot could just as easily go to "Piranha II."
Next Year's "I Am Love": "Tree of Life"
Terrence Malick's long-awaited cosmic drama has much more anticipation fueling its release than the Tilda Swinton vehicle, but both movies appear to deal with profound feelings of yearning to escape the regular flow of life.
Next Year's "Inception": "Super 8"
Nobody knows how to mess with audience expectations like Christopher Nolan - except maybe J.J. Abrams, as he may do with this eerie alien story.
Next Year's "Inside Job": "The Flaw"
Charles Ferguson's probing of the economic crisis pulled the whole dense global mess into focus. David Sington's "The Flaw" promises to go one step further, by adding historical context to the mix.
Next Year's "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World": Gregg Araki's "Kaboom"
Edgar Wright's sleeper hit turned whimsical hipster shoegazing into a hilarious blockbuster satire. Gregg Araki's "Kaboom" is funnier, trippier and more vulgar, but plays with genre in a similarly riotous fashion.
Next Year's "Secret Sunshine": "Poetry"
Lee Chang-dong's acclaimed Cannes feature continues the knack for sorrow that his last effort tapped into with such irrevocable power.
Next Year's "Sweetgrass": "Le Quattro Volte"
If you thought the aimless Montana sheep in Ilisa Barbash's droll non-fiction portrait were entertaining, try the reincarnated goats in Michelangelo Frammartino 's amusing avant-garde portrait.
Next Year's "Tiny Furniture": "The Imperialists Are Still Alive!"
Lena Dunham turned NYC affluence into outrageous comic material, but Zeina Durra adds a remarkable contemporary twist with this post-9/11 look at an Islamic-American artist in lower Manhattan.
Next Year's "Toy Story 3": "The Adventures of "Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn"
"Cars" divided people, so the release of "Cars 2" suggests this may be an off-year for Pixar. If so, expect Steven Spielberg's foray into the "Tintin" universe to pick up the slack with this potential technical marvel that — if it does service to the thematically complex, spectacularly adventurous source material – will play to kids and mature audiences in glorious harmony.
Next Year's "Trash Humpers":
Harmony Korine's major WTF masterpiece has no real parallel, but Quentin Dupiex's "Rubber" has a shot at similar cult appeal with its obscenely funny narrative of a killer tire.
Next Year's "True Grit": "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"
From a young Western heroine riding horseback alongside Jeff Bridges to a contemporary badass goth girl taking on police duties alongside Daniel Craig. From the Coens to David Fincher. They could make quite the double-bill.
Next Year's "The Social Network": "On the Road"
Fincher's Mark Zuckerberg profile elegantly grappled with the rise of an icon. Walter Salles endeavors to do the same thing with this Jack Kerouac adaptation. It's a long shot. But like everything on this list, time will tell.