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The 50 Indie Films We Want To See In 2013

The 50 Indie Films We Want To See In 2013

With the avalanche of 2012 Top Ten lists petering out and the Sundance Film Festival a mere two weeks away from introducing what could be this year’s “Beasts of the Southern Wild” or “Sleepwalk With Me,” it’s time to stop reflecting on the past year’s cinema and start getting excited about this one’s. Because if the 50 films most anticipated by Indiewire’s editors listed below are any indication, it looks like a very promising year ahead.

From the work of Steve McQueen, Lars Von Trier and Sofia Coppola to the inspirations of Julian Assange, Linda Lovelace and David Sedaris (not to mention double doses of on-screen magic from Tilda Swinton and Ryan Gosling), here are 50 films likely to be released in 2013 that Indiewire’s staff are most excited to see:

“12 Years a Slave”
Director: Steve McQueen
Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Paul Dano
Distributor: None yet
Release Date: None yet, but it will likely surface at Cannes
Why It Might Be a Must-See: British director Steve McQueen first gained serious critical acclaim in 2007 for his tense prison drama “Hunger,” which he followed up with the 2011 drama “Shame,” an unnerving portrait of sex addiction. Here, he adapts Solomon Northup’s remarkable account of being kidnapped and sold into slavery for a dozen years in the middle of the 19th century. The material is inherently suspenseful and harrowing, since Northup provides a detailed account of slavery’s brutal nature in the Deep South. But it’s Fassbender’s penchant for creating disquieting atmosphere that’s well positioned to make this spectacular survival tale come to life and possibly provide one of the more accurate recreations of slavery life in America. (Take that, “Django Unchained.”) It also could provide a bigger showcase for Ejiofor, a great underrated character actor. [Eric Kohn]

Director: Paul Weitz
Cast: Tina Fey, Paul Rudd, Nat Wolff
Distributor: Focus Features
Release Date: March 8
Why It Might Be a Must-See: All eyes will be on “Admission” to see if the film solidifies Tina Fey as a bona fide movie star that can succeed in projects where other people are calling the shots. “American Pie” director Paul Weitz has the reins on this one, and it is the first major film in which Fey will not play to her comfort zones (“Mean Girls,” of course, was written by Fey; “Baby Mama” saw her with pal and Golden Globe co-host Amy Poehler; and “Date Night” played the comedy broad and straight). As “30 Rock” ends, we want all the Fey we can get! [Bryce J. Renninger]

“After Tiller”
Directors: Martha Shane & Lana Wilson
Distributor: None yet
Release Date: Debuts at this month’s Sundance Film Festival
Why It Might Be a Must-SeeOne of the most divisive issues in contemporary American life — abortion — has gotten the documentary treatment before. Recently, there was Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady’s Sundance doc “12th & Delaware,” which was tense enough. Here, Shane and Wilson are dealing with a topic even more intense than an abortion clinic across the street from a Christian clinic that tries to convince women to have their babies; “After Tiller” investigates the four American doctors still performing third-trimester abortions in the aftermath of George Tiller’s 2009 murder. With unprecedented access, Shane and Wilson may have made one of the most provocative documentaries of the year. [Bryce J. Renninger]

“August: Osage County
Director: John Wells
Cast: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Juliette Lewis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Abigail Breslin, Chris Cooper, Sam Shepard, Dermot Mulroney, Julianne Nicholson
Distributor: The Weinstein Company
Release Date: TBA, but surely in a prime awards season slot late in the year
Why Might It Be a Must See: The Weinstein Company is surely aiming for Oscar with this adaptation of Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning 2007 play (Letts also adapted his plays “Bug” and “Killer Joe” for the big screen). With a remarkable cast that includes Streep and Roberts (as mother and daughter!), the film — written by Letts and directed by “The Company Men” helmer Wells — is a darkly comic family saga set in Oklahoma. Cinematic adaptations of award-winning plays don’t always work (see “Carnage,” “Proof,” “The History Boys”), but with this high-caliber cast it’s difficult not to be optimistic. [Peter Knegt]

“Before Midnight
Director: Richard Linklater
Cast: Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
Distributor: None, but that will change very soon. (Note: This is corrected from original listing of “Warner Brothers”).
Release Date: Premiering at Sundance this month, no theatrical date has been set (but if they’re smart whoever picks it up will have it out for Summer).
Why Might It Be a Must See: This might just be the must see, as far as I’m concerned. The second sequel to Richard Linklater’s beloved 1995 “Before Sunrise” (and first to his perhaps even more beloved 2004 film “Before Sunset”), “Before Midnight” reunites us with Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Céline (Julie Delpy) almost two decades after they met on a train bound for Vienna. Now in their early forties, “Midnight” finds them reuniting in Greece and likely facing a time contraint related to 12am, though not much is officially known. Frankly, the less known the better as we enter the third chapter of one of the great love stories of American indie cinema. [Peter Knegt]

Director: Larry Fessenden
Cast: Daniel Zovatto, Bonnie Dennison, Chris Conroy
Distributor: Chiller
Release date: None yet, but it could find a way into SXSW’s midnight lineup. The Chiller network has already lined up a deal to broadcast the movie.
Why It Might Be a Must-See: Seven years have passed since indie horror guru Fessenden’s last feature, the global warming cautionary tale “The Last Winter,” which itself arrived five years after Fessenden’s “Wendigo.” The director likes to take his time on projects while fostering a new generation of filmmakers inclined toward spooky narratives, like Ti West. But Fessenden, an outspoken environmentalist, is also guided by activist impulses, which makes the various monsters populating his movies into potent symbols. “Beneath” follows a group of high school seniors stuck on a rowboat and attacked by man-eating fish, which sounds like the cheesy backbone for anyone but Fessenden, whose track record suggests he can deliver something alternately spooky and insightful. [Eric Kohn]

“The Bling Ring”
Director: Sofia Coppola
Cast: Leslie Mann, Emma Watson and Taissa Farmiga
Distributor: None yet, but expect that to change shortly.
Release Date: Likely sometime this summer should it find a distributor. It’s rumored to open in France during June via Pathe.
Why Might It Be A Must See: Following her Venice award-winning quiet character study “Somewhere,” Sofia Coppola is back with “The Bling Ring,” a film that on paper seems like fresh ground for the Oscar-winner. While still centered on the wealthy class like “Lost in Translation,” “Marie Antoinette” and “Somewhere,” “The Bling Ring” is essentially a crime caper, a genre Coppola has never mined before. The film is based on the true story of a group of rich Californian teens who decided to start a heist gang and begin robbing celebrity’s houses (including those of Lindsay Lohan and Megan Fox). Lohan doesn’t star, but Emma Watson does, along with Leslie Mann in a project that’s has nothing to do with Judd Apatow. [Nigel M. Smith]

“The Butler”
Director: Lee Daniels
Cast: Alex Pettyfer, Alan Rickman, John Cusack, Robin Williams, James Marsden, Liev Schreiber, Forest Whitaker, David Oyelowo, Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave, Jesse Williams, Melissa Leo, Mariah Carrey and Oprah Winfrey
Distributor: The Weinstein Company
Release Date:  Likely sometime in the fall to capitalize on awards season.
Why Might It Be A Must See: That cast. There’s no film coming out in 2013 with a cast as esteemed and massive as the crop that appears in Lee Daniels’ follow-up to his supremely divisive “The Paperboy.” Inspired by Wil Haygood’s Washington Post article about a black man who served as White House butler to eight presidents over three decades, “The Butler” boasts a script by Daniels and Emmy-winner Danny Strong (“Game Change”), and has Harvey Weinstein backing it as a hopeful awards contender. While “The Paperboy” failed to crossover in the way his Oscar-winning “Precious” did, there’s still no denying the producer-turned-filmmaker is one of the best in the business when it comes to eliciting unexpected performances from his actors — Nicole Kidman in “The Paperboy,” Mariah Carey” in “Precious” and Helen Mirren in “Shadowboxer” are all testaments to that. With “The Butler”‘s exceptional cast, chances are there will be more than a few worth singling out. [Nigel M. Smith]

Director: Kyle Patrick Alvarez
Cast: Jonathan Groff, Corey Stoll, Casey Wilson, Troian Bellisario, Denis O’Hare
Distributor: None as of yet.
Release Date: Premiering in competiiton at Sundance. Word on distribution and release date should follow soon after.
Why Might It Be a Must See:  For the first time ever, a David Sedaris story will become a movie! “C.O.G.” — a short story from Sedaris’ best-selling 1997 essay collection Naked — will begin production in October from writer-director Kyle Patrick Alvarez, who won the “Someone To Watch” Indie Spirit Award for his 2009 directorial debut “Easier Than Practice.” The story is based on Sedaris’ experiences in his late 20s when he went to go work as an apple picker in the orchards of Oregon. Once there he found himself at odds with the locals and the religious right… It’s a great story, and hopefully a great movie that kicks off more in the way of Sedaris adaptation. [Peter Knegt]

“The Canyons”
Director: Paul Schrader
Cast: Lindsay Lohan, Gus Van Sant, Nolan Gerard Funk and James Deen.
Distributor: None yet.
Release Date: Not yet announced.
Why Might It Be A Must See: Lindsay Lohan and porn sensation James Deen band together to star in this trashy modern-day noir scripted by literary bad boy Bret Easton Ellis and directed by Paul Schrader in “Auto Focus”-“American Gigolo” mode. With this pedigree, “The Canyons” has a delicious recipe for a real good kind of bad (the lurid and pulpy trailers sure indicate that that’s the case). Shot for cheap last summer in Los Angeles, the thriller documents five twenty-something’s quest for power, love, sex and success modern day Hollywood. Whether is has the makings of something incisive remains to be seen. With Ellis and Schrader behind it, signs point to yes. [Nigel M. Smith]

“Dallas Buyers Club
Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, Steve Zahn, Dallas Roberts
Distributor: None as of yet.
Release Date: Look for it to be a world premiere at a major festival (Cannes seems iffy, but surely Toronto if not). If reviews are strong, it should be released for Oscar consideration by end of year.
Why Might It Be a Must See: Considering how few major American narrative films have tackled HIV/AIDS history — especially in the past decade or so — it’s definitely a bit unnerving on the surface to see one finally arrive that tackles the epidemic, by from the real life perspective of a womanizing, homophobic man who, in 1986 was diagnosed with full blown HIV/AIDS. The real-life story sees him come to terms with his homophobia through his experiences smuggling alternative medicine with an HIV positive transexual woman (played by Jared Leto). Which could prove a bit trying if it overdoes a tolerance theme. But the director (Quebec’s Jean-Marc Vallée, who made “C.R.A.Z.Y.”), and the cast (Matthew McConaughey plays the lead) are promising enough to let us have hope this doesn’t turn into a “Philadelphia” for the 2010s. [Peter Knegt]

“Devil’s Knot”
Director: Atom Egoyan
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Colin Firth, Amy Ryan, Elias Koteas, Stephen Moyer, Alessandro Nivola
Distributor: none yet
Release Date: none yet, though an acquisition in the first half of the year would give it time for a late Fall awards run
Why Might It Be a Must See: Egoyan is a versatile filmmaker whose canted storytelling techniques often bring an extra element to his typically dark stories of flawed people wrestling with their own morality. The infamous case of the West Memphis Three provides fascinatingly rich material for his kind of cinematic dissection. While they’ve been well covered in four documentaries, this is the first time that the horrifying murders and their effect on the community will be tackled in a fiction format. That the ongoing real-life story continues to provide twists and surprises gives Egoyan’s film a timeliness that should increase its appeal with moviegoers. [Jay A. Fernandez]

“Drinking Buddies”
Director: Joe Swanberg
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Ron Livingston
Distributor: N/A
Release date: None yet, but it seems likely to make its U.S. bow at SXSW.
Why Might It Be a Must See: Swanberg’s prolific output has been gaining momentum of late as the filmmaker enters a more mature stage beyond his ramshackle mumblecore roots and more firmly rooted in genre and stronger production values. His collaboration here with name actors signifies his burgeoning popularity even as he remains tied to an improvisational approach. 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. [Eric Kohn]

“Frances Ha”
Director: Noah Baumbach
Cast: Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner, Adam Driver, Michael Zegen and Patrick Heusinger
Distributor: IFC Films
Release Date: May 17
Why Might It Be A Must See: Greta Gerwig gives her most appealing performance yet in Noah Baumbach’s seemingly effortless black-and-white comedy that, yes, does share a lot of similarities to Lena Dunham’s hit HBO show “Girls.” Centered on the bumbling life of Frances (Gerwig), a struggling post-modern dancer living and loving in the Big Apple, “Frances Ha” doesn’t tell a story, so much as force you to get to know the protagonist. As written by both Baumbach and Gerwig, Frances is a hot mess, but an endearing, awkward and hilarious one. [Nigel M. Smith]

“I’m So Excited
Director: Pedro Almodovar
Cast: Javier Cámara, Cecilia Roth, Lola Dueñas, Raúl Arévalo, Lola Dueñas, Blanca Suárez, Penelope Cruz, Antonio Banderas, Paz Vega
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Release Date: Debuts in Spain on March 8th (which suggests its not heading to Cannes), but US audiences will have to wait until November
Why Might It Be a Must See: How could you not be so excited for Pedro Almodovar’s new film? A narrative is set almost entirely on an airplane, it reteams Almodovar with Javier Cámara (“Talk To Her”), Cecilia Roth (“All About My Mother”), Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas (though the latter two in cameo roles) and judging from the trailer it looks a campy return to Almodovar’s delightfully comic roots. [Peter Knegt]

“In Country”
Directors: Mike Attie and Meghan O’Hara
Distributor: None yet.
Release Date:  “In Country” is starting post-production now, with a 2013 festival debut planned.
Why Might It Be a Must See: First-time feature filmmaking team Mike Attie and Meghan O’Hara won the pitch contest at last year’s Camden International Film Festival, and have subsequently turned heads with their sensitive and probing depiction of Vietnam War re-enactors in Oregon.   [Bryce J. Renninger]

“Inside Llewyn Davis”
Director: Ethan & Joel Coen
Cast: Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, Adam Driver, Garrett Hedlund, Oscar Isaac, Alex Karpovsky
Distributor: none yet
Release Date: none yet
Why Might It Be a Must See: Plainly put, Coen Brothers films are always must-sees, even when they don’t work. But this latest, about a musician wading into the folk music world of 1960s New York City, promises a killer soundtrack and the kind of specific period setting that the Coens usually make great use of (“A Serious Man,” “True Grit,” “Miller’s Crossing”). Its casting mix is appealing, too, with Mulligan (who sang a wicked “New York, New York” in “Shame”) and Timberlake providing musical power, regular Coens player Goodman anchoring the story and rising talents Driver, Hedlund, Isaac and Karpovsky bringing fresh blood to the brothers’ cinematic universe. [Jay A. Fernandez]

“The Lords of Salem”
Director: Rob Zombie
Cast: Sheri Moon Zombie, Bruce Davison, Dee Wallace, Meg Goster, and Suzanne Vos.
Distributor: Anchor Bay Films
Release Date: Not yet announced. Likely a Halloween opening.
Why Might It Be A Must See: Rob Zombie impressed many (ourselves included) with his grisly and demented sophomore effort, “The Devil’s Rejects,” only to betray many admirers of that film with his tepid stab at the “Halloween” franchise. After helming the 2009 sequel to that reboot, new film “The Lords of Salem” (which world premiered in Toronto last year in the Midnight Madness section) finds Zombie back in non-remake mode with a gonzo tale that proves the musician turned filmmaker has lost none of his mojo. A melding of Zombie’s heavy metal background and horror sensibilities, “Lords” centers on a radio station DJ (Zombie’s wife Sheri Moon Zombie) tormented by nightmares and hallucinations involving a coven of Salem witches (and one sadistic-looking baby), after listening to a sinister sounding vinyl record sent to her office. [Nigel M. Smith]

Director: Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman
Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, Hank Azaria, Bobby Canavale, Chris Noth, Adam Brody, Demi Moore, Eric Roberts, Robert Patrick, Wes Bentley, Sharon Stone and Juno Temple
Distributor: Millenium Films
Release Date: Not yet announced. It’s premiering at Sundance so it will likely open soon after.
Why Might It Be A Must See: Amanda Seyfried seems set to prove she’s an actress to contend with in the upcoming indie biopic “Lovelace,” in which she plays Linda Lovelace, the pornographic movie actress and star of “Deep Throat,” the hard-core cultural sensation, who led an abused and troubled life. Best known as the actress with the voice of an angel (put to good use in “Mamma Mia!” and “Les Miserables”), Seyfried hasn’t had a chance to show off her lead-worthy dramatic chops in a film worth seeing (“Chloe” and last year’s dud “Gone” were DOA). With the “HOWL” directing duo of Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman at the helm and a great cast that includes Peter Sarsgaard as Lovelace’s domineering husband, chances are this will be worth your time. [Nigel M. Smith]

“The Man Who Sold the World”
Director: Bill Condon
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Alicia Vikander, Daniel Bruhl, Dan Stevens
Distributor: DreamWorks
Release Date: Unknown, perhaps by end of 2013.
Why Might It Be a Must See: Condon’s WikiLeaks fiilm, based on two journalistic titles that track the relationship between Julian Assange and Daniel Domscheit-Berg (David Leigh and Luke Harding’s “WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy” and Domscheit-Berg’s own “Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange at the World’s Most Dangerous Website”) is eagerly anticipated to say the least.  Condon’s unpredictable style (this is the man that gave us both “Dreamgirls,” “Gods and Monsters,” and “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn” Parts 1 & 2) will have to deal with the very sensitive political perspectives that will inevitably color individual perspectives of the film.  Condon’s is not the only film about the subject.  Documentarian Alex Gibney’s own WikiLeaks film — which profiles Assange and Private Bradley Manning debuts at this month’s Sundance Film Festival, and “Underground: The Julian Assange Story” debuted at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival.  As the film world confronts all these representations of the story, these films will all vie for a definitive telling of the WikiLeaks story primed for the history books. [Bryce J. Renninger]

“Map to the Stars”
Director: David Cronenberg
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Rachel Weisz, Robert Pattinson
Distributor: None as of yet.
Release Date: Very likely to premiere in Cannes or Venice or Toronto, with a deal and release date to follow.
Why Might It Be a Must See: Whatever you think of Robert Pattison becoming David Cronenberg’s newfound muse, their second collaboration in as many years looks mighty appealing. The long-delayed “Map to The Stars” also brings Cronenberg’s other righthand man Viggo Mortensen along for the ride (as well as Rachel Weisz), and is said to be a complex Hollywood satire…  It’s also the first film the Canadian director has actually shot in America. [Peter Knegt]

Director: Jeff Nichols
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon and Michael Shannon
Distributor: Lionsgate/Roadside
Release date: Nothing set, but Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions picked the movie up for distribution at Cannes last May and plan to release it this year.
Why Might It Be a Must See: Nichols’ follow-up to the phenomenal, dreamlike blue collar drama “Take Shelter” premiered at the very end of Cannes, which many people anticipated as a bad sign only to be pleasantly surprised. The story follows the titular fugitive on the lam from police and bounty hunters while attempting to reunited with his wife. Nichols’ ability to blend poetic landscapes and tense, high stakes mystery, so evident in “Take Shelter,” has been elevated to a potentially more commercially accessible plane. It’s about time he got the attention he deserves. [Eric Kohn]

“The New Black”
Director: Yoruba Richen
Distributor: None yet.
Release Date: “The New Black” is set to debut at festivals later this year.
Why Might It Be a Must See:  The film, which has gotten the support from a number of documentary film funds, is direly needed to create a definitive and careful history of the rhetorical and real ties made between the black and LGBT communities as well as the black and LGBT civil rights struggles.  Early footage looks incredible, and the world should prepare itself for an addition to the LGBT documentary canon. [Bryce J. Renninger]

“Night Moves”
Director: Kelly Reichardt
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, Peter Sarsgaard
Distributor: N/A
Release date: Nothing yet; the film is currently in post-production.
Why Might It Be a Must See: Reichardt has repeatedly delivered some of the most thoughtful American independent films in recent years, starting with the career-rejuvenating “Old Joy,” which followed with “Wendy and Lucy” and “Meek’s Cutoff.” Each movie starts with rather basic scenarios — a weekend getaway, a missing dog, a minimalist western — and develops them into profound explorations of personal yearning. While Reichardt has repeatedly worked with Michelle Williams, the trio of big names associated with this particular project certainly attest to her current clout, while the premise  about a trio of environmentalists planning to blow up a bomb sounds exactly like the simple plotlines Reichardt always manages to infuse with new life. Additionally, Reichardt’s films have always been attuned to the relationship between man and nature, so this theme is a familiar one for fans of oeuvre. [Eric Kohn]

Director: Pablo Larraîn
Cast: Gael Garcia Bernal
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Release date: February
Why Might It Be a Must See: With his last two features, “Tony Manero” and “Post Mortem,” Chilean director Pablo Larraín quickly established himself as the preeminent chronicler of his country’s lingering demons from its years of oppression under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. For his third and most accomplished work, “No,” Larraín has traded the allegorical track for the real thing, delivering a lively, mesmerizing drama about a national call to action during the 1988 referendum on Pinochet’s presidency. With a full-bodied turn by Gael Garcia Bernal as its anchor, “No” broadens Larraín’s range by replicating historical events in engrossing detail. A hit at festivals Cannes, Telluride and Toronto, “No” makes a quick stop at Sundance ahead of its U.S. theatrical release. It’s a definite contender for the foreign language film Oscar race at the end of the year. [Eric Kohn]

Director: Lars von Trier
Cast: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgard, Shia LaBeouf, Christian Slater, Connie Nielsen, Willem Dafoe, Uma Thurman, Charlotte Rampling
Distributor: none yet
Release Date: May 30 overseas; no U.S. date
Why Might It Be a Must See: Uh, check the title, the content and the filmmaker. Let’s just say the curiosity factor is high. Like his protagonist in this look at a woman’s eventful erotic history, Von Trier just can’t help himself. The dark prince of provocation has frequently explored the suffering of female characters that often indulge in sexual activity that ultimately leads to dark places (see “Breaking the Waves,” “Antichrist,” “Dogville,” etc.). But with “Nymphomaniac,” he strips away all other elements with the help of major returning players from his revolving acting troupe (Gainsbourg, Skargard, Dafoe, Rampling), a few highly sexy older actresses (Thurman, Nielsen) and… Shia LaBeouf, who has intimated that he may be going, um, all in. The big question is whether the French will let Von Trier back into Cannes after his Hitler snafu the last time he attended the festival, with “Melancholia.” But our bet is on Cannes being the first chance we’ll have to view it. [Jay A. Fernandez]

“Only God Forgives”
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott-Thomas, Vithaya Pansringarm and Yaya Ying
Distributor: Radius
Release Date: Not yet announced.
Why Might It Be A Must See: Following their acclaimed work together on “Drive,” Ryan Gosling and Cannes award-winning director Nicolas Winding Refn re-team for “Only God Forgives,” a film that’s rumored to be even more violent than their first collaboration. Recently acquired by The Weinstein Company’s multi platform distribution label Radius, the thriller centers on a man (Gosling) living in exile in Bangkok who sets out to avenge his murdered brother at the behest of his mother (Kristin Scott-Thomas). Refn and Gosling did wonders getting inside the mind of a troubled protagonist with “Drive,” and their latest sounds no less dark and morally dubious than its predecessor. Sign us up. [Nigel M. Smith]
“Only Lovers Left Alive
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, Mia Wasikowska, John Hurt, Anton Yelchin
Distributor: None, though that will surely change.
Release Date: Likely to have a Cannes premiere that results in US distribution at some point later this year.
Why Might It Be A Must See: A crypto-vampire love story starring Tilda Swinton and directed by Jim Jarmusch.  That’s the only sentence you need. Truly. [Peter Knegt]

“The Place Beyond the Pines”
Derek Cianfrance
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes and Rose Byrne.
Distributor: Focus Features
Release Date: March 29
Why Might It Be A Must See: “The Place Beyond the Pines,” Derek Cianfrance’s anticipated follow-up to his 2010 indie breakout smash “Blue Valentine,” was the hottest buy out of last September’s Toronto International Film Festival. The recently released trailer suggests a high-stakes crime drama that delivers an emotional wallop, while still serving the action and intrigue the genre demands. Shrouded in secrecy before its world premiere save for a promotional still and a vague plot synopsis, the drama impressed critics upon its unveiling (Indiewire’s Eric Kohn gave it an A-). Reuniting with his “Blue Valentine” director, Gosling plays a stunt-biker who decides to use said skills to rob banks with a partner and provide for his child. Bradley Cooper is said to make good on the exceptional promise he showed in “Silver Linings Playbook” as a cop on Gosling’s tail. [Nigel M. Smith]

“Queen of the Desert”
Director: Werner Herzog
Cast: Naomi Watts, Robert Pattinson, Jude Law
Distributor: N/A
Release date: Nothing yet.
Why Might It Be a Must See: Just because he was recently seen onscreen as the villain in “Jack Reacher” doesn’t mean Herzog has sold out. Every since “Rescue Dawn,” the kooky Bavarian filmmaker has entered a compelling new stage with the narrative side of his filmmaking career, delivering bizarre, discursive dramas (can anyone really explain “My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?”) with the same loony poetry that often spills out of Herzog’s mouth (that iguana bit in “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” was something else). Herzog’s new movie looks like a consolidation of his life as an adventurous documentarian and oddball fiction work: The movie stars Watts as legendary explorer Gertrude Bell and Pattinson as “Lawrence of Arabia” author T.E. Lawrence. Herzog tends to bring out the maniacal side of his actors, which means this could be a thrill ride in more ways than one. [Eric Kohn]

Director: Mike Newell
Cast: Christoph Waltz and Michael Douglas
Distributor: None yet (supported by Participant Media project)
Release Date: In pre-production.
Why Might It Be a Must See: After stunning audiences in yet another Tarantino flick, Christoph Waltz will become Mikhail Gorbachev to Michael Douglas’ Ronald Reagan (!).  The film tracks the 1986 Reykjavik summit that sought to smooth the relationship between the still cold world leaders. [Bryce J. Renninger]

“The Sacrament”
Director: Ti West
Cast: Joe Swanberg, AJ Bowen, Kentucker Audley, Amy Seimetz, Gene Jones, Kate Lyn Sheil
Distributor: N/A
Release date: Nothing yet, but it could wind up at SXSW if finished in time.
Why Might It Be a Must See: With his debut feature “The Roost,” Ti West quickly established himself as a promising new filmmaking talent in the horror genre with a style both reverential to intelligent scares of the past and willing to push the genre in inventive new directions. That potential was confirmed with subsequent projects like “The House of the Devil” and “The Innkeepers,” but it was “The Roost” that brought West to the attention of torture porn auteur Eli Roth, who championed West to studios. Now the two have teamed up again, with Roth “presenting” West’s latest film, the details of which have remained a secret. But West, known for his perfectionist approach, always manages to deliver something worth talking about.

Director: Susanne Bier
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Toby Jones, Rhys Ifans
Distributor: none yet
Release Date: none yet
Why Might It Be a Must See: First off, there’s the reunion of Lawrence and Cooper, who had tremendous chemistry in David O. Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook” and may very well walk away with awards to show for it in February. Fans will be very eager to see them on screen together again, even if it’s in the vastly different mode of “Serena,” a dark and violent period piece based on the Ron Rash novel about a couple that moves to woodsy North Carolina in 1929 to build a lumber empire and devolves into suspicion, heartbreak and revenge in the process. The Danish Bier has yet to break through with American audiences, but she nabbed the best foreign-language film Oscar in 2010 for “In a Better World.” So the elements of this film — given its period deep-South setting — may feel incongruous, but they’re also what make the prospect intriguing. [Jay A. Fernandez]

Director: Ben Wheatley
Cast: Alice Lowe, Steve Oram
Distributor: IFC Films
Release Date: none yet, though screening at Sundance Jan. 18 in the Spotlight section
Why Might It Be a Must See: The British Wheatley is quietly becoming one of the most anticipated new voices in low-budget genre filmmaking, with “Down Terrace” and “Kill List” (a big sale at SXSW in 2011) preceding this most recent and blackest of comedies. A Cannes debut in 2012, “Sightseers” follows Lowe and Oram, who also are credited with writing the script, as a couple on a holiday road trip through the countryside that quickly takes a dispiriting turn. The film is apparently just fun as hell, and Wheatley has the aura of someone who will be rising in the industry as soon as Hollywood notices his wicked sense of humor. [Jay A. Fernandez]

“Sound City
Director: Dave Grohl
Distributor: Variance Films + digital download
Release Date: Feb. 1
Why Might It Be a Must See: Grohl is the rare rock star with great songwriting talent, a healthy sense of humor and a real reverence for the history of his profession. “Sound City,” his directorial debut, collects dozens of famous faces (and voices) to tell the story of Sound City Studios and the Neve 8028 recording console that was used there by a roster of iconic bands (including his own earlier band, Nirvana). The film, which will screen in the Documentary Premieres section of the Sundance Film Festival, also makes a nostalgic case for the beauty of analog recording. It’s bound to be both fan-stoking in terms of the collection of iconic musicians Grohl got to appear in the film and enlightening in its look at a specific segment of rock history. [Jay A. Fernandez]

“The Spectacular Now
Director: James Ponsoldt
Cast: Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Brie Larson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kyle Chandler
Distributor: none
Release Date: premiering in the U.S. dramatic competition at Sundance Jan. 18
Why Might It Be a Must See: This Sundance selection features an intriguing collaboration between Ponsoldt, whose “Off the Black” and “Smashed” (Sundance 2012, in competition) were keenly observed dramas, and screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, whose “(500) Days of Summer” (Sundance 2009) brought true independent spirit to the romantic comedy genre. Strong, unpredictable actresses load the cast (Woodley, Leigh, Winstead) to tell the story, adapted from the Tim Tharp novel, of a freewheeling high school senior and the nice-girl female introvert he attempts to “save” — with mixed results. The writing-directing-acting pedigree has potential breakthrough written all over it. [Jay A. Fernandez]

Park Chan-wook
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Jackie Weaver and Dermot Mulroney
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Release Date: February 28
Why Might It Be A Must See: If the recently unveiled trailer for Park Chan-Wook’s first foray into English language filmmaking territory didn’t get you stoked (sorry, we couldn’t resist), then there’s no helping you. Boasting stunning cinematography by Chan-Wook’s right hand man Chung-hoon Chung, an A-list cast, and a story to die for, the thriller looks like one of the best bets this spring. “Stoker” centers on moody teen India (Mia Wasikowska), who welcomes in an uncle (Matthew Goode) she didn’t know existed soon after her father passes away. With her bereaved mother (Nicole Kidman) visibly unstable, India soon becomes suspicious of the mysterious uncle’s motives but finds herself drawn to him at the same time. [Nigel M. Smith]

“Stories We Tell”
Director: Sarah Polley
Distributor: Roadside Attractions
Release Date: May 17th.
Why Might It Be a Must See: One of the most acclaimed films from this past fall’s festival circuit, Sarah Polley’s deeply personal documentary about her own family is coming to theaters this year care of Roadside Attractions. Polley uses home movies, new interviews and voice-over narration to explore secrets in her own family in the incredibly moving doc, which will give you yet another reason to love the Canadian child actress turned woman who can clearly do anything. [Peter Knegt]

“Tom à la ferme “
Director: Xavier Dolan
Cast: Xavier Dolan, Caleb Landry Jones, Evelyne Brochu, Lise Roy, Mélodie Simard, Eric Bruneau
Distributor: None.
Release Date: Surely a major festival debut, though US distribution has often been oddly problematic for Dolan (“I Killed My Mother” and “Laurence Anyways” should both finally come out in 2013, which could mean Dolan has three US releases this year).
Why Might It Be a Must See:
Xavier Dolan returns both in front and behind the camera with his fourth feature film, and his first adaptation.  A take on Michel Marc Bouchard’s play “Tom à la Ferme,” 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. Dolan fans are surely already counting the minutes. [Peter Knegt]

“Tomorrow We Disappear”
Director: Jim Goldblum and Adam M. Weber
Distributor: None yet.
Release Date: Set to debut at festivals this year.
Why Might It Be a Must See:  First-time feature directors Goldblum and Weber have crafted a stunning look at Kathputli Colony, an Indian magician’s colony full of magicians and artisans that is set to be destroyed by developers.  The project, a former Indiewire Project of the Month, hasn’t been announced at any film festival — yet!  The film was one of the first documentaries to really break out on Kickstarter, exceeding its $40,000 goal by over $20,000 in 2011. [Bryce J. Renninger]

“Touchy Feely
Director: Lynn Shelton
Cast: Rosemarie Dewitt, Ellen Page, Ron Livingston, Allison Janney, Scoot McNairy
Distributor: None as of yet.
Release Date: Premiering in competiiton at Sundance, and all but assured to be picked up. Though when it gets released in theaters is another question.
Why Might It Be a Must See: Lynn Shelton is following up her acclaimed “Your Sister’s Sister”  with “Touchy Feely,” which reunites her with her one of her “Sister” stars, Rosemarie DeWitt. DeWitt — playing a massage therapist who suddenly finds the human body repulsive — is joined by Ellen Page, Ron Livingston, Josh Pais, Scott McNairy and Allison Janney in the film. Featuring multiple storylines, it’s a departure from the focused three person narratives of both “Sister” and its predecessor, “Humpday.” But there’s no reason to suggest Shelton isn’t game for this evolution. [Peter Knegt]

“Two Mothers
Director: Anne Fontaine
Cast: Naomi Watts, Robin Wright, Xavier Samuel, James Frechevile
Distributor: none
Release Date: premiering in the Premieres section at Sundance Jan. 18
Why Might It Be a Must See: Watts and Wright starring as lifelong friends who fall in love with each other’s sons is about as alluring a set-up as a movie can have. That Oscar-winning “Dangerous Liaisons” and “A Dangerous Method” screenwriter Christopher Hampton engineered the script can only mean that the ladies engage in some dangerous (and dangerously sexy) doings. Fontaine directed the recent biopic “Coco Before Chanel,” but she’s also the co-writer-director of “Nathalie…,” which Atom Egoyan revamped as the erotic thriller “Chloe.” So consider this deck stacked. [Jay A. Fernandez]

Untitled David O. Russell Film
Director: David O. Russell
Cast: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Release Date: Some time in 2013.
Why Might It Be a Must See: Russell, one of American filmmaking’s savviest and most compelling auteurs, has already told a telling true-life story with “The Fighter,” and he returns to history again with a new film about the 1970s FBI sting operation Abscam.  Abscam, which stands for Abdul scam, set up a fake operation led by a fictitious sheikh in which he offered politicians money and investments for asylum and aid in getting cash out of his country.  With this film, from a script written by “The International” scribe Eric Singer, Russell returns with his old “Fighter” friends Adams and Bale and his “Silver Linings Playbook” star Bradley Cooper for what promises to be an interesting departure. [Bryce J. Renninger]

Untitled Laura Poitras Film (Trilogy Part III)
Director: Laura Poitras
Distributor: None yet
Release Date: Set to debut at festivals later this year.
Why Might It Be a Must See: One of America’s most impressive documentary filmmakers is back with the third in her post-9/11 films.  The first two, Oscar-nominated “My Country, My Country” and “The Oath” are two of the most captivating and shocking documentaries about the War on Terror produced.  This third film, previewed at last year’s Whitney Biennial and on the New York Times, tracks the NSA’s domestic spying operation in the U.S. [Bryce J. Renninger]

“Upstream Color”
Director: Shane Carruth
Cast: Shane Carruth, Amy Seimetz
Distributor: The filmmaker’s company erbp
Release date: April 5
Why Might It Be a Must See: No matter how many times one watches Shane Carruth’s 2004 debut feature “Primer,” the writer-director-star’s head-spinningly audacious time travel movie, it’s still one of the most cryptic science fiction movies ever made.  After the film’s Sundance triumph and subsequent landing of cult appeal upon its release, Carruth went off the grid…until now, with a similarly cryptic relationship story about a pair of character trapped in an ageless organism, or something like that. Early buzz for the movie suggests that it’s a genuine head-scratcher, which in this case could be a very good thing. [Eric Kohn]

“Venus in Fur”
Director: Roman Polanski
Cast: Emmanuelle Seigner and Louis Garrel
Distributor: None yet.
Release Date: Probably sometime in the fall to capitalize on awards season.
Why Might It Be A Must See: Roman Polanski is set to follow up his claustrophobic film adaptation of the award-winning play “Carnage,” with yet another claustrophobic film adaptation of an award-winning play; this time the erotic two-hander “Venus in Fur.” If there’s a director that knows a thing or two about being holed up in a confined space for a prolonged amount of time, it’s Polanski, who hasn’t returned to the United States following his sex incident with a minor in 1978. He’s mined that aspect of his life for much of his recent output, including “The Pianist,” “The Ghost Writer” and “Carnage.” Fans of “Venus in Fur” — which began off-Broadway before moving onto the Great White Way” — expecting a straight up film adaptation will be in for a surprise. In a nice twist, Polanski chose to shoot the film in French, and cast his wife, Emmanuelle Seigner, an actress almost 20 years older than Nina Arianda who originated the same role and bagged a Tony for her efforts. The film (like the play) centers on a desperate actress who tries her darnedest to win over an aloof director. [Nigel M. Smith]

“Warm Bodies”
Director: Jonathan Levine
Release date: February 1
Distributor: Summit Entertainment
Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, John Malkovich
Why Might It Be a Must See: Early February is a tough time for studio movies, but this adaptation of Isaac Marion’s novel may provide a welcome alternative. The movie revolves around a woman who falls in love with the zombie who killed her boyfriend, it turns out that newfound affection might bring the walking dead man back to life. A hip, uplifting alternative to the usual grim nature of zombie survival narratives, the premise of “Warm Bodies” has been realized by Levine, whose trio of features — the unreleased horror-drama “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane,” the coming-of-age stoner dramedy “The Wackness” and last year’s acclaimed cancer comedy “50/50” — display impressive range. Levine has a penchant for lovable characters and an ability to upend genre expectations. And it’s about time somebody did that for the zombie genre, which by this point has been done to death. [Eric Kohn]

“Which Way is the Front Line from Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington
Director: Sebastian Junger
Distributor: HBO
Release Date: mid-April; also screening at Sundance Jan. 20 in the Documentary Premieres section
Why Might It Be a Must See: The film is a eulogy of sorts for Junger’s colleague and collaborator Hetherington, a courageous photographer who was killed in 2011 while covering the civil war in Libya. The two shared the grand jury prize for documentary feature at Sundance in 2010 with “Restrepo,” their striking look at a year in the life of soldiers fighting in Afghanistan. This new film looks at Hetherington’s devoted lifelong effort to document the humanity struggling to survive in the planet’s worst war zones. It may resonate with American moviegoers exhausted by the seemingly endless battles consuming much of the globe as well as America’s own war adventures of the past decade, and who are looking for some greater meaning in the tragedies. [Jay A. Fernandez]

“The Yes Men Are Revolting!”
Director: Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonano
Distributor: None yet.
Release Date: Set to debut at festivals later this year.
Why Might It Be a Must See:  Festival favorites The Yes Men will return with the third film documenting their anti-corporate anti-globalization hijinks later this year.  Speaking with Indiewire, the duo promised that the focus of this film would be climate change and that they are intent on growing the influence of their activist training ground, the Yes Lab, with an online component that trains activists to produce media-friendly actions. [Bryce J. Renninger]

“The Zero Therorem
Director: Terry Gilliam
Cast: Matt Damon, Christoph Waltz, Ben Whishaw, Tilda Swinton, David Thewlis
Distributor: none yet
Release Date: none yet
Why Might It Be a Must See: Well, the cast is chock full of interesting actors, and Gilliam is a master of the cinematic bizarre, so this story of a computer hacker trying to discover the reason for human existence while dealing with the constant obstacles thrown in his way should at least engage the mind. But really, the nature of “Zero Theorem,” from first-time screenwriter and university professor Pat Rushin, remains a total mystery. Gilliam may have a spotty record with audiences, but curiosity about that mystery and how it unfolds is its biggest selling point. [Jay A. Fernandez]


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