Last year I listed 12 movies I wanted to see in 2005, and I ended up seeing 7 on the big screen and 2 on DVD. Not bad. (I missed Bee Season, Bewitched, and Everything is Illuminated, but I'll watch them eventually.) I thought I'd try the same this year with another mix of big and small films.
1. Superman Returns. I think Tom Welling of Smallville makes a better young Superman for the 21st century, but with Brandon Routh in the title role, director Bryan Singer is clearly going for a young Christopher Reeve. I can live with that. As always, I've very skeptical of the female lead. But Kevin Spacey looks like he's channeling Gene Hackman. Add Parker Posey, Kal Penn, and the late Marlon Brando, and call me interested. (June 30)
2. The Prestige. A vague superhero pedigree, as Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) faces off against Batman (Christian Bale) and Alfred (Michael Caine) in this film about rival magicians in London, by Batman Begins director Christopher Nolan. I always find stories about magicians appealing, but historically they haven't made hit films. The same was said about pirates until 2003. (October 27)
3. Idlewild. The trailer for this OutKast movie set in Prohibition looks promising. Originally scheduled for spring, it was delayed until late summer to give the group time for a simultaneous album release. Fair enough. If the songs are Oscar-eligible, we might have a respectable list of high-profile nominees next year. (August 25)
4. The Departed. This is an A-list remake of the Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs, where a cop infiltrates the mob, and a mobster infiltrates the police force. Will they be discovered? What happens if they learn about each other? And will I ever appreciate a Martin Scorsese film all the way through? (October 6)
5. For Your Consideration. The latest from Christopher Guest. Let me preface this by confessing I'm not a fan. The dogs got me through Best in Show, I vaguely remember A Mighty Wind, and I lacked patience to continue Waiting for Guffman. But the subject matter this time -- indie studios and Oscar campaigns -- is in desperate need of skewering, and I have faith that Guest's comedy troupe will ad lib what needs to be said. (November 17)
6. The Black Dahlia. Likely a companion to L.A. Confidential, as they share a setting and source material (James Ellroy novels). Director Brian De Palma has kind of a B-team cast, though: Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson, Aaron Eckhart, and Hilary Swank. Want to follow early Oscar buzz? Its screenwriter, Josh Friedman, keeps a blog. (September 15)
7. Stranger than Fiction. Marc Forster, who directed Monster's Ball and Finding Neverland, is shaping up to be one of those high-profile filmmakers with no clear pattern. (Next he adapts The Kite Runner.) The premise, according to IMDb: "An IRS auditor suddenly finds himself the subject of narration only he can hear: narration that begins to affect his entire life, from his work, to his love-interest, to his death." How meta. (November 10)
8. The Good Shepherd. Wouldn't it be great if the Best Director race came down to Martin Scorsese for The Departed, and Robert De Niro for this? And by "great," I mean "funny"? The former's had some high-profle losses to Robert Redford, Roman Polanski, and Clint Eastwood, but you'd have to think that losing to his former muse would hurt the most. This movie is about the origins of the CIA; Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie star. (December 22)
9. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Robert Ford (Casey Affleck) joins the gang of Frank and Jesse James (Sam Shepard and Brad Pitt). Then you have the title. Presumably, this film explains what happened in between. I hope it's better than I Shot Andy Warhol. (September 15)
10. Running with Scissors. Wouldn't it be great if the Best Actress race came down to Hilary Swank for The Black Dahlia and Annette Bening for this? And by "great," I mean "repetitive"? (I'm rooting for Kate Winslet in Little Children, a film I don't know much about.) We'll see if Nip/Tuck creator Ryan Murphy can do for Scissors what he does with scalpels. (October 20)
11. The Illusionist. A nice bookend for The Prestige, as both are period magician flicks. It also answers the question, "Whatever happened to Edward Norton?" Jessica Biel gets her chance to be a leading lady, where she'll look pretty but get thoroughly upstaged by Norton, Paul Giamatti, and Rufus Sewell. (August 18)
12. The Science of Sleep. Another meta approach to storytelling by Michel Gondry, who directed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (and Bjork's video for "Human Behaviour"). Gael Garcia Bernal plays a man trying to break out a manipulative dream state. Major props -- literally -- for his giant hands depicted here. (August 11)
Honorable mentions to a few films without U.S. release dates: Smokin' Aces (Jeremy Piven in a lead role!), The Namesake (Mira Nair directs Kal Penn in the adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri's book), and Truth, Justice, and the American Way (Adrien Brody plays a detective investigating the death of TV's Superman, as played by Ben Affleck). I realize the latter is now called Hollywoodland, but I hope the studio will realize that, much like Snakes on a Plane, the working title is much better.