A year is a fascinating block of time to reflect upon. So much can happen inside it. Much better to measure a year than days or weeks or months. There’s always the end-of-year impetus to get our Best Of lists out shortly followed by the following idea: let’s look forward. There’s plenty of looking forward to this year. The film industry’s motor is all warmed up after a couple of years of downtime and a year to reacclimate. We expect the following year to fire on all cylinders and produce a wide breadth of content. This year, we’re refocusing on the Indies. They are our bread and butter. They are most like us. They’re the films you may not know about. And by Indie, perhaps we should define our terms: simply not the biggest blockbusters. Let’s hit the road, it’s gonna be a beautiful year of cinema.
How to Blow Up a Pipeline
After a warmly reviewed festival run, Neon has picked up this ecological heist thriller about a troop of climate activists who take direct and radical action by sabotaging an oil pipeline. Daniel Goldhaber emerges as a must-see directing talent following his fascinating prior film Cam (2018) and the hottest pickup of last fall’s festival season. We’re ready to help blow it all up.
Strange Way of Life (Extraña forma de vida)
18 whole years since his last movie (A Dirty Shame, ‘04), John Waters has a new currency to his name, an installed audience, and a new novel he has written which he’s set to adapt, about a family of three generations of women who conspire to kill each other. Yes, it will be a beautiful return.
Motern Media: Boston Johnny & An Untitled Sequel Project
Two 13-year-old boys spend their time in the innocent, compassionate embrace of their friendship. It is the most natural thing in the world… until the other kids start to notice, and it tears their friendship apart, creating a divide between the innocence of youth and the ugly cynical lack of compassion that comes with early adulthood. Real A24 vibes coming in ’23.
The People’s Joker
The Zone of Interest
Beloved filmmaker Lynne Ramsay has had about as many stops and starts as finished projects. We’re awfully hungry for more after the phenomenal You Were Never Really Here. Next, she will be adapting a timely Margaret Atwood short story written for the New Yorker. As the main character tells herself, “though much has been taken, much remains.”
I Saw the TV Glow
“Follows two unpopular queer girls who start a fight club to have sex before their high school graduation,” goes the synopsis. We have no idea what “start a fight club to have sex” means but this is probably important. Emma Seligman reteams with Rachel Sennott, star of her excellent prior film, Shiva Baby (2020).
Ramin Bahrani has an insightful vision. Chop Shop (2007) & Man Push Cart (2009) utilize a unified sort of language about what New York stories can be. Bahrani also made that short film where Werner Herzog narrates the travels of a plastic bag. Here he adapts a book about a house cleaner who learns more than they bargained to about their employer, which puts them in danger.
We need John Woo more than ever. In a crowded field of John Wick movies, nothing feels as essential as a return to genuine action know-how from one of the premier masters of the craft. While Silent Night stars a Western cast, as tipped off by the title, the revenge film features no dialogue at all. There are also a hundred films with this title but only one of them will be by John Woo.
1920s Harlem: Supernatural forces of prejudice turn humans into monsters. The Sangerye Family have long fought the demons but now find themselves up against a greater force of evil amidst the colorful backdrop of the Harlem Renaissance. Following Regina King’s debut, One Night in Miami (2020), her sophomore feature could securely embolden her place as a director to watch.
The Iron Claw
The story begins with a patriarch who plays a Nazi in the ring and forces his kids into the wrestling business. A whole generation of Von Erich brawlers become the biggest thing in the ring. But each child’s life meets a dramatic, dark end. From A24, The Iron Claw (so-named after a famous family move), tells a bleakly cursed story about wrestling history. Look at Zac Efron though.
Oscars, 2020: Roger Ross Williams celebrates winning Best Documentary Feature and is ambushed on-stage by an estranged producer of the film. One of the Oscars’ worst moments. But now, Williams returns with another story: Gael García Bernal plays the Cassandro, “Liberace of Lucha Libre,” an openly gay wrestler shaking up the macho world of Mexican wrestling.
Bodybuilding: Loves Lies Bleeding & Magazine Dreams
Following the sensational The Favourite (2018) Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos and Emma Stone return with Poor Things, a revisionist retelling of the Frankenstein story, a Victorian fable about a young woman brought back to life by an ingenious scientist. Notably, the film also stars Willem Dafoe and Margaret Qualley. Lanthimos remains of superlative interest.
The latest purveyor of the “Greek Weird Wave,” Christos Nikou directs subversive parables with social currency in mind. In his sophomore feature, Jessie Buckley stars in a sci-fi love story about a couple who are losing their spark and the woman who seeks help from an organization that intends to reignite the flickering flames of burnt-out romantic relationships.
Beau is Afraid
The title change from Disappointment Blvd. to Beau is Afraid, matched with the above poster concept, is perhaps the most worrying and uncanny thing known about a film from 2023. We’re terrified… please give us another title and another poster, we can’t work with any of this. Ari Aster directing Joaquin Phoenix, however, remains a juicy prospect. We’re all afraid.
Director Audrey Diwan takes on her first English-language project: an adaptation of the French erotic novel starring forever-rising French actress Léa Seydoux. Seydoux continues to impress and has regularly been good, even when the movies around her are not, and ought to bring something special to this story about a woman’s carnal daydreams of desire.
Napoleon is an invigorating figure for cinema. He offers so much filmic and historic baggage. Here enters Ridley Scott featuring Joaquin Phoenix. The film will take the unique perspective of dealing with Napoleon largely on the terms of his tumultuous relationship with Josephine (Vanessa Kirby). Great approach, the right actors, and endearingly late-era Ridley Scott.
Killers of the Flower Moon
In the 1920s, members of the Osage Nation are murdered after rich oil deposits are found underneath their land, giving birth to the FBI and providing meaty subject matter for this long-awaited Martin Scorsese adaptation of the non-fiction David Grann book. This is a serious statement of intent for Apple, who are investing with considerable taste in all the right prestige projects.
The director of two of the most riveting, soul-wrenching documentaries — The Act of Killing (2012) & The Look of Silence (2014) — Joshua Oppenheimer returns with… a musical. Given these credentials and the foreboding title, the new film is about a family living alone in the ruins of post-apocalyptic salt mines until a girl shows up who shatters their reality. Tilda Swinton stars.
Landscape with Invisible Hand
With the arrival of aliens, the global economy gets totally tanked. This leaves a talented artist in a predicament. After the fallout of the extraterrestrial invasion, how can they continue to create their art in a world of lopsided commerce? Cory Finley directs, following his work on Thoroughbreds (2017) and Bad Education (2019). Featuring Tiffany Hadish and Michael Gandolfini.
Always nice to see progressive themes from a place like Pakistan. In Joyland, a family wants their son produce a child, but he falls in love with the trans dancer from an exotic dance company. It sounds moving, is anti-censorship, looks visually lively, stars a trans actress, and comes from director Saim Sadiq’s uniquely Pakistani background, making it something new for the culture.
The Accidental Getaway Driver
Based on a true story, The Accidental Getaway Driver is a lyrical study of one man’s loneliness and journey through life. When a Vietnamese driver picks up a late-night call, he’s soon being held at gunpoint and forced to hide in a hotel with three recently escaped convicts. Early Sundance buzz surrounds this True Crime meditation on the journey of life.
Year of the Fox
Mega Griffiths is a rising Seattle-area director who shot I’ll Show You Mine (2022), a film I watched and seemingly internalized, as my curiosity about the unflinching therapy-like intensity of the central conversation continues to light my brain. This next one is a great premise, too: a child adopted into a notable, wealthy family must deal with the fallout of her parent’s divorce.
Next up for acclaimed Chilean director Sebastián Lelio is A24 film Bride. Scarlett Johansson stars as a woman created to be the perfect wife. She escapes her creator and must confront an unwelcoming world and learn what it means to be human. Lelio is always worth watching and this hits the same notes as my favorite performance ever, Johansson in 2014’s Under the Skin.
Glen Powell went full Dad Mode last year. Starred in two propaganda films about airplanes. Incredible two-film streak. But now… this is something. In his next project he’ll play 12 whole characters in Richard Linklater’s Hitman. It feels like a big-scale breakout for Powell and a recentering bid for Linklater, who has lately drifted to the fringes.
We didn’t make a big enough deal of Steve McQueen’s Small Axe project, which produced five good and disparate films about Black social issues in a single year. We also should’ve heralded Widows (2018) as one of our best modern heist films. Maybe we can give McQueen his due again with Blitz, an account of a group of Londoners during WWII bombings.
If David Gordon Green’s work on Halloween doesn’t inspire confidence that he may properly handle the different challenges of The Exorcist property, we don’t think you should worry yet. The fan demands are different, owing to the fact that there are two signature The Exorcist films allowing for a less fractured fanbase and more room for new approaches.
Ti West had the most incredible year. Last year, he released the critically acclaimed X, shortly followed by the even more acclaimed prequel Pearl. What a run. This year, he looks to file his X sequel in MaXXXine, surrounding the events of Maxine Minx’s route to Hollywood. We hope this highly-charged sense of productivity is here to stay for West.
The Four Dracula Movies
Meg 2: The Trench
Untitled Godzilla Project: “Blockbuster Monster Movie”
Shin Kamiya Rider
The Super Mario Bros. Movie
Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget
They’ve broken out. Now, they live on a peaceful island. But back on the mainland, there is a threat to chickens everywhere. Now they must break back in. Easy sell here, as the warmth of Aardman illuminates another stop-animated Chicken Run with much of the cast returning 23 years after the last film. The original is such a kind, pro-livestock film and the sequel ought to be the same.
How Do You Live?
Said to be the swan song of Hayao Miyazaki, How Do You Live? is pitched as a parting gift to the auteur’s grandson. Under the Ghibli label, Miyazaki has already accumulated perhaps the finest animation resume ever assembled. This parting gesture feels like not only the likely end to an incredible career but also a final chapter of a certain kind of film only Studio Ghibli can make.
You’re either in or out on Makoto Shinkai’s films. Whether or not you cared about The Garden of Words (2013), Your Name (2016), or Weathering with You (2019) determines whether or not you care about Suzume. Shinkai continues his series of bold metaphors with Suzume, the story of a girl and the magical door she can open to various areas of disaster-wrecked Japan. Are you in?