Having run through the most anticipated major releases for 2022, we turn now to those films which are less likely to light up the box office, but which stand an excellent chance of being worthwhile cinematic experiences.
The film that may have the best shot at escaping the bounds of the specialty box-office for mainstream appeal is Damian Chazelle’s Babylon, the La La Land-director’s account of Hollywood insiders during the silent era, with an enormous cast and a few in-demand stars (Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie and the newly reappraised Tobey Maguire). Apparent leaks point to salacious subject matter (for a $100 million film), though the movie only releases in December, so it’ll be a long wait to find out.
Nearing $200 million, Killers of the Flower Moon is one of Martin Scorsese’s larger productions, based on the novel of the same name, adapted by five-time screenplay nominee Eric Roth, and featuring the director’s favourites Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert DeNiro, but starring Jesse Plemons in what may be a unique leading-man role, as opposed to the oddballs he is typically cast as. The drama follows a major FBI investigation involving J. Edgar Hoover, mobilized after members of the Osage tribe in the United States are murdered under mysterious circumstances in the 1920s.
Steven Spielberg will make, if not a largely autobiographical then certainly one of his most personal films in The Fabelmans, currently scheduled for November 23, 2022. With a script-credit for the first time since 2001, Spielberg will reflect on his childhood in Arizona, material he has been considering since the 1990s, hesitant till now to take a “loving yet critical point of view about what it was like to grow up with (his mother and father)”. Michelle Williams and Paul Dano will bring the Spielbergs to life, with Seth Rogen as a favorite uncle and Gabriel LaBelle as the aspiring young director.
Korean maestro Park Chan-wook’s directorial vision can seem downright sadistic, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. Tang Wei and Park Hae-il star in Decision to Leave, making up a twisted couple: A detective investigating a murder, and the prime suspect; the victim’s widow.
Asteroid City will see the workaholic Wes Anderson inject his massive cast of regulars into a romantic comedy, collaborating once again with composer Alexandre Desplat. The film, which recently completed shooting in Spain, features Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Adrien Brody, Tom Hanks, Margot Robbie, Jason Schwartzman, Scarlett Johansson, Jeffrey Wright, Bryan Cranston, Jeff Goldblum, Tony Revolori, Maya Hawke and a handful more confirmed cast members.
For The Killer David Fincher reunites with Andrew Kevin Walker (the writer of Seven) for the story of an assassin who begins to psychologically crack as he develops a conscience, even as his clients continue to demand his skills. After the out-of-character Mank, it’s exciting to hear Fincher is returning to his pessimistic, grimy, crime-infatuated norm for Netflix’s adaptation of the graphic novel. The film stars Michael Fassbinder and Tilda Swinton.
George Miller’s first film since Mad Max: Fury Road, perhaps the most universally praised film of the 2010s, will supposedly be suitably outrageous, having been consistently labeled “epic in scope”. Three Thousand Years of Longing follows a contented scholar who encounters a Djinn who offers her three wishes in exchange for his freedom. Their conversation, in a hotel room in Istanbul, leads to consequences neither would have expected. The film stars Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton.
Joshua Oppenheimer’s duology of documentaries following retired Indonesian death squad members don’t suggest that the director might be made to helm a musical. The End (inspired by Oppenheimer’s discovery of doomsday safe-havens under construction that more resemble palaces than bunkers) is a musical about a family in a bunker twenty years after the apocalypse, taking a cue from The Umbrellas of Cherbourg in style. The film stars Tilda Swinton.
Guillermo del Toro makes a seemingly foregone leap into stop-motion with the animated musical Pinocchio, now set in the fascist Italy of the 1930s. The dark adaptation is made in collaboration with the Jim Henson company, with Alexandre Desplat coming on board to write original music. The film stars Gregory Mann, Ron Perlman, Ewan McGregor and Tilda Swinton.
Another of Netflix’s animated films, Apollo 10½, takes place during the 1969 Apollo 11 Moon landing and will explore children on Earth’s fantasies about the event. Directed by Richard Linklater, animated in the style of his earlier Waking Life and Through a Scanner Darkly, Apollo 10½ stars Glen Powell, Jack Black, Zachary Levi and Josh Wiggins.
Darren Aronofsky is unpredictable. He’s been on a wave-length favoring unreal and sometimes surreal storytelling for about ten years now, but may be shifting to a The Wrestler-style character study. The premise of The Whale, is interesting, and will likely follow Samuel D. Hunter’s original play closely, since Hunter receives sole writing credit. Charlie (Brendan Fraser) has reached 600-pounds, spurred largely by binge eating to alleviate his guilt and suffering over abandoning his family for his gay lover, who has died sometime before the film begins. His daughter (Sadie Sink) is now 17, and Charlie wants to reconnect.
Paul Schrader, continuing his late-career renaissance, directs Master Gardener, which may release in time to be a 2022 film, starring Joel Edgerton as a horticulturist torn between two women, one much older and one much younger.
Prime progenitor of A24-core, Ari Aster seems to have made good on his plans for a four-hour horror comedy starring Joaquin Phoenix as “one of the most successful entrepreneurs of all time”. Very few studios would have taken on something like Disappointment Blvd., but of course A24 is the one to do so.
As David Cronenberg completes his own horror film; Crimes of the Future, depicting Accelerated Evolution Syndrome in the not-far-off future starring Vigo Mortensen who describes it as a return to the director’s origins, Alejandro González Iñárritu returns to Mexico for a comedy about coming home; Bardo (or A False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths) .
Noah Baumbach adapts post-modernist novel White Noise for Netflix, in which a chemical spill from a rail car releases a black noxious cloud unto the hometown of a morbid professor of Hitler studies. Adam Driver stars.
Though he persists in working with better known American actors, Yorgos Lanthimos seems to have returned to the fantastically disturbing scenarios with which he’s made a name for himself, following the immaculate but slightly tamer The Favourite. In Poor Things, Emma Stone (as Belle) drowns herself to escape the abuse of her husband (Max), played by Ramy Youssef. Her father (Godwin, played by Willem Dafoe in a match between performer and director made in heaven), then attempts to revive his daughter by replacing Belle’s brain with that of her own unborn child. Based on the novel by Alasdair Gray.
Fire, about a woman caught between two men: one her long-time partner and the other his best-friend, who was once her boyfriend, is of interest considering it’s being developed by Claire Denis, though I prefer the original French title; With Love and Relentlessness.
Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin continues to slowly stake its claim as one of the best films of the century, cropping up more and more in discussions and polls of critics. Hopefully Glazer’s immaculate vision will be of service in Zone of Interest, a holocaust drama which finished filming in Auschwitz, Poland at the tail end of 2021. Glazer is said to be focusing on bystanders, the complicit German officers and citizenry.
Joanna Hogg, riding the wave of praise for her Souvenir films, has completed filming The Eternal Daughter. Very little is known about the picture, but what is confirmed, is that the film stars Tilda Swinton.
First Cow appeared on many “Best of 2020” lists, and so eyeballs are firmly affixed on Kelly Reichardt’s upcoming collaboration with Michelle Williams; Showing Up. Williams is “an artist on the verge of a career-changing exhibition. As she navigates family, friends, and colleagues in the lead up to her show, the chaos of life becomes the inspiration for great art.”
The premise of Men, “a young woman goes on a solo vacation in the English countryside after the death of her ex-husband”, seems pretty banal, but if Alex Garland’s filmography (Ex-Machina, Annihilation) is anything to go by, this horror drama is likely to go in unexpected and weird directions.
Steven Soderbergh’s next film, the 2020-lockdown-set thriller KIMI, marks the flighty director’s longest string of films for a single studio, though it’s reception may be muted as audiences await his return to the Magic Mike series for Magic Mike’s Last Dance. The male stripper film’s plot may be self-explanatory, but KIMI’s main character is an agoraphobic tech worker who discovers evidence of a violent crime while reviewing a data stream, and is met with resistance and bureaucracy when she tries reporting it to her company. To get involved, she realizes she must face her greatest fear by venturing out of her apartment and into the city streets, which are filled with protestors after the city council passes a law restricting the movements of the homeless population.
Luca Guadagnino reteams with Timothée Chalamet for Bones & All, describing the project as “a very romantic story, about the impossibility of love and yet, the need for it. Even in extreme circumstances.” Looking into the book Guadagnino is adapting, others might describe the project as a coming-of-age romance about a girl with an insatiable desire to eat those who show her affection.
Florian Zeller will adapt another of his plays for the screen; The Son, which has no relation to his previous Academy Award winning The Father. Hugh Jackman and Laura Dern star.
Social realists and Cannes favorites, the Dardenne brothers might end up going 10 for 11 in Palme d’Or nominations with Tori et Lokita. “In Belgium, a young boy and a teenage girl who’ve arrived alone from Africa pit their unbreakable friendship against the cruel conditions of their exile.”
Mia Hansen-Love’s Bergman Island made for a strong contender at 2021’s Cannes Festival, and so her follow up may be of interest: One Fine Morning stars Léa Seydoux and has already been selected by Mubi for distribution.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before- A celebrity couple, a Marxist ship captain, a cleaning lady and a handful of billionaires are stranded on a deserted after a luxury cruise ship sinks. The cleaning lady is the only one of them who can cook, upsetting the social order. Oh, how the turn tables. This sort of darkly comical take on social hierarchy, ideology shattering shakeups and the vacuousness of the super-rich is emblematic of Ruben Östlund, who may have a deft enough touch to make something of value out of this Swept Away-esque premise. The film is called Triangle of Sadness, in reference to the “term used by plastic surgeons to fix a wrinkle between the eyes with Botox in 15 minutes”.
Nicole Holofcener’s aching and droll writing work on Can You Ever Forgive Me? gave Melissa McCarthy the opportunity to measure up to her potential as an actor. This bodes well for Holofcener’s next comedy, since she’ll be working with the great Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the Beth of Beth & Don. Don is her husband, who has been inimitably supportive of his wife’s writing, fostering a happy marriage. That is, until Beth overhears him admit that he hasn’t enjoyed her work in years. Filming begins early this year.
Harry Styles continues expanding into acting, this time in a leading role alongside Florence Pugh and Olivia Wilde, who also directs her second feature. Don’t Worry Darling does already have a sneak-peek Instagram post, hinting at the premise: “A 1950s housewife living with her husband in a utopian experimental community begins to worry that his glamorous company may be hiding disturbing secrets.”
Todd Field returns to directing with Tár, about Germany’s first woman chief conductor of a significant orchestra, a project made more exciting by star Cate Blanchett, and celebrated composer Hildur Guðnadóttir.
Guðnadóttir also provides her talents to David O. Russell. The director has always had a knack for snatching up acting royalty with ease, but this time he’s outdone himself; his upcoming untitled film stars Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, John David Washington, Rami Malek, Zoe Saldana, Robert De Niro, Mike Myers, Timothy Olyphant, Michael Shannon, Chris Rock, Anya Taylor-Joy and Taylor Swift. What most tantalizing of plots could have drawn such an embarrassment of riches? “A doctor and a lawyer form an unlikely partnership”.