Noah Baumbach made a big splash in 2005 with his painfully funny indie hit, The Squid and the Whale. His follow up, Margot at the Wedding, was a dud with critics and audiences alike. Judging by the clever trailer this looks to be a return to form, with break-out hit potential. It is almost certainly Ben Stiller's best role in ages, or at least since he played himself on Extras. Maybe it will remind everyone that before he started running from CGI dinosaur bones full-time, he looked like he might become a pretty decent actor.
9. Black Swan - Dir. Darren Aronofsky
Aronofsky is one of those directors whose every film is an event every film lover has to see to keep up with the conversation. Even his flops like The Fountain develop instant and passionate cult followings (I include myself in that group) His last film was the near perfect The Wrestler, so if his new film, something about ballerinas and ghosts, is anywhere near as good, it will be an absolute must-see.
8. Iron Man 2 - Dir. Jon Favreau
No other film guarantees to be more pure movie fun in 2010 than Iron Man 2. Having been a card carrying member of the Robert Downey Jr. Fan Club since Wonder Boys, it's gratifying to see him graduate from supporting turns in The Shaggy Dog, to King of Hollywood, throwing his weight around at the box office like he's Will Smith in a film costarring ridiculous aliens. Following the infallible rule of sequels that states the second in the franchise is always the best (Dark Knight, Spiderman 2, Wrath of Khan) this is sure to be a blast.
7. Get Low - Dir. Aaron Schneider
Get Low stars Robert Duvall as a hermit in the 1930's throwing himself a funeral while he is still around to enjoy. I'm not sure I could name two actors I am more pleased to see turning up in a movie than Robert Duvall and Bill Murray, so chances are I was going to see this no matter what. The fact that this gentle comedy got great buzz at last year's Toronto Film Festival is just gravy.
6. Green Zone - Dir. Paul Greengrass
Director Greengrass has been taking Hollywood to school with his last few films, showing everyone the correct way to make action movies with the last two Bourne films, while silencing all the "too soon-ers" with his heart-stopping United 93. He reunites with Damon for this political thriller due in March. With so many crappy action movies littering the multiplexes I'm not about to pass on the one guy doing it right.
5. Toy Story 3 - Dir. Lee Unkrich
Do I need to explain why any new Pixar film is a reason for celebration? With a string of modern classics (I'm going to politely ignore Cars) culminating with the recently Best Picture nominated Up, Pixar is on a run of success to rival Disney's golden age of the early forties or the early nineties animation renaissance that peaked with Beauty and the Beast. It's hard to imagine a new Toy Story will end their winning streak.
4. Cemetery Junction - Dir. Ricky Gervais & Stephen Merchant
Separately the writing/directing team of Gervais and Merchant are hit and miss. Gervais's stabs at Hollywood stardom have lacked his trademark edge, while Merchant is paying his acting dues playing second banana to the Rock in The Tooth Fairy. Together they are practically the Lennon/McCartney of comedy, producing two unimpeachably great TV shows (The Office, Extras) and one hilarious record-breaking podcast (The Ricky Gervais Show). Cemetery Junction is their first foray into feature filmmaking.
3. True Grit - Dir. The Coen Brothers
Due at the end of the year, this is the second version of the novel True Grit, the first version of which won John Wayne an Oscar. Jeff Bridges is slated to take over the John Wayne role in the Coen's version. To repeat, that is Jeff "the Dude" Bridges reuniting with the Coen brothers. If you need more convincing than that to get excited about this film, I don't know what to tell you.
2. Inception - Dir. Christopher Nolan
To say Christopher Nolan is on a roll is a massive understatement. Nolan has directed five quality films in a row, starting with the modern mystery gold standard Memento, and climaxing with 2008's megahit The Dark Knight, which you may have heard was not half-bad. Judging by the mind-blowing trailer for his new film it is not out of the realm of possibility that he has found a way to top himself. Also, it looks like Nolan has managed to assemble one of the best casts, well, ever.
1. Shutter Island - Dir. Martin Scorsese
Some of your snootier film writers will tell you Scorsese is past his Taxi Driver/Raging Bull prime and a new film from him is not the big occasion I make it out to be. I'm having none of that. Even one of Scorsese's misfires like Gangs of New York has more vitality than the average month's worth of major Hollywood productions, and the same cineastes who today are dismissing Scorsese's current output, will be falling all over each other in ten year's time to declare films like Bringing Out the Dead and The Aviator overlooked masterpieces. All this is a roundabout way of saying that Scorsese is pretty much the living embodiment of film as an art form, and, if you care the least little bit about cinema, when he releases a film you go.
As for Shutter Island, the trailer seems fantastically unhinged, suggesting that Scorsese, having finally won his Oscar, feels liberated to follow his instincts in any bug-nuts direction they lead. In case you were wondering, the formula goes Wild Scorsese = Awesome Scorsese.
Did I miss anything that looks great? Let me know in the comments.