20. Biutiful (Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu)
Starring: Javier Bardem, Ruben Ochhandiano.
Why? In his first three films, Amores Perros, 21 Grams and Babel, Innaritu has made three wonderful films. I have no doubt he can do it again, this time in Spanish, with the brilliant Javier Bardem as his leading man.
19. Avatar (James Cameron)
Starring: Sam Worthington, Sigourny Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez, Zoe Saldana, Giovanni Ribisi.
Why? James Cameron finally returns to filmmaking after over a decade. Seems like a return to his sci-fi/action roots, and I for one cannot wait to see what he comes up with.
18. The Lovely Bones (Peter Jackson)
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, Saorise Ronan, Stanley Tucci.
Why? The book, about a dead girl who narrates from heaven what happens to her family, and her murderer, was quietly powerful. This could be a return to Heavenly Creatures territory for director Peter Jackson, after years spent in Middle Earth and with giant monkeys.
17. Taking Woodstock (Ang Lee)
Starring: Demetri Martin, Live Scheiber, Emile Hirsh, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Paul Dano, Eugene Levy, Dan Fogler, Imelda Stauton.
Why? I’m not sure we need another Woodstock movie, but I’ll follow director Ang Lee anywhere.
16. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (Edgar Wright)
Starring: Michael Cera, Chris Evans, Anna Kendrick, Mary Elizabeth Winstead.
Why? Okay, first of all, Edgar Wright is a comic genius. He’s the man behind Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, as well perhaps the best of the trailers in Grindhouse. Second of all, Michael Cera is hilarious, and I’m glad to see he’s playing an adult this time, and not another high school kid, even if it’s essentially him again. The rest of the cast also has me – Chris Evans can be enjoyable, I loved Anna Kendrick in Rocket Science, Mary Elizabeth Winstead is always great (or at least great to look at)
15. Nailed (David O. Russell)
Starring: Jessica Biel, Jake Gyllenhaal, James Marsden, Catherine Keener, James Brolin.
Why? David O. Russell may be a huge prick, but the man is one of the best comedic writer/directors in the world right now. While I may not be crazy about Biel, I think this could be her chance to prove me wrong. The story, about a woman who gets a nail to the head, and then heads for Washington, could be wonderful, or stupid, or wonderfully stupid.
14. The Informant (Steven Soderbergh)
Starring: Matt Damon, Melanie Lynsky, Scott Bakula, Patton Oswald.
Why? I loved Steven Soderbergh, even when his films are mere excercises in style. This seems to be something akin to Erin Brockovich, or Michael Mann’s The Insider, so I’m looking for this one to be a major Oscar player.
13. Ponyo on a Cliff (Hayao Miyazaki)
Starring: Cate Blanchatt, Liam Neesom, Tina Fey, Lily Tomlin.
Why? Miyzaki has always made wonderful animated films, that are mature and subtle, and absolutely beautiful. With each film, I fear it will be his last, but he keeps cranking them out, and they keep being brilliant.
12. Green Zone (Paul Greengrass)
Starring: Matt Damon, Brenden Gleason, Jason Issacs, Greg Kinnear, Amy Ryan.
Why? Greengrass has turned himself into one of the best directors of his day, and this CIA thriller about weapons of mass destruction seems right up his alley. I hope it doesn’t become this year’s Body of Lies.
11. Life During Wartime (Todd Solondz)
Starring: Shirley Henderson, Ciaran Hinds, Chane’t Johnson, Paris Hilton, Ally Sheedy, Allison Janney, Charlotte Rampling, Paul Reubens.
Why? Yes, a movie starring Paris Hilton and Peewee Herman is on my most anticipated list, even though I don’t know if we’ll get a chance to see it this year, or if it will actually end being called Life During Wartime. Todd Solondz remains for me one of the best, most independent filmmakers working today, and his films are always challenging and thought provoking. I’m sure this one will be no different.