Percentages reflect how much each of the three categories (Director, Cast and X factor) contributed to the movie’s ranking.
Release: June 8
With Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce, Idris Elba, Kate Dickie, Logan Marshall-Green, Patrick Wilson, Rafe Spall
Director: Ridley Scott
- Director (25%) Cast (50%) X: Science fiction (25%)
Prometheus will arrive thirty years after the last sci-fi film Ridley Scott made (Blade Runner). That’s a long time, particularly since his two films in the genre are frequently referred to as his best. The other one, of course, was Alien. The producers of Prometheus have kept information about the plot secret as much as possible, and Scott has demurred to calling this a prequel to Alien. However, based on the teaser trailer released this week, it’s impossible not to make connections between the two films. Maybe it’s just that the word “prequel” sounds so commercial; Scott wouldn’t want us to think that this movie is all about name recognition. No worries there, at least as far as I’m concerned. I really hope this is Scott’s best movie in years; I haven’t particularly cared for him this past decade.
Release: November 21
With Sandra Bullock and George Clooney
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
- Director (48%) Cast (10%) X: “Kubrickian” (42%)
We will have waited six years for Alfonso Cuarón’s follow-up to Children of Men. The X factor is a quote from Guillermo del Toro, who visited the set of the film and came away predicting the movie to be “mind-blowing.” Emmanuel Lubezki, who shot The Tree of Life, will be doing the cinematography here as well, and apparently the whole thing is set in space. These reasons are more than enough to get this movie to the #9 spot, and to rank it above the other sci-fi film on this list. The third reason in particular has me excited. I could watch an endless string of Lubezki-shot films that draw comparisons to 2001: A Space Odyssey and die happy. Honestly, the only thing keeping this movie down on the list is my ranking system. There may be only two characters in the whole movie, and the two confirmed stars are not among my all-time favorites, though I do like them. If they take a backseat to visual poetry, I won’t mind.
8. The Great Gatsby
Release: December 25
With Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher, Tobey Maguire, Elizabeth Debicki, Jason Clarke, Callan McAuliffe, Gemma Ward
Director: Baz Luhrmann
- Director (38%) Cast (38%) X: Fitzgerald (24%)
Like The Avengers, I hold out the hope that this movie may prove a fascinating experience even if it fails completely. Photographic evidence to this point implies that it will be a beautiful film, and hopefully Luhrmann’s style won’t distract from that beauty. I’m looking forward to seeing another film from him. Like many directors I like these days, he just doesn’t make nearly enough movies. I’ve missed his anachronistic pop music, and I can’t help but wonder if any will sneak into this film. Uncertainty is in fact a major factor in my anticipation of The Great Gatsby. The attempt to use 3D in a drama is a little off-putting, but at the same time it’s an intriguing choice. The one thing we can be sure of is that this will not be a drab, lifelessly faithful adaptation of a great work of literature. And the cast is going to do a fantastic job. We’ll see how this works as next year’s Christmas present from Luhrmann.
7. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Release: December 14
With Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Graham McTavish, Andy Serkis, Cate Blanchett, Evangeline Lilly, Benedict Cumberbatch
Director: Peter Jackson
- Director (38%) Cast (20%) X: Tolkien (42%)
Ah, nostalgia. The Lord of the Rings trilogy was a major movie event in my formative years. It was sad when the journey ended, and I’m sure that sadness was deep for the people who made the movie. Therefore, why not cover The Hobbit eleven years after The Fellowship of the Ring? It could be a pleasant reunion for many in the original cast and crew. On the other hand, based on the trailer (also released this week), I have my doubts that the tone will be right. The Hobbit and LOTR are two very different things. If Peter Jackson sometimes failed to convey the joy and humor of Tolkien’s saga in LOTR, there’s much more to fear concerning The Hobbit, which as a book is a great deal of fun. But it would be wrong to be certain based on a trailer released a year before the movie. Splitting the movie into two parts may be excessive, but if the first part turns out well, that will only make me more excited for the conclusion in 2013.
6. The Amazing Spider-Man
Release: July 3
With Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Chris Zylka, Embeth Davidtz, Campbell Scott
Director: Marc Webb
- Director (28%) Cast (32%) X: Spider-Man (40%)
Spider-Man, the Sam Raimi film released in 2002, was fantastic wish-fulfillment for me, bringing to life my favorite superhero other than Batman and Superman (who had both already gotten major films). The sequel proved to be just as good, if not better. The third film wasn’t terrible, but it was bad enough, apparently, to put the series to bed — until 2012, that is. Yes, the franchise gets a reboot a mere ten years after the original. This is almost certainly too soon, but given the wonderful cast and the aptly named Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer) as director, as well as the promise of telling the story of Peter Parker’s parents and his experience in high school, this should adequately distance itself from the original. Maybe it shouldn’t be ranked all the way up to #6, but I’m intrigued to see why someone apparently felt that this needed to be made right now, beyond the fact that Andrew Garfield is perfect for this role.
5. The Master
Release: Not set
With Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Laura Dern, Rami Malek, Ambyr Childers, Jesse Plemons, Kevin J. O’Connor
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
- Director (36%) Cast (28%) X: Scientology (36%)
Don’t tell anyone I used the word “Scientology” in a discussion of Paul Thomas Anderson’s long-awaited follow-up to There Will Be Blood. The term is sure to be absent from the film, no matter how much the fellow who starts his own religion in the story resembles L. Ron Hubbard. “The next P.T. Anderson film” is enough of an event on its own, but this one is carrying extra dynamite if it ends up offending some major figures in Hollywood. Uncertainty really ramps up expectations for this one. A release date still hasn’t been set, and the film has already seen delays and casting changes. But filming started earlier this year, so it’s quite possible that this film will premiere at some festivals next year. Whether ordinary folks like me will be in a position to see it is another story. Let’s hope. At any rate, I do knock this down a few spots because I didn’t love There Will Be Blood. I’m probably grievously wrong for saying that and will try to see the movie again at some point.
4. Anna Karenina
Release: Not set
With Keira Knightley, Kelly Macdonald, Jude Law, Aaron Johnson, Matthew Macfadyen, Olivia Williams, Ruth Wilson, Emily Watson, Michelle Dockery
Director: Joe Wright
- Director (40%) Cast (30%) X: Tolstoy (30%)
Joe Wright has made a total of four films, starting with Pride & Prejudice in 2005. I’ve seen three of them and love all three. He has great natural gifts for composition and famously long takes. (If Alfonso Cuarón and P.T. Anderson weren’t proof enough, this clinches it; I love long takes and tracking shots). Wright offers the delightful service of translating great literature into easily digestible film versions. Anna Karenina is my overall top pick for literary adaptations in 2012 partly because I haven’t read the book yet and look forward to learning more about the story. But given how much I liked Pride & Prejudice and Atonement, I’m sure this one will turn out fine. I would be very surprised if this movie doesn’t come out in the U.S. next year, even though no definite release date has been named. Oscar-bait it may be, but Wright’s films that I’ve seen are never dry or “safe.”
Release: Not set
With Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tommy Lee Jones, David Strathairn, Jared Harris, Lee Pace, Jackie Earle Haley, John Hawkes
Director: Steven Spielberg
- Director (34%) Cast (32%) X: Abraham Lincoln (34%)
Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln is the kind of perfect casting that has people talking about an Oscar a year before the movie is even released. Early photos of him in costume and makeup show an amazing resemblance between him and our legendary president. And if there’s anything we know about Day-Lewis, it’s that he will throw himself into this role. Between him and the rest of the stellar cast that we can always count on in a Spielberg film, this could be great. Spielberg himself has come to be synonymous with the words “American” and “movies,” emphasis on both. Our great popular filmmaker creating a film about our greatest folk hero is nothing short of a culmination of everything Spielberg has done. I absolutely can’t wait to see how this one turns out, but I’ll have to wait until December. Spielberg has said he doesn’t want the film to be used for propaganda during the presidential election, and that’s fine by me. December is going to a very crowded month for movies, though.
2. Django Unchained
Release: December 25
With Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Christoph Waltz, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Don Johnson, Kerry Washington, Sacha Baron Cohen
Director: Quentin Tarantino
- Director (34%) Cast (34%) X: Slavery (32%)
It was seven or eight months ago that I first heard Quentin Tarantino had completed the script for his next film. That moment may in fact have been the point when I first dubbed 2012 the best movie year ever, or something like that. Tarantino is my favorite living director; even though he has only made seven movies in nearly twenty years, I think he’s batting a thousand. So his next film is always something to look forward to. This is especially true after the artistic growth displayed in Inglourious Basterds (2009). Now he’s making a film that features the darkest aspect of American history: slavery. It’s impossible to think of Tarantino as a “serious” or message-driven filmmaker, and maybe Inglourious Basterds didn’t have much substance on the issue of the Holocaust. But then, I think Tarantino has matured a great deal. Maybe he does have something to say about a subject that American films have been loath to discuss. Even if he doesn’t, I know I can look forward to a roaring Spaghetti Western adventure, with what I judge to be the second-best cast of any film on the list. The movie as a whole is second-best as well, though, isn’t it? Any other year, “the next Tarantino film” would almost certainly top my list. But 2012 isn’t any other year. So…
1. The Dark Knight Rises
Release: July 20
With Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Josh Pence
Director: Christopher Nolan
- Director (33 1/3%) Cast (33 1/3%) X: Batman (33 1/3%)
It was in January (Facebook provides an accurate record) when I first heard definite news about Christopher Nolan’s next (and as it will turn out, last) Batman film. The news was that Bane would be the villain. That’s all I needed to know. Bane is not only one of my absolute favorite Batman villains, but he’s one that got ridiculously short shrift in that infamous Joel Schumacher movie, Batman & Robin. I immediately knew that Nolan would not go that route. Casting Tom Hardy confirmed this. The other interesting thing about The Dark Knight Rises is that this will be the conclusion of a trilogy. Nolan and Christian Bale will bid Batman adieu after this film. What this means is that the film will likely not have the typical “and the adventure continues…” superhero movie ending. You see, dread is a form of anticipation, and between the poster above and the trailer, I have plenty of dread about what might happen to Batman. This is a first for a superhero movie, and it connects me back to the excitement/fear of childhood, before I knew enough to realize, “they’re not going to kill him off.” Looking at this film, I have to ask, “But will they?” The title, which I didn’t like at first, seems to imply otherwise, but now I’m not sure I know what it means. At first, although the actual words in the title aren’t spectacular, I was excited that this series will follow the structure of a trilogy. At the end of The Dark Knight, Batman is pretty much at his lowest point, and I want to see him settle more comfortably into his role in Gotham. His “rising” may be just that. There are plenty of questions about this film, involving Catwoman, Ra’s al Ghul, and even Robin. I look forward to seeing them answered. Nolan, as always, has assembled a fantastic cast. Topping the list for 2012 makes this my most anticipated film of my entire life up to this point, just as The Dark Knight was before it. Given how well that film turned out, this one has even more to live up to.