In Which We Look Ahead
As we nervously approach this oncoming decade it’s always fun to remind ourselves of things we can look forward to. As is usually the case with a pop minded collective like The Avocado, movies are a good a way as any to squeeze out the few drops of joy and excitement in our lives. And if many a film causes grand arguments or discourse let us also find the project that bring us joy, insight, and comfort in these hostile times. So without further ado, the list.
The Big Ones
Usually the projects most locked down are big tent poles from major studios, and with a surprising dearth of the usual suspects (no Star Wars, b-tier Marvels, and only a scattered assortment of sequels) 2020 is shaping up to be a strange year for big movies.
In Hollywood’s unending quest to build franchise and expand IP they have stumbled into a few odd moments of inspired work. Mad Max: Fury Road might be the best example from the past ten years, and it looks like the decade is going to be kicked off with a lavish production of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi epic. It’s a tricky task to pull off, as Herbert’s novel is as focused on religion and interior ruminations as it is on sand worms and space battles. However director Denis Villeneuve has proven himself an excellent craftsman of high minded genre fare (as Sicario, Arrival, and Blade Runner 2049 can attest), so even if this fails at the box office or artistically it will be a beautiful, beguiling experience. We’ll see in December
It’s odd that a cold British technician has become one of the last wellsprings of old school Hollywood razzle-dazzle, but Christopher Nolan still stands as perhaps the biggest figure who can execute incredibly high minded original projects on a massive scale. And Tenet is shaping up to be his biggest project yet. A tale of international espionage combined with an intriguing time travel twist. Nolan has always expressed his desire to make a full fledged James Bond project, and this just might fit the bill, assisted by an able cast (John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, and Elizabeth Debicki), all will be revealed this summer.
No Time To Die
Speaking of which, Daniel Craig’s tenure as 007 has been truly a series of high and lows. With the cool and thrilling spectacles of Casino Royale and Skyfall, matched with the dithering blunders of Quantum of Solace and Spectre. Can TV maestro Cory Fukanaga find a fitting way to close out this chapter of the Bond franchise, we will find out in April.
Bill & Ted Face the Music
Usually long awaited sequels to outmoded comedy franchises would fall quite far to the bottom of my well of excitement (looking at you Ghostbusters and Coming 2 America) but the latest installment of the Bill & Ted franchise has a lot to look forward to. Not only are Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter returning to the roles that made them famous, but they’re joined by original writers Ed Solomon and Chris Mathison, and under the direction of Galaxy Quest helmer Dean Parisot. Nothing guarantees success here, but all the pieces are in place for this to be a good time.
Last Night in Soho
After scoring his first big mainstream hit with Baby Driver director Edgar Wright has turned his eye to another genre to apply his hyper-pop stylings to: horror. Described as a film in the vein of Repulsion and Don’t Look Back, Soho promises a tale of dread that involves time travel between the present and Swinging 60’s London. Wright is assisted here by an able cast (including Anya Taylor-Joy and Matt Smith) and co-sreenwriter Krysty Wilson-Cairns (1917). We’ll see Wright’s straight take on the horror genre this September.
Top Gun: Maverick
Director Joseph Kosinski has arguably never made a good movie (though Only the Brave was a fascinating departure), but he has certainly made thrilling audio/visual experiences. Grand spectacles scored to the thrum of Daft Punk or M83, a director who kind of helped signify 21st century cool without ever actually succeeding. So what I want out of Top Gun: Maverick is simple, overwhelming images and sound with all else coming second.
Wonder Woman 84
My only superhero movie on the list because it’s the only one that’s not launching off of totally wobbly ground (like the uncertainty of Birds of Prey, New Mutants, The Suicide Squad, and Black Widow). Director Patty Jenkins and stars Gal Gadot and Chris Pine return for another Amazonian romp through the 1980’s. While that time period may be played to death, it has allowed the crew to create a poppier world for Wonder Woman to whip through, and the trailer does indeed look like good fun.
Usually the sophomore horror film from a relatively unknown director wouldn’t make into the big movies slot, but I think Candyman gets to squeak as a coronating effort from director Nia DaCosta. Produced and written by Jordan Peele, Candyman has a high chance of becoming the year’s thematically insightful look into race and fear, and I’m excited to see what can be done with the concept.
Two From Pixar
Over the past decade Pixar’s star has greatly diminished. The combo of sequel churn and the sexual misconduct of former studio head John Lasseter have tarnished the formerly untouchable studio. However two of the original film Pixar made in the last decade, Inside Out and Coco, were among the studio’s best. So it will be interesting to see what the studio pulls off with the two high concept original projects they have brewing this year. Onward pitches itself as a suburban fantasy, with elves driving mini-vans and dragons serving as house hold guests. Soul looks to be the more interesting of the two, an exploration of the after life directed by Pete Doctor (Up) with a soundtrack by Reznor and Ross.
As is the case most years, some flicks premiered at fests, but won’t get full distribution until the following year. Here are some of the films that played the circuit in 2019 to look forward to in 2020
Described by many as genre bending western that slowly unfolds in quasi-psychedelic directions, Bacurau marks a departure for the social dramas of Brazilian director Kleber Filho. Out of Cannes and TIFF, critics noticed the similarities between this and the work of John Carpenter. Seems like a winner.
Kelly Reichardt’s return to the old west has been noted as a thoughtful and meditative picture about the struggles of frontier life. It also has been noted to have a significant portion of the film dedicated to a dairy heist, so plan accordingly.
Playwright turned director Corey Finley made a splash with his debut Thoroughbreds, and it looks like he avoid the sophomore slump with this docudrama about the biggest embezzling scheme in the history of American education. Hugh Jackman leads in what many are calling his best performance since The Prestige.
The Return of the Artist
Big name directors with movies promised in 2020. No certainty that these will all hit this year, but I can’t wait to see them.
David Fincher’s first movie since Gone Girl is the biography of screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz, notable for his work on The Wizard of Oz and Citizen Kane. While at first blush Mank seems like a radical departure from Fincher’s usual stock of nerve shredding crime thrillers, it seems like it will fit in snugly with his work on tortured geniuses and the people around them. Mank also appears to be Netflix’s big awards hopeful for 2020, and if it can match Roma and The Irishman it will be quite a movie.
The French Dispatch
Wes Anderson’s been on a bit of tear for the past ten years, so it’s thrilling to see him once again step up and produce another large scale project. This time the film follows journalists in Paris shortly after the conclusion of WWII. Originally The French Dispatch was rumored to be a musical, but updated scuttlebutt has indicated that it’s more of an anthology project, with each section presented in a different format (one is black and white, another in animation). If true the structure will certainly let Anderson flex his visual muscle.
French madman Leos Carax returns with his first project in eight years with his English debut. It’s a musical lead by Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard, with story and songs by the cult band Sparks. I have no idea what the hell this thing will look like, but it will be unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.
Dutch eye poker Paul Verhoeven returns with another provocative tale of sexuality and religion (and probably violence as well). This time Verheoven looks to the past and interrogates the life of a lesbian nun. Assuredly this project will rock no boats.
Director Andrew Dominik made one of the seminal sleeper films of 00’s with The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and ever since he’s been kind of drifting in the wilderness with one feature, one doc, and a few episodes of Mindhunter in the intervening years. So it will be fascinating what Dominik does with his deep dive into the life of Marilyn Monroe (here played by Ana De Armas), this could be a disaster, but the possibilities seem endless.
On the Rocks
Master of detached cool Sofia Coppola joins forces with the reigning champs of modern indie cool of A24 for what will surely be another trip into the land of the gorgeous and disenchanted. Once again calling upon Bill Murray, Coppola spins a yarn of a daughter (Rashida Jones) as she tries to reconnect with her playboy father (Murray).
Chloe Zhao already has a big ticket item for 2020, Marvel’s next big space gamble Eternals, but the hype levels should all be placed in Zhao’s smaller product. After wonderfully excavating the modern American west with The Rider, Zhao digs in deeper with a story of a woman (Frances McDormand) going out on her own after the great recession.
Video essayist turned director Koganada knocked it out of the park with his formalist romance Columbus in 2017. Now he’ll take his fine skills for framing and geometry and apply to the world of science fiction as he explores the life of a family as they deal with a dying robot companion.
The Bard is an eternal source of story for many a filmmaker, and it’s quite exciting to see what one half of the Coens (this time Joel) does with the material. Add to that framework Denzel Washington filling in the role of the doomed king. It’s yet to be seen if the film will follow a traditional outline or become a more expressionistic adaptation like Oh Brother Where Art Thou.
Da 5 Bloods
Spike Lee has always had a career of extreme ups and downs, and the last time Lee touched the war drama is resulted in a truly dismal feature (The Miracle at St. Anna). But I’m an eternal optimist and hope that Lee’s take on the Vietnam war hits as hard as his previous work BlackKklansman.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Writer and director Charlie Kaufman has always been able to create funny and nerve wracking deconstructions of the mind, and his newest film for Netflix promises to be his most intense yet as he directly tackles a straight thriller.
The Last Thing He Wanted
Dee Rees turned out to be the one the first big director swings that Netflix took and payed off. Her previous movie Mudbound broke the glass ceiling by being the first film to get a female cinematographer nominated for an Oscar. Rees looks to up the game even further by adapting a Joan Didion novel with an all star cast (Angelina Jolie, Ben Affleck, and Willem Dafoe). We won’t have to wait long to hear how this plays out as the film debuts at Sundance.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s High School Movie
More wishful thinking on this coming out in 2020 than anything, Anderson returns to his stomping grounds of the San Fernando valley in the 70’s with a mysterious project. All we know now is that it involves a child actor, but details swirl about the tone in style. Is the fabled comedic team up with Anderson’s wife Maya Rudolph and Tiffany Haddish, or the film he co-wrote with one of his kids. Either way Anderson is a titan of the form and anything he makes is well worth the wait.
Also sound off in the comments for the flicks from the upcoming year you’re excited for.