Happy New Year to all, especially to cinephiles looking ahead to the forthcoming awards season and the rest of the year in pictures. Here are just a few of my picks ahead of time. I’m going with what I know, rather than trying to predict the arthouse/festival circuit line-ups.
La La Land (Jan 13) A dazzling modern musical that’s sure to dominate the Oscar nominations, this LA-set song and dance romance stars the impossibly loveable coupling of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone as a wannabe jazz pianist and actress, trying to keep a love story alive in the City of Angels.
Denial (Jan 27) In David Hare’s meticulous adaptation, Rachel Weisz delivers a ferocious performance as Deborah Lipstadt, the US historian accused of libel by Holocaust denier David Irving (a loathsomely good Tim Spall) and forced take the trial in the British courts. Tom Wilkinson is Richard Rampton, the barrister who advisers her to “button her lip and win”.
T2: Trainspotting (Jan 27) Danny Boyle gets the gang back together…Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Bobby Carlyle, Jonny Lee Miller, even Kelly McDonald, all return for the best reunion and surely most anticipated sequel of the year (maybe the last 20 years…) – who will be on the soundtrack? what will the lads do? will they choose life?
Moonlight (Feb 17) Barry Jenkins is behind the most beloved of the year’s Oscar contenders, a cracking, beautiful, heart-tugging story about a black man growing up in Miami, told in three chapters, from his life as a kid, then bullied as a teen at high school, then later as a 20-something man transformed. A tender study of tough lives, it also stars the great Mahershala Ali and an awards-tipped supporting role from Naomie Harris.
Hidden Figures (Feb 17) A dark horse for Oscar nominations, this is a stirring, uplifting (literally) study of the three black female mathematicians who, working in segregation, came up with secret calculations that helped American win the “Space Race” and send astronaut John Glenn into orbit. Taraji P Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae are, well, out of this world.
Aquarius (March 24) Former Brazilian bombshell Sonia Braga (Kiss of the Spiderwoman) has been Oscar-tipped for her towering performance in this Brazilian drama, playing a proud one-time rock journalist who will not budge from her beloved beach-front apartment to make way for greedy developers in the coastal city of Recife.
Sense of an Ending (March 24) Julian Barnes’ Booker winning novel is adapted for the screen, starring Jim Broadbent as Tony Webster, a man rocked by the re-emergence of a past relationship, forcing him to re-assess his life. Charlotte Rampling, Harriet Walter and Emily Mortimer also feature, alongside Michelle Dockery.
A Quiet Passion (March 31) Terence Davies brings poetry and fire to an emotional biopic of Emily Dickinson, the Amherst poetess played, perhaps surprisingly, by Cynthia Nixon, best known as Miranda from Sex and the City.
Wonder Woman (Jun 2) Israeli model-turned-star Gal Gadot is everyone’s favourite Amazonian super heroine. She’s already briefly appeared in last year’s flop Batman vs Superman but will surely improve now she’s striding out on her own adventures, in her own hot pants.
Dunkirk (July 21) Expect the year’s epiciest epic to come from Batman director Christopher Nolan recreating the WWII evacuation of Dunkirk, with performances from Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh and Cillian Murphy among a cast of thousands, which also features One Direction playboy Harry Styles – and expect a suitably bombastic score from Hans Zimmer.
CHiPs (Aug 11) I’m pretty sure it’ll be rubbish, but thought you should know it’s coming – a big screen revival of my Saturday afternoon childhood TV favourite, about those California Highway Patrol bike cops, Jon Baker and Frank “Ponch” Poncherello, now played by Dax Shepard and Michael Pena.
Victoria and Abdul (Sept 15) Judi Dench returns to her breakthrough screen role of Queen Victoria for a film that’s practically a sequel to 1997’s Mrs Brown. Stephen Frears directs the story of the mourning monarch’s unlikely friendship with an Indian clerk (Ali Fazal) who becomes her confidant while organising her Golden Jubliee.
Murder on the Orient Express (Nov 24) Ken Branagh is directing and starring as Hercule Poirot in another all-star adaptation of Agatha Christie’s 1934 – Ken’s got Penelope Cruz, Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Derek Jacobi, Judi Dench and Michelle Pfeiffer all aboard – but can they match the 1974 vehicle with Lauren Bacall, Albert Finney, Sean Connery, Ingrid Bergman etc…?
Darkest Hour (Dec 29) Atonement’s Joe Wright returns to the subject of WWI with a big Working Title production that stars Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill and Kristin Scott Thomas as his wife Clementine in the dramatic weeks after Winston takes over as Prime Minister from John Hurt’s Neville Chamberlain and decides not to appease but to do battle with Hitler. Lily James and Stephen Dillane co-star.