It is tempting to opine that the new political climate in 2017 will bring about some interesting developments in the art world, but as it relates to film, everything you will see this year has been years in the making. That is not to suggest that there will not be any interesting thematic trends. In fact, the cruel irony is that art will continue to be relevant as long as our troubled history is repeated. However, in the interest of curbing one of the worst instincts of online movie discourse, perhaps we can make a new year’s resolution to consider more than just political implications when we go to the cinema.
This year’s list of most anticipated films features a diverse set of genres, directors, and nations. It should serve as an indication of what world cinema can offer and, despite cultural commentary that argues otherwise, that the medium is alive and well.
10. Get Out
Most people know Jordan Peele from his hilariously smart and wildly successful Comedy Central show with Keegan-Michael Key or last year’s Keanu, in which the comedic duo starred. However, if Peele’s directorial debut, Get Out, is any indication of his promise as a filmmaker, it could mark the emergence of a formidable new talent in Hollywood. The film’s premise is simple: a young black man (Daniel Kaluuya) visits his white girlfriend’s (Allison Williams) family home, a place with a complicated and horrifying history. Peele’s foray into horror is an exciting development, but if the trailer is any indication, Get Out will still possess the insightful, and often ironic, social commentary we have come to expect from “Key & Peele.” Get Out is slated for a February 24 theatrical release.
9. The Circle
On its surface, The Circle could be the next attempt by the film industry to dramatize and make sense of the growing economic and cultural behemoth that is America’s technology industry, and thus it could be another failed opportunity (a la The Internship) to grasp what makes the field so alluring. The Circle’s redeeming qualities are its leading actors, Tom Hanks and Emma Watson, and its director, James Ponsoldt, who is best known for 2012’s The Spectacular Now and 2015’s The End of the Tour. The latter of which raised eyebrows for its compelling look at the enigmatic best-selling author David Foster Wallace. If Ponsoldt can apply a similar methodology to Hanks’ mysterious tech company executive, The Circle may set a new standard for how movies portray our ever-growing technology landscape. Based on the Dave Eggers book, The Circle will be in theaters April 28.
8. A Ghost Story
With a glut of her work being released in the next twelve months, 2017 just may be the year of Rooney Mara. The first film of which, A Ghost Story, will debut at the Sundance Film Festival in January. The film reunites her with leading man Casey Affleck and director David Lowery from 2013’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints. We do not know much about the plot of A Ghost Story, but it has already been acquired by the prolific independent distribution arm A24. Therefore, we can expect a release sometime this year, and it is likely that it will have considerable buzz following its Sundance premiere.
7. The Florida Project
Perhaps no other independent film in 2015 was met with more fanfare for its technological innovation than Sean Baker’s Tangerine. Shot entirely on an iPhone 5, the film drew attention for its vibrant aesthetic and intriguing subject matter, following two transgender prostitutes on Christmas Eve. Baker returns this year with The Florida Project, shot on 35mm film and starring Willem Dafoe as a southern father struggling to make ends meet for his family while his 6-year-old daughter enjoys her summer break with friends. The Florida Project does not have a release date, but it is expected to reach theaters this year.
6. Wind River
Fewer screenwriters are on a better hot-streak than Taylor Sheridan, who wrote 2015’s cartel thriller Sicario and last year’s indie sensation Hell or High Water, and he also holds screenwriting credit on Sicario’s sequel, Soldado, which is currently in production. The actor-turned-writer is now stepping behind the camera with Wind River, his directorial debut, which stars Elizabeth Olson and Jeremy Renner as a rookie FBI agent and a local game tracker, respectively, who must work together to investigate a murder on a Native American reservation. The film will debut at Sundance in January, but its distribution plan is unclear after The Weinstein Company recently announced it would not release the film. Look for another potential buyer to be lined up in Park City if the film is received favorably.
5. Song to Song
For a director whose early career films were spread out over a number of years, Terrence Malick has spoiled us with an abundance of riches in the last decade, including last year’s drama Knight of Cups and IMAX documentary Voyage of Time. 2017 brings Song to Song (formerly titled Weightless), a film that has long carried the logline, “a drama set in the Austin, Texas, music scene.” Once again Malick has gathered considerable star-power—including Rooney Mara, Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender, and many others—for what is likely to be another elusive, thought-provoking feature. Song to Song will fittingly debut at Austin’s South by Southwest Film Festival in March and will release in theaters shortly thereafter.
With his trilogy of Batman films in the rearview mirror, Christopher Nolan has reached what could be the most interesting period of his career, which began with 2014’s Interstellar and continues with this year’s Dunkirk, Nolan’s first foray into the war movie genre. The film covers one of the most revered moments in British military history, the evacuation of over 300,000 soldiers from a French coastal city surrounded by Axis forces near the beginning of World War II. This is uncharted territory for Nolan, but it is exciting to consider how his knack for bringing a particular sense of scale can be applied to a project like this. Dunkirk stars Nolan regulars Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy along with Mark Rylance and Kenneth Branagh and is slated for a July 21 release.
3. Starless Dreams
Columbia, Missouri’s True/False Film Festival has continued to build a reputation for itself as one of the premier documentary film festivals in America, and one of its best entries from a year ago, the Iranian film Starless Dreams, will finally reach theaters early this year. The documentary follows three teenage girls incarcerated in a “Correctional and Rehabilitation Centre” in Iran, and we learn more about what lives, if any, await them outside the facility’s walls. This is the latest film from seasoned documentarian Mehrdad Oskouei, and perhaps it will be the tipping point that brings her work to a broader awareness among American audiences. Starless Dreams is in limited release January 20 and will hopefully expand in the weeks following.
With the bevy of headlines in the last year about terrorist attacks in European nations, Bertrand Bonello’s latest film, Nocturama, is bound to strike a nerve. The film, which premiered in North America at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, observes a group of disenchanted youth who plan and execute an attack on their hometown of Paris, France. Through its fall festival run, the film has gained a substantial amount of traction among critics, siting Bonello’s knack for capturing difficult subject matter with his signature visual flair. No release date has been set, but look for Nocturama near the middle of 2017 after its Norwegian and Swedish premieres.
An exciting development of the globalized film market is the influx of Korean films and filmmakers that have reached Western screens. The coming year will likely continue that trend with the return of Bong Joon-ho, who is perhaps best known in the U.S. for 2014’s Snowpiercer (though his entire body of work is fantastic). On paper, his latest project, Okja, most resembles his 2006 monster movie The Host. Both films feature an imposing creature that becomes a target for government and private organizations, and both include a young girl as a protagonist. Okja also reunites Bong with Snowpiercer favorite Tilda Swinton and stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, and Lily Collins. No release date has been set for Okja, but if past U.S. release dates for Bong’s films are any indication, look for this intriguing creature feature in the summer.
Cinephile favorite Paul Thomas Anderson reunites with Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood) for an Untitled 1950s Fashion Drama, late fall release; It Follows director David Robert Mitchell’s Under the Silver Lake, a modern-day L.A. noir starring Andrew Garfield and Riley Keough, a Toronto debut is most likely; Steven Soderbergh returns to the big screen with another heist film, Logan Lucky, starring Channing Tatum, Daniel Craig, and Adam Driver, out October 13; Michael Fassbender’s latest audition to be James Bond, the Norwegian spy thriller The Snowman, out October 13; Sophia Coppola delivers another period piece with The Beguiled, a Civil War drama starring Elle Fanning, Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell, and Kirsten Dunst, opening June 23; the fantastic actor/director duo of Julianne Moore and Todd Haynes are together again for Wonderstruck, a prime candidate for a Cannes debut; Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, Christoph Walz, and Alec Baldwin join director Alexander Payne for Downsizing, out December 22.