Welcome to 2019, movie fans. As ever, the year’s movie calendar is filling up quickly with a bewildering roster of films, all vying for our attention. So thank goodness I’m here, right? Here’s a lightning-round rundown of the most anticipated indie films of 2019. Most anticipated by whom, you ask? Well, by me – it’s my column after all. But, seriously, get excited.
In no particular order. Except the last two, which are tied for the most anticipated movie – by me – of this or perhaps any year.
“Always Be My Maybe.” “Crazy Rich Asians” belatedly kicked down the Hollywood door for rom-coms starring Asian-Americans, and this entry strides right through, with “Fresh Off the Boat” star Randall Park and comedian-actress Ali Wong playing a pair of childhood sweethearts reuniting later in life. (Release dates are still maddeningly up in the air for most of these films at this point – look for some summer love, most likely.)
“The Lighthouse.” Robert Eggers’s “The Witch” was a justly lauded, nerve-shredding period horror flick, so this Maine-set movie about a pair of lighthouse keepers (Robert Pattinson, Willem Dafoe) encountering something eerie in the early 20th-century Maine fog has me excited. Even if it was shot in Nova Scotia. Maine really needs to provide filming incentives so cool-looking Maine-set movies aren’t filmed in imposter locales. (No release date yet.)
“The Parts You Lose.” Don’t lie – you didn’t watch AMC’s surprisingly great “Halt and Catch Fire.” Well, co-creator Christopher Cantwell reteams with star Scoot McNairy to give you a second chance, bringing this thriller about an escaped convict hiding out on a remote farm and befriending a deaf boy. Also starring Aaron Paul from “Breaking Bad,” the AMC drama you did watch. (No release date.)
“Going Places.” If “most anticipated” translates to “can’t wait to see if this is a colossal nightmare of a disaster,” then John Turturro’s remake of Bertrand Blier’s ribald tale of macho-buddy road-tripping debauchery is hotly anticipated. Especially since Turturro got the Coen brothers’ permission to reprise his role as Jesus Quintana from the otherwise-unrelated “The Big Lebowski.” I simply do not know how to react to this news – but I’m gonna watch it. (No release date.)
“The Many Saints of Newark.” Speaking of colossally terrible ideas that might – somehow – work, here’s a “Sopranos” prequel? David Chase, godfather of the venerated HBO drama, has reached back to a tale of the rising Soprano crime family (including then-9-year-old Tony), set during the 1960s Newark race riots. Again – train wreck or revelation, I’m buying a ticket. (Probably winter.)
“Motherless Brooklyn.” Actor-director Edward Norton spent two decades preparing his self-starring version of Jonathan Lethem’s nimble detective novel about a gumshoe with Tourette’s syndrome. Norton is a great actor seemingly always picking just-missed projects, but this one looks like a fitting showcase. (No date.)
“Bad Hair.” The follow-up film from “Dear White People” director Justin Simien is getting early comparisons to Jordan Peele’s “Get Out,” which is enough to see me camping out for tickets to this period horror satire about an aspiring MTV VJ whose coveted hair weave seems to have a mind of its own. (No date.)
“Dolor Y Gloria.” Legendary Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar reunites with two of his biggest co-stars in Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas for this Fellini-esque portrait of a suspiciously Almodóvar-looking director (Banderas) looking back over his long and controversial life and career. (Spring)
“Where’d You Go Bernadette?” Richard Linklater (“Dazed and Confused,” “Boyhood”) is one of the most consistently inventive indie filmmakers going, and this adaptation of the novel about a young girl traveling to Antarctica to find her missing mother looks poised to deliver yet another unpredictable twist in the director’s filmography. Plus, it’s got another juicy role for the luminous Cate Blanchett, so I’m there. (March 22)
“Downhill.” Ruben Ostlund’s “Force Majeure” was one of the darkest comedies in years, a character study of a couple dealing with the fact that, in the face of a ski resort avalanche, the husband reacted less than heroically. An American remake might seem ill-advised, but the pairing of Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the marrieds prickles with potential, as both have shown the ability to go deeper – and darker – than their usual personas allow. (Just in time for ski season, most likely.)
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” There’s no one more influential (for good and bad) than Quentin Tarantino, and this typically star-studded flick about an actor and his stunt double getting embroiled in the 1969 Manson murders looks poised to rile and entertain in signature equal measure. After the expensive flop of the ambitious western “The Hateful Eight,” this is Tarantino’s big gamble at regaining his pop cultural cachet. (July 26)
“The Irishman.” Martin Scorsese. Robert DeNiro. Al Pacino. The un-retired Joe Pesci. Mobsters. If the actors involved here have been coasting for a while, Scorsese is as energetic as ever, making this tale of the Irish gangster who claimed to have killed Jimmy Hoffa a thrillingly risky proposition. (No date.)
“Midsommar.” For everyone freaked out by “Hereditary” (that’s everyone), director Ari Aster’s next horror is this tale of a couple whose visit to a Swedish music festival runs seriously afoul of some cultish pagans. As an added bonus, it stars William Jackson Harper from TV’s “The Good Place,” who is unfailingly amazing. (Aug. 9)
“Radegund.” Terrence Malick may have watered down his reputation a bit since abandoning his infamous “one film every two decades” pace, but there’s nothing like Malick on the big screen. This German-language story about a young conscientious objector in Nazi Germany does promise a more eventful change of pace for the legendarily languorous and visual-minded Malick, at least. (No date – Mr. Malick will release his films when they are perfect.)
“Jojo Rabbit.” Taika Waititi is just outstanding. “Hunt for the Wilderpeople,” “What We Do in the Shadows” and even his hilariously thrilling entry in the Marvel superhero universe, “Thor: Ragnarok” are all consistently entertaining, smart and surprising. So if he’s going to take on the seemingly unfilmable dark comic novel adaptation of a young boy in Nazi Germany whose imaginary friend is Adolph Hitler and who discovers his family is hiding a Jewish girl, then I have complete faith in him. (No date yet.)
“The Dead Don’t Die.” Think you’ve had enough of zombies? No, you haven’t, at least not until you’ve seen Jim Jarmusch’s take on the well-gnawed genre. Complete with a cast of Jarmusch regulars like Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Tom Waits and Bill freakin’ Murray. Jarmusch turned the vampire genre inside out in the brilliant “Only Lovers Left Alive,” and he’s going to do the same for the all-too-frequently walking dead. Calling it. (No date yet.)
“Us.” I mentioned Jordan Peele’s “Get Out,” and this is the writer-director’s follow-up “social horror film,” for which my expectations are justifiably sky-high. Peele has shown himself to be a true visionary genre filmmaker – digging into horror’s roots to ground stories in universal fears and themes. What we know about this one (starring Lupita Nyong’o and “Black Panther’s” Winston Duke) isn’t much – there’s a home invasion, some doppelgangers and some seriously scary masks in the trailer – but I’m first in line to see what Peele has in store for us this time. (March 22.)
Coming to local screens
Friday-Sunday and Wednesday: “Border.” Nigh-unclassifiable, award-winning Swedish film about an unusual-looking border guard whose life is thrown into turmoil when a similarly odd border-crosser confronts her with an astounding claim about their shared heritage. From the writer of “Let The Right One In.”
ST. LAWRENCE ARTS
Thursday: “Battleship Potemkin.” Portland art film saviors Kinonik team with St. Lawrence Arts for a screening of Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 silent classic, complete with a live musical score.