Recommending any film to friends – let alone a general audience – is a tricky thing. There are two risks: (1) They may not like the movie. (2) They may absolutely hate it.
When the latter happens, you can expect to be excluded from the next birthday party or two; the hosts now harbour a legitimate fear that you will be recommending bad movies to unsuspecting guests, jeopardizing their friendships.
Oh, well, c’est la vie. A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.
The following list probably tells you more about the kinds of films I like and the filmmakers I admire, than what actually to look out for in 2010. Do proceed with caution. Oh, if you’re an Alvin And The Chipmunks sort of guy or gal, please ignore altogether.
(Note: Films have been selected based on their expected release dates in Singapore, which are subject to change at the distributors' discretion.)
1) Mother, directed by Bong Joon-Ho (31 Dec 2009)
Hye-ja runs an unlicensed medicine business in a small Korean town. The middle-aged woman dotes on her son, who is unemployed, mentally retarded, and serving time for the murder of a schoolgirl. Convinced of her son’s innocence, Hye-ja goes on the hunt for the real killer, discovering dark secrets about the townsfolk along the way. Directed by Bong Joon-Ho, this film is based on a quintessentially Korean premise. Fans who remember the ingenious way he redefined the serial killer and monster genres with Memories of Murder (2003) and The Host (2006) will be curious to see how he turns another genre – the revenge thriller – on its head.
2) Invictus, directed by Clint Eastwood (7 Jan 2010)
Clint Eastwood’s last film, Gran Torino (2008), failed to thrill with its portrayal of race tensions in the ganglands of suburban Detroit. With Invictus, he explores a similar theme on a much grander scale—and this time it works. Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) has been elected South Africa’s first black president. His first order of business is unifying the races, and he chooses rugby as the vehicle for conciliation. Eastwood fuses the biopic and sports movie and creates a story of inspiration, leadership and hard-won national pride.
3) Shutter Island, directed by Martin Scorsese (5 Feb 2010)
Martin Scorsese, still going strong at 68, directs Leonardo Di Caprio for the fourth time in a psychological thriller set on an Alcatraz-like prison for the criminally insane. Di Caprio plays a Teddy Daniels, an U.S Marshal sent to investigate the recent disappearance of a female inmate from the island. Daniels comes up against a series obstacles – conspiring prison officials, rioting prisoners and a devastating hurricane – that lead him to question the facts of the case—and his own sanity. Scorsese may have won a belated Oscar with The Departed (2006), but he and Di Caprio have yet to create a drama to match the piercing sublimity of Raging Bull (1980).
4) A Serious Man, directed by Joel and Ethan Coen (4 Mar 2010)
The year is 1967. Larry Gopnik is a mid-Western Jewish professor whose personal life is falling to pieces: his wife has fallen in love with another man; his son is a delinquent; and his unemployable brother is a burden in the house. Larry seeks advice from three different rabbis; can they help him deal with his afflictions, and find a way to becoming a mensch—a serious man? This film, the Coens' fourteenth collaboration, looks to be a film variety of a Philip Roth novel, an existential journey with a dark comic edge.
5) Cemetery Junction, directed by Ricky Gervais & Stephen Merchant (To be confirmed)
British comedians Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant have starred or made cameo appearances in several mediocre Hollywood films since ‘hitting the big time’ in America. With Cemetery Junction, they return to their roots, focusing on the pettiness and pathos of suburban English life. Little of the plot is given away in the Columbia Pictures teaser, in which Ralph Fiennes makes a hilarious, self-deprecating appearance. But the film, about three door-to-door insurance salesmen struggling to make a living in Reading in the 1970s, is both literal and dramatic home turf for Gervais and Merchant. If the humour isn’t watered down for the American market, one can expect these English wits to make us laugh and wince, the way David Brent did in The Office.
Okay, I’m cheating here, but if this list doesn’t appeal to you, here are a few other films I’d shoot for in 2010: The Lovely Bones (Peter Jackson), Inception (Chris Nolan), Wall Street 2 (Oliver Stone), Away We Go (Sam Mendes) and Stone (John Curran).
Ken Kwek is a playwright and screenwriter. His film credits include The Ballad of Vicki and Jake (2005), The Blue Mansion (2009) and the forthcoming Kidnapper (2010).