5. The Illusionist (Sylvain Chomet) In theaters: December 25 This Christmas, French animator Sylvain Chomet will be leaving one hell of a present under our tree: He’s bringing us his first film since 2003’s wonderful Triplets of Belleville. Based on a never-produced script by one of the funniest filmmakers of all time, Jacques Tati, it tells the tale of a faltering illusionist who travels to the middle of nowhere and finds a young girl who believes he really is magic. Luckily for Belleville fans, Chomet’s elegant animation style is back in full force.
4. Never Let Me Go (dir. Mark Romanek) In theaters: September 15 Undoubtedly the lit-nerd film of the season, this adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel is also creating all kinds of awards buzz. Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, and Andrew Garfield star as doomed students at boarding school in a timeless, dystopian Britain. We know the story is a rich and fascinating one, the casting is fantastic, and we’re loving the familiar-but-strange art direction, too.
3. Somewhere (dir. Sofia Coppola) In theaters: December 24 Coppola returns with her first movie since 2006’s widely derided (but also occasionally defended) Marie Antoinette. In what looks to be a lower key affair than the latter, we find Stephen Dorff — remember him?! — as a debaucherous dad suddenly charged with the care of his daughter, Cleo (Elle Fanning). Although the trailer doesn’t give much away, the cinematography is gorgeous, indieWIRE says Somewhere may be inspired by Coppola’s relationship with her own father… and to tell you the truth, we kind of liked Marie Antoinette.
2. Black Swan (dir. Darren Aronofsky) In theaters: December 1 Critics are already raving about Black Swan, Aronofsky’s dance thriller, starring Natalie Portman as a New York City Ballet dancer and Mila Kunis as her dark double. It’s clear the psychodrama here is turned up to 11. Think Persona, with supernatural embellishments. We would not miss this one for the world.
1. HOWL (dir. Jeffrey Friedman and Rob Epstein) In theaters: September 24 The film that stars James Franco as Allen Ginsberg (and Jon Hamm as his obscenity trailer lawyer) has been building hype since before Sundance. If anyone deserves an excellent biopic, it’s Ginsberg. Franco’s performance is earning raves. And the brief glimpse of the animated portion, which sets the stage for the poem “Howl” itself, has surely left us wanting more. We’re buying these tickets the minute they go on sale.