With Margot Robbie, Gal Gadot and Scarlett Johansson spearheading a new era of female-led superhero/supervillain films, and a suite of new and reimagined stories from diverse perspectives, 2020 is shaping up to be a brave new world in film. Our staff have picked some the films they're most looking forward to this year.
dir. Josh and Benny Safdie
Josh and Benny Safdie (Heaven Knows What, Good Time) return with their most stylish and mainstream work to date which retains all their filmic signatures – musical cues, NYC setting and frenetic, desperate characters. Adam Sandler is Howard Ratner, a brash, charismatic jeweler always on the lookout for the next big score, and he’s found it in a rare opal pulled from the heart of Africa. As Howard makes his biggest gamble yet, audiences are thrown into a tense crime thriller/character study of male hubris, ego and greed. With solid supporting performances from NBA star Kevin Garnnett and musical act The Weekend (playing themselves), Uncut Gems is an electrifying watch and an absolute must-see of 2020.
– Kristy Matheson (Director, Film Programs)
Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)
dir. Cathy Yan
Audiences love antiheroes, but in the realm of comic book movies that territory is usually reserved for men (Joker, Deadpool, Logan). What does that character archetype look like when it’s made for women, directed by women, produced by women, written by women and starring women? Birds of Prey is the answer. Margot Robbie continues to put her money where her mouth is with her production company Lucky Chap, making captivating stories about complicated women that wouldn’t otherwise exist in Hollywood (see also: Promising Young Woman; I, Tonya; Dollface). Packing style and substance, not only does this adaptation of DC Comics first all-female crime fighting team look entertaining as heck, it packs some credentials. An Asian-American director in Cathy Yan, British Taiwanese screenwriter Christina Hodson, and a cast that gives us not only our first live-action portrayal of an Asian Batgirl in Cassie Cain, but a woman of colour as Black Canary – one of the oldest female comic book heroes – and a Latina woman over 50 in Rosie Perez, all sharing the spotlight with Harley Quinn (a character that has become teenage boy fodder in the wrong hands). There are Trojan horses and then there’s Birds of Prey, a Trojan stallion.
– Maria Lewis (Writer/Editor)
dir. Denis Villeneuve
All signs are looking good for Denis Villeneuve’s hotly anticipated adaptation of Frank Herbert’s epic sci-fi saga Dune. We have a director with a track record in thoughtful, visually engaging sci-fi. We have a boatload of stars on board, including Zendaya, Timothée Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Rebecca Ferguson, Dave Bautista, Jason Momoa, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Stellan Skarsgård and Charlotte Rampling. Hans Zimmer will provide the score (enough said). “Shocking”, “visceral” and “nightmarish” are some of the words Oscar Isaac used to describe the project and Stellen Skarsgård praised Villeneuve as a "true filmmaker", declaring that Dune will not be "directed by the studio” (in other words, it probably won’t be focus-group-led dreck). Things can always go wrong with grand visions – just ask David Lynch and Alejandro Jodorowsky – but I cannot wait to see Villeneuve’s attempt.
– Dilan Gunawardana (Website Coordinator)
Dune will be released in December 2020.
dir. Alma Har'el
Since her 2011 feature debut Bombay Beach (screened in ACMI's First Look series) Alma Har'el has continued to make visually arresting and engaging works. Her background in videoclip production and dance is on full display here but it’s her collaboration with an incredible cast including Lucas Hedges, FKA twigs, Shia LaBeouf, Noah Jupe which really elevates this latest work. LaBeouf mines his own stormy childhood (for the narrative) and plays the role of his father in this confessional/redemptive tale. Devastating and raw, the film hinges not only on LaBeouf’s enormous talent as an actor but draws heavily on Har’el’s ability to conjure dreamy, tightly choreographed sequences full of stunning imagery, sound and music.
– Kristy Matheson
True History of the Kelly Gang
dir. Justin Kurzel
Here’s the thing: I’m not one for bushranger films or Ned Kelly worship, and despite that (or maybe even because of that) I’m quite looking forward to Justin Kurzel’s upcoming True History of the Kelly Gang. Adapted from Peter Carey’s 2000 historical fiction novel of the same name, THOKG tears strips off the myth of Ned Kelly and builds a new one from the remnants. It’s punk-infused (Kurzel got the lead actors to write and perform a set as a punk band in Melbourne as part of the rehearsal process), it’s contemporary (Ned appears to have ACAB carved into his helmet), and its cinematography is stroboscopic and sumptuous.
– Jim Fishwick (Curator)
dir. Christopher Nolan
The return of Christopher Nolan to the big screen is a very welcome one in my opinion. Dunkirk (2017) was an outstanding historical epic lead by small names but supported by big ones (Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, Kenneth Branagh). This time around, Nolan has employed a mouth-watering cast (John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Aaron Taylor-Johnson plus Michael Caine and Branagh) to tell the tale of a secret agent tasked with preventing World War II through time travel.
– Benjamin Haller (Memberships and Engagement Officer)
Tenet will be released in 2020.
dir. Nia DaCosta
The original Candyman (1992) was one of the most important and interesting dissections of race in horror, something that was rarely examined in the genre until Jordan Peele came along with Get Out more than 20 years later. It’s fitting then, that he’s serving as the writer and producer on this new version which sees the OG Candyman himself Tony Todd return as well. After making her directorial debut with the acclaimed crime drama Little Woods in 2018, Nia DaCosta is in the director’s chair and adding a much-needed female lens to the sausage-festery of traditional slashers. It’s going to be hard to top the horror and eeriness of the 1992 original – not to mention Philip Glass’ haunting score – but it’s likely DaCosta and Peele’s vision is taking us in a whole new direction.
– Maria Lewis
Candyman will be released in 2020 (details forthcoming).
dir. Pablo Larraín
There are few contemporary filmmakers making work as brilliant and compelling as Pablo Larraín, (Tony Maero, No, Jackie) and his latest film is no exception. Reuniting with Mexican superstar Gael García Bernal, Ema is a study of a marriage in decay and a woman prepared to go to any lengths to find a salve for her emotional wounds. Newcomer, Mariana di Girolamo is sexy and electrifying in the title role of Ema, a young dancer who returns to the reggaetón grooves she and her friends perform in the city streets, once she leaves behind the cerebral modern-dance ensemble lead by her choreographer husband, Gastón (Bernal). Full of unexpected narrative twists, brilliant set pieces and a driving electronic score by Nicolás Jaar; Ema is stylish, intriguing and worthy of repeat viewing.
– Kristy Matheson
Release details TBA
Coming 2 America
dir. Craig Brewer
Time to crack out your jerry curls and “just let your sooooulll gllooooow!” Hot off the heels of his terrific portrayal of Blaxploitation artist Rudy Ray Moore in Dolomite is My Name, Eddie Murphy will return to the big screen as Prince Akeem in a sequel to Coming to America (1988). As Akeem prepares to inherit the crown of Zamunda from his ailing father (James Earl Jones), he discovers that he has a son, who lives in Queens, New York (Jermaine Fowler). Akeem and his buddy Semmie (Arsenio Hall) set off for America once more. Shari Headley and John Amos will also return, with Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan and Wesley Snipes joining the crew. More good news for Eddie Murphy fans: There’s also a Beverly Hills Cop 4 in the works.
– Dilan Gunawardana
Coming 2 America will be released in cinemas on 18 December 2020.
A Quiet Place: Part 2
dir. John Krasinski
The unexpected drop of the teaser trailer for A Quiet Place: Part 2 over the holidays sent Twitter into a small frenzy. It was terrifying. Emily Blunt returns to mother her children in the wake of a re-emergence of … well, those monsters. John Krasinski returns to direct what could be the sleeper-hit of the year.
– Benjamin Haller
A Quiet Place: Part 2 will be released in 2021.
dir. Cate Shortland
Black Widow’s MCU origin story has so far been an endearing mystery – she’s been one of the soothing antidotes to a superhero team of male egos and magic hammers ever since she first posed as Tony Stark’s assistant in the first Iron Man film (2008), but how did she get so good at kicking butt? We know her past is blood-stained and involves Russia. We know there’s some sort of Red Sparrow-esque assassin training and a family betrayal (all key ingredients for a good superhero backstory). But exactly how she came to be working for Nick Fury and how she became best mates with Hawkeye has created an intriguing enigma. Marvel’s next offering is finally going to lift the curtain on the beguiling and badass life of Natasha Romanoff. Sadly, for those of us who got excited about the possibility of Natasha’s resurrection following her death on Vormir, it’s a prequel which will be dropped into the MCU timeline between Captain America: Civil War (2016) and Avengers: Infinity War (2018).
– Tarnay Sass (Communications Coordinator)
Black Widow will be released in October 2020.
dir. Niki Caro
New Zealand filmmaker Niki Caro has been just quietly hustling along, making great movies for the past 20 years following her 2002 breakthrough with Whale Rider. That hard work has paid off, with her becoming only the second woman ever to helm a movie with a budget over $100M. From the trailers alone, it’s clear this is a more traditional take on the Mulan tale, getting rid of some of the more problematic aspects of the Disney animated movie in favour of actually significant storytelling choices. While it’s hard not to be cynical about the Disney live-action reboot machine – they’re essentially selling us the same movie we already bought, just decades after the fact – Mulan looks less Aladdin and The Lion King, and more Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella (which is a good thing).
– Maria Lewis
dir. Michael Winterbottom
Michael Winterbottom and Steve Coogan go back a long way. Since the success of the exceptional 24 Hour Party People, the two have worked on a number of projects including Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, The Look of Love and the wildly popular The Trip series (FYI The Trip to Greece is currently in production). Greed portrays Coogan as a hideous high-street fashion tycoon in what promises to be a fun-filled, cringeworthy mockumentary poking fun at the vanity-filled world we now live in thanks to the rise of social media.
– Benjamin Haller
dir. Pietro Marcello
A hugely well-deserved winner of the Platform prize at the 2019 Toronto Film Festival; Pietro Marcello’s (The Mouth of the Wolf, Lost and Beautiful) tale of class, creativity and ambition in Italy delivers one of 2020’s most memorable cinematic experiences. Based on the Jack London novel of the same name; Marcello seemingly unmoors the story from a specific time and place, which he heightens with the use of archival footage interspersed throughout, giving the film a dreamy, woozy quality. Backed by excellent performances throughout, especially from the lead Luca Marinelli, it's a treat to see a film as formally and narratively rich as Martin Eden.
– Kristy Matheson
Release date TBA
Wonder Woman 1984
dir. Patty Jenkins
According to extremely well-edited trailer, it looks like DC have finally started to shed the gloomy seriousness of the Zack Snyder films, and embraced a warmer, campier tone more befitting of the Wonder Woman character, and the concept of superheroes in general. This time the Amazonian demigoddess (A.K.A Diana Prince) finds herself pitted against evil tycoon Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) and superpowered nemesis Cheetah (Kristen Wiig) in a bright, consumerist future world of 1984. It’ll be interesting to see how Diana’s love interest Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) came back to life after the events of the 2017 film. And what’s the deal with that awesome golden armour!?
– Dilan Gunawardana
Wonder Woman 1984 will be released in 2020.
Next Goal Wins
dir. Taika Waititi
Everyone’s favourite internet boyfriend Taika Waititi doesn’t sleep, apparently, because in between filming supporting roles in Free Guy and The Suicide Squad AND being on the awards season trail with Jojo Rabbit, he also shot his next movie Next Goal Wins over the Christmas “break” (lol). It’s based on the true story of an American Samoa football team fighting to overcome a historic loss under the leadership of a new and grizzled Dutch coach (played by Michael Fassbender). Disney’s production wing of inspirational sports films must be kicking themselves over not getting the option this story, which was first brought to life in the documentary of the same name in 2014 that swept the international film festival circuit. That’s a good thing, however. Next Goal Wins sits firmly in Cool Runnings territory, but with Waititi’s unique vision and authentic voice the diverse aspects of the film – including the players back stories – are unlikely to get glossed over.
– Maria Lewis
Release date TBA
dir. Kore-eda Hirokazu
I'm cheating by including this one, as it came out in Australia on Boxing Day, but it's still worth a mention. Japanese filmmaker Kore-eda Hirokazu excels in truthfully portraying the sweet and subtle interactions that occur within a family unit, especially between its female members (see his Palme D’Or-winning 2018 feature Shoplifters). He’s especially good at writing cool, crafty, wise-cracking grannies. In Kore-eda's English-language debut The Truth, screenwriter Lumir's (Juliette Binoche) relationship with her famous mother Fabienne (Catherine Deneuve) becomes more troubled when she learns that the ageing screen diva has written a memoir filled with lies about their lives. It’s a pleasure to watch a director who isn’t interested in portraying the world as black and white, but instead opts to find the humanity in anyone – no matter how morally questionable their actions are.
– Dilan Gunawardana
The Truth is currently showing in cinemas.
dir. Leigh Whannell
The Universal movie monsters were Hollywood’s first cinematic shared universe, but despite their historic place in film history, it has been hard to make modern audiences care about characters like the mummy, wolf man, even Dracula. Enter stage left, Aussie boi Leigh Whannell with a take on The Invisible Man that is pretty dang deceptive … because it’s all about a woman. Elisabeth Moss, in fact, as she navigates her own sanity following the unusual death of her abusive ex-boyfriend who was a maniacal scientist. As a character, The Invisible Man has always been somewhat of a joke among the stable of other Universal movie monsters and is often played for laughs, but Whannell has seen the potential in something everyone else has overlooked. And that’s exciting! With the backing of Jason Blum and his hugely successful Blumhouse, this is a tight little genre offering that could subvert a lot of expectations.
– Maria Lewis