Jan. 7th, 2014

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Way back in June, 2011, I did three posts cataloging the upcoming projects of a long list of prominent directors that I was keeping an eye on, "What is That Director Up To? Part I, Part II, and Part III. These were written in lieu of a traditional "Most anticipated movies" list. Two and a half years later, I thought it would be interesting to go back to those lists and look at what projects did get made, what didn't, and if they didn't, then what progress is being made.

Most directors finished the most immediate projects that I wrote about and have moved on to other films. Wes Anderson made "Moorise Kingdom" and Ang Lee made "Life of Pi," which turned out well, Woody Allen made "To Rome With Love," which didn't, and David Cronenberg made "A Dangerous Method" and "Cosmopolis," where your mileage may vary. Alfonso Cuaron's "Gravity" finally made it to screens a few months ago after several delays, and is currently being hailed as one of the year's best. Baz Luhrmann's "The Great Gatsby" looked to be in trouble after missing last year's Oscar season, but it also made a nice splash over the summer as counterprogramming. "The Master," "Byzantium," "Young Adult," "Labor Day," "Django Unchained," "Lay the Favorite" and "Cloud Atlas" also reached theaters as expected.

It's interesting to look at some projects that were only in their earliest conceptual stages back in June of 2011. The Coen Brothers' "Untitled Music Project" became "Inside Llewyn Davis," and managed to reach theaters before the "Gambit" remake (in this country anyway). Paul Greengrass did in fact pick the "Maersk Alabama" film for his next directing gig, which became "Captain Phillips." Of the other projects he was considering, "Fantastic Voyage" and "Cleopatra" are still in development hell, "Rush" ended up being directed by Ron Howard, and "Memphis," about the last days of Martin Luther King Jr. is apparently still on Greengrass's radar, but he's not ready to commit to it yet. Perhaps the biggest surprise was that Terence Malick's "To the Wonder" only took two years to go from the wrap of filming to an actual release date last spring.

A few projects were cancelled entirely. Clint Eastwood tried to get a new version of "A Star is Born" off the ground, potentially starring Beyonce and Leonardo DiCaprio, which fell apart. Instead, he's opted for a big screen version of "The Jersey Boys," coming next year. The secret project from Spike Jones and Charlie Kaufman? That was "Frank or Francis," the Hollywood spoof that sadly never got off the ground. Jones went on the make "Her" and Kaufman is working on the animated short "Anomalisa." The "Logan's Run" remake Nicholas Winding Refn had on his plate for a while was officially declared dead, though a "Wonder Woman" woman may still be a possibility if DC is serious about expanding the DC cinematic universe. Steven Soderbergh dropped "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.," so "Behind the Candelabra" is going to be his last feature, and Steven Spielberg's "Robopocalypse" has been postponed indefinitely - though it may still happen eventually. Maybe.

What else are we still waiting on? Well, Paul Thomas Anderson's "Inherent Vice," Isao Takahata's "Princess Kaguya," and the Jim Jarmusch vampire movie, "Only Lovers Left Alive" are expected next year. Darren Aronofsky did get "Noah" funded, though there's some question as to whether he got to make the movie he really wanted to. Danny Boyle made "Trance," pushing back "28 Months Later." Martin Scorsese made "The Wolf of Wall Street," pushing back "The Irishman" and Japanese period film "The Silence," though the latter delay got him into some legal trouble, so expect it sooner rather than later. Jon Favreau's "Magic Kingdom" movie is still in the works and we've still been getting occasional updates. I'm not sure what's going on with Werner Herzog's adaptation of "The Piano Tuner." And of course, Terry Gilliam is still trying to get "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote" off the ground, though he managed to make "The Zero Theorem" while he was waiting.

Some of the most gratifying projects to see where the ones from directors who didn't seem to have anything on thier plate at the time. Sophia Coppola's "The Bling Ring" was much stronger than I think most critics gave it credit for. Michel Gondry made a few of his typically oddball documentaries and "The We and the I," which wasn't to my taste, but at least signals that he's keeping busy and creative. Todd Haynes and Jane Campion did television projects, "Mildred Pierce" for HBO and "Top of the Lake" for the Sundance Channel respectively. Hayao Miyazaki's latest swan song is "The Wind Rises." And Guillermo Del Toro finally did direct another movie, "Pacific Rim," and nobody has any idea what he'll do next.

All in all, not bad. A director getting attached to a project means that it's pretty far along in the pipeline, especially high profile names like this, so cancellations are rarer. Some films definitely took longer than others, but nearly all the biggest, most exciting ones did reach screens eventually, and they were mostly pretty good movies too. Might be worth writing up a new version of this list in the future.


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