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Sean Durkin, Jane Campion, Rowe & Franco: Top 15 Most Anticipated Miniseries or Made for Television Films of 2013

Here at IONCINEMA.com, our interests with film extends into the world of the occasional television mini-series or made for TV project, a place were we see a lot of notable directors going for artistic freedoms they often cannot find elsewhere (we recently think back to: Todd Haynes’ Mildred Pierce, Ross Katz’s Taking Chance, Tom Hooper’s John Adams, Jay Roach’s Recount and if you want to include it but we don’t, Olivier Assayas’ Carlos). Looking forward into 2013, we’ve noticed a large amount of notable projects, from the long gestating mini-series debut of Stephen King’s Under the Dome, which seems to have snagged Swedish director Niels Arden Oplev (of the original The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo fame), and another notable foreign language talent, Pierre Scholler (whose 2011 film The Minister featured a praiseworthy Olivier Gourmet) who is heading to French television for Les Anonymes, with the returning Gourmet and Mathieu Amalric.

Although we don’t know how we’d get the chance to see it since his last film, the bonkers Smuggler (2011) has yet to receive distribution (thankfully, we caught it at TIFF that year), Japanese cult favorite Katsuhito Ishii has turned to a television mini-series with The Higashino Keigo Mysteries. On the US side, American Horror Story creator Ryan Murphy snagged Julia Roberts for his highly anticipated HBO film, A Normal Heart, and some other notable film directors should be debuting high profile television films, like Phillip Noyce’s Mary & Martha with Hilary Swank and Brenda Blethyn; Greg Mottola with Clear History starring Kate Hudson and Eva Mendes; Joe Carnahan with Those Who Kill starring Chloe Sevigny and James D’arcy, and then of course, the delicious looking as-yet-untitled Phil Spector biopic from David Mamet, starring Al Pacino and Helen Mirren.

In what has to be one of the more curious ventures here is David Fincher’s series for Netflix, House of Cards, headlined by the likes of Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright. And then there’s the extremely busy sounding Gerardo Naranjo, who scored a huge critical success with the excellent Miss Bala in 2011, currently developing two titles that may be ready come 2014 if all goes well (A Man Must Die; A Mountain Between Us), but first up is the television project The Bridge, a serial killer thriller with Diane Kruger and Ted Levine. Here are our Top 15 Miniseries, Made for television films we look most forward to in 2013 – with a detailed top five below.

15. Under the Dome – Dir. Niels Arden Oplev
14. Les Anonymes – Dir. Pierre Scholler
13. A Normal Heart – Dir. Ryan Murphy
12. The Higashino Keigo Mysteries – Dir. Katsuhito Ishii
11. Mary & Martha – Dir. Phillip Noyce
10. Clear History – Dir. Greg Mottola
9. Those Who Kill – Dir. Joe Carnahan
8. The Bridge – Dir. Gerardo Naranjo
7. House of Cards – Dir. David Fincher
6. Untitled Phil Spector Biopic – Dir. David Mamet

5. Believe – Dir. Alfonso Cuaron

Why We Care: From the director of one of the best sci-fi films ever made, Children of Men, we’ve been waiting (along with the rest of the world) for a follow-up. That will come in 2013 with the release of Gravity, starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. Beyond that, Cuaron is developing a project we hope to see in 2014, A Boy and His Shoe, not to mention a segment in an anthology film, Tale from the Hanging Head. But before that, Cuaron is developing a project with producer J.J. Abrams called Believe. Say no more. We want to see it.

The Gist: Believe is about a girl in possession of a great gift/powers — who will come into her own in seven years– and the man who is sprung from prison to protect her from those trying to hunt her down.

4. Behind the Candelabra – Dir. Steven Soderbergh

Why We Care: Well, if what he says is true, director Steven Soderbergh will be throwing in the chips after 2013, and if that’s so, after the release of the 2013 film Side Effects, that means his last film as director may end of up being Behind the Candelabra for HBO. And even besides that sad bit of news, we’re intensely interested as it concerns a six year relationship between Liberace and his lover, especially considering those roles have been filled by Michael Douglas and Matt Damon (and what about that supporting cast—Debbie Reynolds, Dan Aykroyd, Paul Reiser). Based on an autobiographical novel, and a screenplay by Richard LaGravenese, we’re certain this may even bow at Cannes 2013 (much like Hemingway & Gellhorn last year).

The Gist: Based on the autobiographical novel, the tempestuous 6-year relationship between Liberace and his (much younger) lover, Scott Thorson, is recounted.

3. Southcliffe – Dir. Sean Durkin

Why We Care: Durkin, who the world now knows for his stupendous 2011 directorial debut, Martha Marcy May Marlene, decided to take on a project for British television with a four part mini-series, Southcliffe, produced by Warp Films (Peter Carlton, Derrin Schlesinger) and Channel 4 (Sophie Gardiner). Penned by Tony Grisoni, who wrote the screenplay for the Red Riding Trilogy, a 2009 three part British series that managed to be released theatrically via IFC films stateside, describes the project as “anthem to ordinary people’s ability to reinvent themselves in the face of ultimate darkness.” Sounds like that’s a motif we can expect to see in Durkin’s work—who also has designs on a Janis Joplin project, which may face competition if that proposed Joplin film from Lee Daniels gets going.

The Gist: Southcliffe tells the story of an ordinary English market town devastated by a spate of shootings which take place over a single day. It explores tragedy, grief, responsibility and redemption seen through the eyes of a journalist returning to the small town of his childhood, to cover the story of the tragedy, and those closest to the victims of the tragedy.

2. Top of the Lake – Dir. Jane Campion

Why We Care: Announced as part of Sundance 2013’s lineup, this 7 part series event was on our radar long before that surprising news. This is Campion’s first project since 2009’s well received Bright Star, and reunites her with her Piano star Holly Hunter. Oh, and did we mention Elisabeth Moss and Peter Mullan star in it, too? Campion, one of the select women to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Director in the US (she was the second), doesn’t work as frequently as we’d like her to, so anytime she puts something out, this is must see for us. Her 1990 film An Angel at My Table (featuring a wonderful performance from Kerry Fox) was originally meant to be a mini-series and was edited together to make a feature film. Her first feature length film, 1987’s Two Friends (which utilizes a backwards narrative) was also made for television. We’re excited to see this epic new mini-series from the masterful Campion. Top of the Lake is Executive produced by Academy Award winners Emile Sherman and Iain Canning (The King’s Speech, Shame) of See-Saw Films, and produced by Philippa Campbell (No. 2) of Escapade Pictures.

The Gist: A detective investigates the disappearance of a 12-year-old pregnant daughter of a local drug lord. (See pic above)

1. Hotel Garage – Dir. Michel Franco & Michael Rowe

Why We Care: If these two directors are strangers to you, let’s hope that’s not for long. Franco, director of two phenomenal films, Daniel & Ana (2009) and After Lucia (2012), met equally impressive director Michael Rowe, Leap Year (2010) when they premiered their first features at Cannes. The two have paired to produce and direct a 13 episode series for Mexican television, Hotel Garage (euphemism for a ‘love hotel’), with a majority or all of the episodes to be directed by Rowe for Franco’s Lucia Films. Oh yeah, both of them also have new film features that should hit film fests this year.

The Gist: Not much has been revealed concerning the synopsis, but considering the title and Rowe and Franco’s fascination with cruel and despicable aspects of humanity, it’s probably safe to assume that Hotel Garage will be no less challenging than their other features.

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is IONCINEMA.com's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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