FILM / With eager anticipation

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The Independent Culture
The year's first wave of high-profile new releases includes Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula, Spike Lee's Malcolm X, Stephen Frears's Hero (retitled The Accidental Hero for UK release), Danny De Vito's Hoffa and Barry Levinson's Toys (these last three all box-office disappointments in America, however). New films from Martin Scorsese (The Age of Innocence), Robert Altman (Short Cuts, based on stories by Raymond Carver), Oliver Stone (Heaven and Earth, the third part of his 'Vietnam trilogy') and Steven Spielberg (Jurassic Park) are coming down the pike. And The Nightmare Before Christmas, Tim Burton's new project using stop-frame animation, is bound to be among the odder big- budget productions.

Many critics (and viewers) felt that Disney's Beauty and the Beast was one of last year's outstanding films, and the studio's latest animated feature, Aladdin, is said to top it. Super Mario Brothers could turn out to be the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, though it could also be an expensive disaster. There are several Basic Instinct near-clones, as well as the inevitable slew of sequels (not all listed below, due to space restrictions). And Action Man is alive and well in new vehicles for Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis.

But in any case, it's risky to predict highlights - 1992 was a dull year for the major studios and some of the more interesting projects came from well out of left field. And they often emerge unexpectedly at festivals - as Strictly Ballroom did last year at Cannes, for instance - rather than percolating automatically into British cinemas via the US studios' local distribution arms. Off-Hollywood, Carl Franklin's debut film One False Move was a sleeper hit in America, while Gus van Sant, whose My Own Private Idaho was one of last year's most interesting movies, is completing a new project, Only Cowgirls Get the Blues, with a biopic of the gay politician Harvey Milk in prospect.

Even a spectacular public dispute with Mia Farrow couldn't turn Husbands and Wives into a major box-office hit, but Woody Allen is still plugging away, with his latest (Farrow-less) Manhattan Murder Mystery nearing completion, while his pre-Husbands Expressionist indulgence, Shadows and Fog, is being finally plucked off the shelf and dusted down for UK viewers. And the current epidemic of nouvelle violence continues with Abel (Driller Killer) Ferrara's new film The Bad Lieutenant.

The prospects are glum for the British cinema, although Louis Malle's Damage and Sally Potter's Orlando have been attracting media attention, and Mike Leigh and Peter Greenaway will have new films ready for release during 1993. From the rest of the world, Zhang Yimou's The Story of Qiu Ju, Krzysztof Kieslowski's Blue (the first film in a planned trilogy) and Patrice Leconte's Tango should all be worth watching out for. And Marcel Carne, the veteran 82-year-old French director of Quai des Brumes and Les Enfants du Paradis, has finally started filming a new project based on Guy de Maupassant's short story Mouche. SJ