Media agencies have threatened boycotts of Cannes over rights issues, storms have ravaged the town in the weeks leading up to the festival and the ever-present specter of an Icelandic volcano's cloud of ash will threaten all those trying to fly in.

But Cannes is a survivor, and the show will go on. Its screening schedule may suffer somewhat from the absence of a handful of films expected to debut here - most notably Terrence Malick's Tree of Life - but there's no doubt that the festival will be pulling out all the stops to celebrate the premieres of its final line up. Films from Woody Allen, Oliver Stone, Mike Leigh and Takeshi Kitano will debut here, as will literally thousands of other features across the festival's various sidebars and its film market.

So where does one begin? The process of trying to narrow down the field to a manageable number of films worth taking in is pretty tough. But, these are the 10 films - in alphabetical order - I'll be making sure I don't miss this year.

Another Year
I don't know a great deal about Mike Leigh's latest film, but then that seems to be part of his design, and his name is enough to pique my interest. If films like Secrets & Lies and Naked weren't reason enough, his last two projects were Happy-Go-Lucky and Vera Drake, both amongst British film's finest of the last decade. The film also marks Leigh's final collaboration with his longtime producer Simon Channing-Williams, who succumbed to cancer in April of last year.

Biutiful
Alejandro González Iñárritu was at Cannes with his last film, Babel, and returns to present this urban thriller starring Javier Bardem. But early indications suggests we may be in for a slightly different experience from Iñárritu's latest, which seems to rely less on an ensemble cast and isn't written by Guillermo Arriaga, who wrote Amores Perros, 21 Grams and Babel for the director.



Chatroom
The Ring director Hideo Nakata seems to have spun a curious little teen thriller in Chatroom. The film stars Aaron Johnson as a disturbed bully who uses online suicide support group chatrooms to lure vulnerable teens into taking their own lives. I was on set last year and saw the "online world" Nakata has created - a stylized physical environment for his characters to interact in - which seems to promise something of a fantastical element. I was more enamored of the sets than the script, which I felt didn't have the strength to serve its issues, but with Nakata at the helm there's every chance this could be a tense and inventive piece.

Fair Game
Given that his recent big-screen exploits have been a far cry from his indie beginnings - indeed, few could recognise the director of Swingers in his last effort, Jumper - it's a surprise to see Doug Liman's name on the Cannes Official Selection. But this project seems to have more in common with his earlier work. Made independently of a studio, with Liman credited as producer and cinematographer as well as director, it's based on a memoir by a CIA operative whose status was revealed by White House officials allegedly out to discredit her husband. With heavyweight names like Sean Penn and Naomi Watts front of camera, this is shaping up to be a project well worth keeping an eye on.

Film Socialisme
Jean-Luc Godard hasn't had the best of runs in recent years, but Cannes is an auteur's festival and Godard is arguably France's most beloved auteur. So I'll be there will bells on to catch the premiere of his first feature since 2004. Little is known about the plot of the piece, with an official synopsis rather cryptically describing it as a "symphony in three movements," but there is an extended trailer on the web which seems to comprise the whole film sped up to fit a 4 minute runtime. Whether it'll be any good remains to be seen, but a new Godard film is event enough to make it worth a look.


Kaboom
Gregg Araki is no stranger to themes of sexual awakening, but the sci-fi backdrop of Kaboom promises another unique piece of work from the director. What to expect remains unclear, but after the dark drama of Mysterious Skin and the all-out comedy of Smiley Face, it seems like Kaboom will strike for a tone somewhere in between. A cast of impossibly hot young things, including Nightmare on Elm Street remake alumni Thomas Dekker and Rooney Mara, form the ensemble.

Robin Hood

Its rather rocky production history might be a worry, but arguably one of Cannes's biggest stories will be the premiere of Ridley Scott's take on Robin Hood. First Russell Crowe was the Sherriff of Nottingham, then he was both the Sherriff and Robin, and finally he was just Robin. Then it was to be retrofitted for 3D. And then it wasn't. I'll be eager to see how the final film has turned out, but considering the last time Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe teamed up for a historical epic was for Gladiator, there's plenty of potential for greatness.

Tamara Drewe
One of Britain's most beloved directors, Stephen Frears, returns to a festival he's very familiar with - he was jury president in 2007 - to premiere his latest, Tamara Drewe. Many directors cast themselves into a particular niche, and their stamp is unmistakable. But part of what makes Frears so compelling is that he can confidently deliver truly different films each time, so it's a little hard to know how Tamara Drewe will play. Based on a comic strip that ran in the UK's Guardian newspaper, it's a tale of a columnist whose penchant for flirtation turns heads in a small English village. Not too similar to The Queen or Cheri, then...


You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger
In cinema, as in life, you win some and you lose some. Sadly, Woody Allen's batting average of late has tended to skew towards the latter. His last film, the Larry David-starring Whatever Works, was definitely a misstep for the aging auteur. But it followed hot on the heels of Vicky Cristina Barcelona, which was one of his more brilliantly observed works. Which is a long way of saying we just don't know whether his latest will be any good. But I'd be a fool to pass on the opportunity to catch it, and with a cast including Anthony Hopkins, Freida Pinto and Naomi Watts, I'm hoping for the best.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
The return of Gordon Gekko is, without a shadow of a doubt, the hot ticket in Cannes this year. Why has it taken more than 20 years to bring the character back? What is it about the current era of Wall St. scandal that makes now the right time? Oliver Stone has been hit and miss in recent years, but there's just something about this project that hits the right notes for me. It certainly isn't the presence of Shia LaBeouf, whose last outing to Cannes delivered the travesty that was Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but nevertheless, every part of me believes Stone can pull this one off.

The 63rd Cannes Film Festival runs from today until 23rd May. Keep an eye on Cinematical over the next 12 days for more from Cannes.
CATEGORIES Cinematical