(CNN) -- The first rule for any critic must be: Keep an open mind. The second rule: Hope for the best.
Still, we're only human, and while all films may be equal until you actually experience them, as George Orwell put it, some are more equal than others.
It's hard, for instance, to work up a whole lot of enthusiasm to see Nicolas Cage battle demons in the Dark Ages in "Season of the Witch," when you suspect he's miscast and in it only for the money, and you know the movie's been kicking around for months. (Having seen it, I can assure you it's every bit as grim as it looks.)
The truth is, you hope for pleasant surprises, but you pin your trust in the filmmakers who have impressed you in the past. This year, there may be dozens of terrific films coming down the pipeline, but these are the 10 prospects that really float my boat.
They are listed in order of release. And to keep things fair, I haven't included anything I've already seen (though I'm certainly looking forward to second viewings of Errol Morris' tragic-comic documentary "Tabloid," the Korean art film "Poetry," and Juliette Binoche in the teasingly ambiguous "Certified Copy").
"Water for Elephants" (April 22)
"I Am Legend" director Francis Lawrence aims to capture the magic in Sara Gruen's best-seller about a traveling circus. Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson put on the show, while Richard ("Fisher King") LaGravenese wrote the script that convinced "Inglourious Basterds" discovery Christoph Waltz that this was a better way to go than David Cronenberg's next picture.