The world turns, another year rolls around, and here we are once again – facing another awards season. After a lackluster of a summer at the movies (Christ, what a summer) I nervously look ahead to this season, sincerely hoping that there’s some redemption to be had.
Indeed, it was the season for the indie film – with a summer delivering f**k all in terms of splendor or originality for it’s studio blockbusters – with a paltry few of the little guys shining a light through the darkness. And now, the time has come for a change in tempo (hopefully), as we look ahead and anticipate even bigger blockbusters and the wave of award-circuit bait aiming to win our hearts this year, and there’s quite a few to choose from.
So, let’s take a look at what we can expect this season – what to look forward to, what to keep a look out for, and shine a light on my most anticipated movies.
And here… we… go
Director: Scott Derrickson Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen, Michael Stuhlbarg, Benedict Wong.
Plot: After a terrible accident, Doctor Stephen Strange, a neurosurgeon with a destroyed career sets out to repair his hands only to find himself protecting the world from inter-dimensional threats.
Ok, so I lied, there’re 26 movies on this list, but excuse the hell out of me for forgetting that there’s yet another superhero movie to see this year. Though, admittedly, I am rather interested in seeing this one.
25. A Monster Calls (Dec. 23rd Limited)
Director: J.A. Bayona Cast: Lewis MacDougall, Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, Liam Neeson (Voice), Toby Kebbell.
Plot: A massive, ancient tree monster (Liam Neeson) takes a 12-year-old boy (Lewis MacDougall) on a journey of courage, faith and truth.
I’ve never read the book, but I’ve heard good things and this looks like it could be like one of those Where the Wild Things Are or Pan’s Labyrinth type movies, which is A-Ok in my book.
25. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (Nov. 11th)
Director: Ang Lee Cast: Kristen Stewart, Vin Diesel, Garrett Hedlund, Steve Martin, Chris Tucker, Joe Alwyn.
Plot: 19-year-old Billy Lynn is brought home for a victory tour after a harrowing Iraq battle. Through flashbacks the film shows what really happened to his squad – contrasting the realities of war with America’s perceptions.
Ang Lee won an Oscar for his last movie, 2012’s Life of Pi, and here he’s assembled an interesting cast for this film, which is to be the first movie shot at a 120 frame rate…
24. Assassin’s Creed (Dec. 21st)
Director: Justin Kurzel Cast: Michael Fassbender, Michael Kenneth Williams, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Ariane Labed.
Plot: When Callum Lynch explores the memories of his ancestor Aguilar and gains the skills of a Master Assassin, he discovers he is a descendant of the secret Assassins society.
I’ve only played a tiny bit of Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag and that’s it, so I have any predilections on this one, but I like the look of the trailers and I’ll watch just about anything with Michael Fassbender. Re-teaming with his Macbeth director and costar (Cotillard), there seems to be a lot of care going into this film – may actually have a chance of being a good video game adaptation.
Director: Josh Gordon and Will Speck Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, Kate McKinnon, T.J. Miller, Rob Corddry.
Plot: When his uptight CEO sister threatens to shut down his branch, the branch manager throws an epic Christmas party in order to land a big client and save the day, but the party gets way out of hand…
This just looks like a funny, R-Rated Christmas comedy – who doesn’t enjoy those?
22. Denial (Sept. 30th)
Director: Mick Jackson Cast: Rachel Weisz, Timothy Spall, Tom Wilkinson, Andrew Scott.
Plot: Acclaimed writer and historian Deborah E. Lipstadt must battle for historical truth to prove the Holocaust actually occurred when David Irving, a renowned Holocaust denier, sues her for libel.
The cast is what sells me on this one, and from the writer of The Reader and the director of Volcano… like I said, the cast. Plus the true story is intriguing enough to keep me, well, intrigued.
21. The Magnificent Seven (Sept. 23rd)
Plot: Seven gun men in the old west gradually come together to help a poor village against savage thieves.
I’m always down for a Western – too few get made these days – and this remake looks just as much fun as the original, with Washington taking on the Yul Brynner role and re-teaming with his Training Day director, should make for a entertaining film event.
20. Rules Don’t Apply (Nov. 23rd)
Director: Warren Beatty Cast: Warren Beatty, Haley Bennett, Lily Collins, Taissa Farmiga, Alden Ehrenreich, Ed Harris, Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen, Matthew Broderick, Annette Bening.
Plot: An unconventional love story of an aspiring actress, her determined driver, and the eccentric billionaire who they work for.
I know there’re some who’re anticipating Beatty’s first directorial effort in nearly 20 years, I can’t say that I am because I don’t think I’ve seen any of his movies. Shame I know, but this could be a good starting point. Beatty takes on the role of eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes, and he’s got a strong cast supporting him, including the new Han Solo (Ehrenreich) getting in some more screen time before his Star Wars debut – I saw him in Hail, Caesar and he’s worth watching.
19. Manchester by the Sea (Nov. 18th)
Director: Kenneth Lonergan Cast: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, Lucas Hedges, Matthew Broderick.
Plot: An uncle is forced to take care of his teenage nephew after the boy’s father dies.
This one has been generating a lot of positive buzz as well as some good reviews (sitting at a sweet 94% spot at Rotten Tomatoes), plus with such a solid cast, this one may be a front contender at the ol’ Oscars this year.
18. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Nov. 12th)
Director: David Yates Cast: Eddie Redmayne Katherine Waterston, Ezra Miller, Colin Farrell, Zoe Kravitz, Ron Perlman, Jon Voight.
Plot: The adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book in school.
I’m a Potter fan, always will be. It was inevitable that the studio would branch off into the magical world that J.K. Rowling created, let’s just hope it lives up to the franchise. The cast looks good, plus you’ve got the director of the last four Potter films, so it’ll be fun to explore the wizarding world beyond Harry Potter.
17. Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey (Oct. 7th)
Director: Terrence Malick Narrated by: Cate Blanchett / Brad Pitt.
Plot: An exploration into our planetary past and a search for humanity’s place in the future. With narration by Cate Blanchett.
You’ve got Terrence Malick directing a documentary exploring time and life and space with a ton of gorgeous imagery. It doesn’t have to make sense, you just know this is going to be a visually stunning film. And there’re two versions (hence the two narrators) – there’s the full length feature with narration by Blanchett, and then the IMAX version (clocking in at 40 minutes only) has Pitt’s narration.
16. Allied (Nov. 23rd)
Director: Robert Zemeckis Cast: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris, Simon McBurney, Lizzy Caplan.
Plot: In 1942, an intelligence officer in North Africa encounters a female French Resistance fighter on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. When they reunite in London, their relationship is tested by the pressures of war.
Robert Zemeckis always has something to offer with his films, even if they’re not always on par with his greatest works, there’s always something to enjoy. Here, he’s got two strong, charismatic leads in Pitt and Cotillard (whom I love) and a good ol’ fashioned WW2 romantic drama could end up being a winning combination.
15. Loving (Nov. 4th)
Director: Jeff Nichols Cast: Ruth Negga, Joel Edgarton, Will Dalton, Terri Abney, Alano Miller, Chris Greene.
Plot: In 1967, Richard (Edgerton) and Mildred (Negga) Loving take their case to the Supreme Court after violating a Virginia law that prohibits interracial marriage.
Word out of Cannes and TIFF have been favorable for this film (currently at 93% at Rotten Tomatoes), which is based on the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving. Director Nichols has been on a roll with his unique and grounded indie films, and whilst on paper this may seem like just another historical biopic, the buzz seems to conclude that Nichols has delivered something out of the norm here – look for it on the ballots this season.
Director: Mike Mills Cast: Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, Alia Shawkat, Laura Wiggins, Billy Crudup.
Plot: In 1979 Santa Barbara, three women are teaching a boy about men, women, love and freedom when his mother takes in a boarder, shaking his world view.
There’s not a whole lot to share on this one just yet, there’s no trailer yet and there’s little else to tell about it. Aside from the cast, Mills is what really sells me on this. After his last directorial effort Beginners (2010), which garnered an Oscar for Christopher Plummer, I’m eagerly awaiting to see what he does here (he also wrote the screenplay). Be on the look out for contenders in the acting categories.
13. The Handmaiden (Oct. 31st)
Director: Chan-wook Park Cast: Min-hee Kim, Kim Tae-ri, Jung-woo Ha, Jin-woo Jo, Hae-suk Kim.
Plot: With help from an orphaned pickpocket, a Korean con man devises an elaborate plot to seduce and bilk a Japanese woman out of her inheritance.
Ever since Oldboy, I’ll forever and always eagerly await a new movie from Park, and The Handmaiden simply looks just as beautiful, complex and twisted as that masterpiece did.
12. Live by Night (Dec. 16th, limited)
Director: Ben Affleck Cast: Ben Affleck, Elle Fanning, Sienna Miller, Scott Eastwood, Zoe Saldana, Anthony Michael Hall, Brendan Gleeson, Chris Cooper.
Plot: A story set in the Prohibition Era and centered around a group of individuals and their dealings in the world of organized crime.
Ben Affleck has certainly proven himself as an adequate director, though I’d argue nothing exceptional yet – Argo was way too “by-the-book” to have gotten the praise and acclaim that it did – and he’s definitely been down the gangster/bank robber path before with The Town. However, Live by Night does look like a solid gangster flick, and for all his faults as a director (or actor), he’s once again gathered a solid looking cast and the trailer doesn’t look half bad either. Warner Bros. obviously seem confident enough to nab an end-of-the-year slot for this one to make it into the awards circuit.
11. Jackie (Dec. 9th)
Director: Pablo Larrain Cast: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, John Hurt, Billy Crudup, Max Casella, Richard E. Grant.
Plot: Following the assassination of her husband, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy fights through grief and trauma to regain her faith, console her children, and define her husband’s historic legacy.
No trailer for this one yet either, but there is word and the word is good. I’ve also seen a clip from the movie (which I’ll include here), and this could be Portman’s best performance since Black Swan, which is an exciting prospect. The movie itself may be too small for any big recognition, but Portman’s performance could lead to another nomination for the actress.
10. The Girl on the Train (Oct. 7th)
Director: Tate Taylor Cast: Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson, Luke Evans, Edgar Ramirez, Justin Theroux, Allison Janney.
Plot: A divorcee becomes entangled in a missing persons investigation that promises to send shockwaves throughout her life.
This, to me, just looks like a solid thriller – ideally, it could be this year’s Gone Girl. Tate Taylor has made some good films, and you’ve got Emily Blunt who’s becoming one of Hollywood’s greatest leading ladies, and she’s long overdue some awards recognition. Whether or not this is the movie to get her there remains to be seen, but if it’s nearly as good as the trailer makes out to be, or as the book it’s based on, then this could be an early contender.
9. Hacksaw Ridge (Dec. 4th)
Director: Mel Gibson Cast: Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving, Luke Bracey.
Plot: WWII American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss, who served during the Battle of Okinawa, refuses to kill people and becomes the first Conscientious Objector in American history to be awarded the Medal of Honor.
I’m excited to have Mel Gibson back and in the directors chair, even if others aren’t. The man directed one of my favorite movies (Braveheart), he just has a talent behind the camera, especially for action, and I feel everyone deserves a second chance. His latest earned a standing ovation at the Venice film festival and is geared to be a strong contender this year if it can find its audience.
8. Moonlight (Oct. 21st)
Director: Barry Jenkins Cast: Mahershala Ali, Shariff Earp, Duan’Sandy’ Sanderson, Naiomie Harris, Andre Holland.
Plot: A timeless story of human connection and self-discovery, Moonlight chronicles the life of a young black man from childhood to adulthood as he struggles to find his place in the world while growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami.
The trailer caught my attention for this film – it looks bloody powerful – and reviews out of recent festivals are absolutely glowing, and it’s the sort of movie that voters and audiences love. This is a sure frontrunner.
Director: Morten Tyldum Cast: Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne, Jamie Soricelli, Aurora Perrineau.
Plot: A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in its sleep chambers. As a result, two passengers are awakened 90 years early.
This one excites me – not because it just so happens that the “two passengers awakened” happen to be the gorgeous Lawrence and Pratt – but because of the premise and the fact that we seem to be on a roll with sci-fi movies of late. I’m excited also to see Lawrence in a movie in awards season that wasn’t directed by David O’ Russell. It’ll be interesting to see what Pratt does with this sort of role too. No trailer yet.
6. Nocturnal Animals (Nov. 18th)
Director: Tom Ford Cast: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Arnie Hammer, Laura Linney, Michael Sheen.
Plot: An art gallery owner is haunted by her ex-husband’s novel, a violent thriller she interprets as a veiled threat and a symbolic revenge tale.
I thoroughly enjoyed Ford’s directorial debut in A Single Man, and with the cast he’s assembled here, it’s hard not to get excited. The trailer just released, and it doesn’t look half bad either…
Director: Nate Parker Cast: Nate Parker, Arnie Hammer, Mark Boone Junior, Colman Domingo, Aunjanue Ellis, Dwight Henry.
Plot: Set against the antebellum South, The Birth of a Nation follows Nat Turner, a literate slave and preacher, whose financially strained owner, Samuel Turner, accepts an offer to use Nat’s preaching to subdue unruly slaves. As he witnesses countless atrocities – against himself and his fellow slaves – Nat orchestrates an uprising in the hopes of leading his people to freedom.
Once a sure frontrunner for all of the awards this year, is now a gem shrouded in controversy. We all know what I’m talking about, but now the question is will people still choose to see the movie and its’ undoubtedly important story. It does look like a powerful one, and this movie will still be a contender by the end of the year I assure you, but has Parker’s past ruined all chances of winning? Time will tell.
4. Arrival (Nov. 11th)
Director: Denis Villeneuve Cast: Amy Adams, Forest Whitaker, Jeremy Renner, Michael Stuhlbarg.
Plot: When mysterious spacecraft touch down across the globe, an elite team – lead by expert linguist Louise Banks – are brought together to investigate. As mankind teeters on the verge of global war, Banks and the team race against time for answers – and to find them, she will take a chance that could threaten her life, and quite possibly humanity.
I think Denis Villeneuve has quickly established that he’s one of the best directors working right now. With Prisoners, last year’s awesome and underrated Sicario, and a Blade Runner sequel in the works, he’s definitely making his mark, and his new sci-fi (another Sci-fi film this season) is leaving film festivals with positive reviews left and right. It certainly doesn’t look like your typical, destructive alien invasion movie… I’d just stay clear of the full trailers if I were you.
3. La La Land (Dec. 2nd)
Director: Damien Chazelle Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, J.K. Simmons, John Legend, Amiee Conn, Terri Walters, Rosemarie DeWitt.
Plot: Mia, an aspiring actress, serves lattes to movie stars in between auditions and Sebastian, a jazz musician, scrapes by playing cocktail party gigs in dingy bars, but as success mounts they are faced with decisions that begin to fray the fragile fabric of their love affair, and the dreams they worked so hard to maintain in each other threaten to rip them apart.
Contrary to what I told you with Arrival, all you have to do here is watch the trailers for this film and you’ll be swept away by its’ charm. Another one out of Venice with glowing reviews – not to mention a best actress award for Stone – this looks like it’s going to be a dazzling throwback to the American Movie Musicals of yesteryear, with a wholly original score performed by the two leads. Fresh off the success of Whiplash, it looks like Chazelle has another winner here.
2. Silence (TBA)
Director: Martin Scorcese Cast: Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, Ciaran Hinds, Tadanobu Asano.
Plot: In the seventeenth century, two Jesuit priests face violence and persecution when they travel to Japan to locate their mentor and propagate Christianity.
The biggest mystery of the season, will Paramount release Martin Scorcese’s new epic in time for the awards? The simple answer is they’d be stupid not to. Perhaps, given the subject and the reported 3-hour runtime, they’re just looking for the right moment. There’s still time after all, but festivals are in full swing and it’s missing out on a lot of press… but who’re we kidding, this is a Scorcese picture who doesn’t want to see this? Once a release date is locked down, then we’ll see the trailer, and then you can bet your butt you’ll see this one in contention this year.
1. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Dec. 16th)
Director: Gareth Edwards Cast: Felicity Jones, Forest Whitaker, Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Mads Mikkelson, Ben Mendelsohn, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Jimmy Smits.
Plot: Jyn Erso, a Rebellion soldier and criminal, is about to experience her biggest challenge yet when Mon Mothma sets her out on a mission to steal the plans for the Death Star. With help from the Rebels, a master swordsman, and non-allied forces, Jyn will be in for something bigger than she thinks.
Disney went and did it. They went and unlocked an unquenchable thirst for more Star Wars. I want more! But now I have to wait until next December for Episode VIII, so of course I’m excited to see the first in a long line of spin-offs in the now expanding universe. The trailers are promising – offering up some stellar imagery I don’t think we’ve yet experienced in Star Wars – and considering the amount of care that went into The Force Awakens alone, I remain pleasantly optimistic.