The fall brings a better class of films with it, and particularly so this year with a handful of major directors, like Damien Chazelle, Barry Jenkins and Steve McQueen, checking in with their follow-up releases after such acclaimed efforts as La La Land, Moonlight and 12 Years a Slave.
And any season that features a newly completed film by the late Orson Welles has to be considered headline-making.
Anyway, here is my highly subjective list of the movies I am most looking forward to this year, opening in time for Academy Award eligibility (though not necessarily arriving in South Florida by calendar year’s end).
A Star Is Born (Oct. 5) – This much-remade tale of up-and-down show biz fates, played by Janet Gaynor and Frederic March, Judy Garland and James Mason, and Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson gets dusted off again for Bradley Cooper as alcoholic Jackson Maine and Lady Gaga as an up-and-coming singer-songwriter, under Cooper’s debut direction. Early reactions are positively gaga.
First Man (Oct. 12) – How does Damien Chazelle follow up his Oscar-winning direction of La La Land? By enlisting that film’s star, Ryan Gosling, in a fact-based outer space adventure – Neil Armstrong’s “small step for man” as the first man to set foot on the moon. From the training regimen to the claustrophobic capsule to the Sea of Tranquility, expect little tranquility from this courageous effort: both NASA’s program and Chazelle’s attempt to recreate it.
Beautiful Boy (Oct. 12) – This is another follow-up challenge: How does Timothee Chalamet top his Oscar-nominated performance in Call Me By Your Name? With an even more dramatic role, as real-life meth addict Nic Sheff, who is put through the wringer trying to kick the habit. Also said to be impressive is Steve Carrell as his tough-love father. Sounds like a drug-based film that even Nancy Reagan would have just said “yes” to.
The Oath (Oct. 12) – It had to happen, right? Here is the first of the political satires inspired by the divisive arrival of Trump. Filmmaker Ike Barinholtz takes us to a Thanksgiving dinner of a politically diverse family, soon after the president enacts a mandatory loyalty oath to him. Why, that’s so extreme it could never really happen here, could it?
Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Oct. 19) – Don’t laugh, but Melissa McCarthy is trying her hand at drama. She plays failed journalist Lee Israel, who tries her hand at forgery, peddling fake letters from deceased celebrities. Richard E. Grant is a drifter who meets and drinks with Israel, eventually assisting her in the scam. It doesn’t sound funny, but …
Halloween (Oct. 19) – No, horror/slasher movies aren’t my thing either, but how could you not be intrigued by this reboot of the iconic series, starring Jamie Lee Curtis, who comes back from self-imposed exile to see that it is done right. The same goes for arthouse director David Gordon Green, who promises to ignore all of the embarrassing sequels after the 1978 original flick.
The Other Side of the Wind (Nov. 2) – Like many films in Orson Welles’s career, this one kept running into money problems and production kept being shut down. The master filmmaker shot over 100 hours of footage in a span of six years, so editing it into something coherent has been a challenge and a passion for producer Frank Marshall, one of Welles’s original crew members. Since the film is about a Hollywood director emerging from semi-exile to complete an innovative movie, we have to assume it was an autobiographical story for Welles. It will include posthumous performances by John Huston, Mercedes McCambridge, Lilli Palmer and Edmond O’Brien.
Bohemian Rhapsody (Nov. 2) – Rami Malek (TV’s Mr. Robot) will rock you in a much-anticipated – and much delayed – impersonation of the British group Queen’s lead singer, Freddie Mercury. Schizophrenically, he was wild onstage and reclusive and low-key in private, and Mercury died of AIDS complications in 1992, all of which makes for compelling biography. Bryan Singer is credited with directing the film, even though he was fired in the middle of production.
Boy Erased (Nov. 2) – Close on the heels of The Miseducation of Cameron Post, this is another cinematic look at anti-gay conversion therapy. Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe are the devout Christian parents of Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea), in a fact-based saga directed by Joel Edgerton, who also plays the conversion camp head.
Widows (Nov. 16) – For his follow-up to 12 Years a Slave, director-writer Steve McQueen turns to the heist genre, but one with some dramatic weight. Viola Davis stars as a new widow who learns that her husband stole $2 million from a political campaign and she is being squeezed to repay it. So she enlists the widows of her husband’s associates (Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki) to join her in a career of crime to ease their money woes.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Nov. 16) – Ethan and Joel Coen thought they were making a Netflix television series of tales of the Old West, but they liked the results enough to turn it into a multi-story feature. They have never had trouble gathering A-list actors, so this Ballad includes the likes of Liam Neeson, James Franco, Zoe Kazan and Tim Blake Nelson.
The Front Runner (Nov. 21) – Apparently there was a time before political campaigns and tabloid reporting got together, and director Jason Reitman pinpoints that downward spiral of sensationalism to the presidential aspirations of Gary Hart. So relive the 1988 run of Hart, who hubristically challenged the press to follow him and report on his private escapades. Retracting his X-Men claws, Hugh Jackman plays Hart, with Vera Farmiga as his put-upon wife.
The Favourite (Nov. 23) – Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone are a couple of courtiers vying for the affection of England’s Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) in this period costume drama. The twist is that the film comes from director Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster), so do not expect anything the least bit conventional.
If Beale Street Could Talk (Nov. 30) – Based on a less-well-known novel by James Baldwin, it focuses on a young Harlem couple, Tish and Fonny. She becomes unexpectedly pregnant and he is arrested for a rape he did not commit. It is directed by Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), who feels certain he has discovered a new star in KiKi Layne.
Mary, Queen of Scots (Dec. 7) – If you want your tales of palace intrigue to be more conventional, you should gravitate to this tale of confrontation between Mary Stuart and Elizabeth I, helmed by first-time director Josie Rourke. Certainly there will be sparks flying between the film’s two leads, Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie, even if they only have one scene together.
Roma (Dec. 14) – We’re not sure what the title of this black-and-white film means, since it is the tale of two women in 1970s Mexico City, but we do know that Alfonso Cuarón says it has personal resonance for him and that it walked off with the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival.
Mary Poppins Returns (Dec. 19) – Set 25 years after the iconic Julie Andrews movie, Emily Blunt has the temerity to try on the sensible shoes and magic umbrella of everyone’s favorite nanny, who swoops in to cheer up the now grown but glum Jane and Michael Banks. Meryl Streep, Angela Lansbury and even Dick Van Dyke have cameo appearances, but all eyes will be on Lin-Manuel Miranda, trying to conquer Hollywood as a singing-dancing busker.
Vice (Dec. 21) – After a string of Will Ferrell comedies, director Adam McKay made a left turn with the acclaimed Big Short about the 2008 financial crisis. Now he turns his satirical eye onto Dick Cheney, the most influential vice president we may have ever had. Just don’t go out hunting with him. Christian Bale, of all people, plays Cheney, with Amy Adams as his wife Lynne, Steve Carrell as Donald Rumsfeld and Sam Rockwell as George W.
On the Basis of Sex (Dec. 25) – You did love the documentary RBG, didn’t you, about feisty 85-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg? Here is the second shoe to drop, a feature film biography of her younger years as a crusading ACLU lawyer, bringing gender discrimination cases before the high court. Tiny Felicity Jones plays Ginsburg, with Armie Hammer as the love of her life, tax attorney Marty Ginsburg.