Fall Movie Preview: More artistic prestige in movies and from streamers too | News
For those movie fans who tire easily of movies that chase the appeal of youth and cater to the blockbuster mindset, fall can never come soon enough. While we may have already seen some award-contending films and shows, the lion’s share of the year’s future Oscar contenders will emerge — as they have for decades — in the last few months of the year.
Hollywood darling Steven Spielberg, for example, has “The Fabelmans” (Nov. 23), a deeply personal family drama inspired by his upbringing, arriving from Universal Pictures just in time for Thanksgiving. Spielberg shares a screenplay with Tony Kushner (a Pulitzer and Tony winner who recently adapted West Side Story for the director) and directs a top-notch cast that includes Michelle Williams, Paul Dano and Seth Rogen as fictional versions of Spielberg’s parents and uncle; Judd Hirsch and Spielberg’s fellow director David Lynch also play supporting roles.
Reliably interesting writer-director James Gray (“The Lost City of Z,” “Ad Astra”) has his own semi-autobiographical film this fall from Focus Features: “Armageddon Time” (Oct. 28) starring Anne Hathaway and Jeremy Strong (“Inheritance”) as versions of Grey’s parents, with Anthony Hopkins as the fictional grandfather and Jessica Chastain making a brief but impactful appearance as Donald Trump’s sister Marian.
After its recent premiere at the Venice Film Festival, Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale instantly made headlines for Brendan Fraser’s lead performance as a morbidly obese inmate; arrives December 9 from A24. Fraser will have to compete with Colin Farrell, who has also sparked early awards for his work with ‘In Bruges’ co-star Brendan Gleeson in writer-director Martin McDonough’s latest film, The Banshees of Inisherin, which opens its distribution from Searchlight Pictures in late October (both Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell won Oscars for McDonough’s previous film, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, so don’t count out the great Gleason either).
Also generating heat from Venice: Cate Blanchett stars as a classical composer and orchestra conductor in Focus Features’ “TÁR” (Oct. 7), from writer-director Todd Field (“In the Bedroom”); Timothée Chalamet reunites with “Call Me By Your Name” director Luca Guadagnino for cannibal-themed drama “Bones & All” (Nov. 23 from MGM); and to a degree that’s starting to get suspicious, the Olivia Wilde thriller Don’t Worry, Darling (Sept. 23 from Warner). Everyone is talking about the drama surrounding Wilde’s second feature, the first of two films this fall featuring pop star Harry Styles. Any press is good press, they say, which may explain why rumors of director-cast fights won’t go away. Styles also stars in “My Policeman” (on Prime Video Nov. 4) as a down-and-out gay cop in 1950s England, where being gay is a crime.
The cinematically adventurous might prefer the toast of this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Ruben Östlund’s darkly comic satire of the ultra-rich, Triangle of Sadness (Oct. 7 from Neon), which took home the Palme d’Or. Or the latest from Park Chan-wook (“The Handmaiden”), the mystery “Decision to Leave” (Oct. 14 from MUBI); for it, Park took home the Best Director award at this year’s Cannes. Sony Pictures Classics is busy promoting The Son (local date TBD), reuniting writer-director Florian Zeller with Anthony Hopkins two years after Zeller’s The Father earned Hopkins a Best Actor Oscar; Hugh Jackman leads this time, supported by Hopkins, Laura Dern and Vanessa Kirby.
David O. Russell is known for guiding actors to Oscar gold with films like “American Hustle” and “Silver Linings Playbook”; he returns on October 7 with 20th Century Studios’ mystery comedy “Amsterdam” and its star-studded ensemble: Christian Bale, Robert De Niro, Margot Robbie, John David Washington, Chris Rock, Rami Malek and Taylor Swift, among many others. For audiences of a certain age, Universal has a “star couple” in Julia Roberts and George Clooney; back in comic mode, they play an ex-married couple who conspire to warn their daughter out of marriage in “Ticket to Heaven” (Oct. 21).
In the hard-hitting true story category, Universal touts She Said (Nov. 18) as “Based on the New York Times Pulitzer-winning investigation” into Hollywood’s Harvey Weinstein scandal, the one that helped launch the #MeToo movement; Starring Carey Mulligan (“A Promising Young Woman”) and Zoe Kazan (“Ruby Sparks”). Meanwhile, Roadside Attractions has Elizabeth Banks and Sigourney Weaver headlining “Call Jane” (Oct. 28), about the underground collective that facilitated abortion in pre-Roe v. Wade America. The tragic story of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old black boy lynched in 1955 in Mississippi, powers “Till” (Oct. 14 from United Artists), which centers on his mother Mamie Till-Mobley (Danielle Deadweiler) and her pursuit of justice.
And then there’s that spoiler Netflix, the streamer that continues to play for the Oscars with an aggressive fall slate of more than 40 original films, 22 of which will get telltale theatrical releases that will likely put them in Oscar play. Netflix has Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe in Andrew Dominik’s NC-17 rated Blonde (Sept. 28); Don DeLillo’s adaptation of Noah Baumbach’s “White Noise” (Dec. 30) with Adam Driver and Greta Gerwig; the latest from Oscar-winner Alejandro González Iñárritu, an epic comedy called The Bardo (or The False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths) (Dec. 16). In the funnier category, there’s also Rian Johnson’s hotly anticipated sequel Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (December 23) and Emma Thompson as Miss Trunchbull in the West End/Broadway musical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Matilda ( 25th of December). Not to be outdone, Apple TV+ has Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell in “Spirited” (date TBD), a modern musical version of “A Christmas Carol.”
Make no mistake, there will also be commercial films that want to fill the theaters. Superheroes you say? But of course. Disney and Marvel have you covered with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (November 11), which reunites director Ryan Coogler and actors Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira and Winston Duke; the film will pay tribute to the fallen hero T’Challa and the star who played him, Chadwick Boseman, while laying the groundwork for a superheroic successor. There’s also Dwayne Johnson’s long-gestating star vehicle Black Adam (Oct. 21 from Warner), in which he dons a rubber suit as an anti-hero straight out of the Shazam movies.
Based on the popular children’s books, Sony’s actioner “Lyle, Lyle Crocodile” (Oct. 7) is the only film this fall to feature pop star Shawn Mendes as the singing reptile owned by Oscar winner Javier Bardem. On the other end of the spectrum, horror fans won’t be able to resist the provocatively titled “Halloween Ends” (Oct. 14), which Universal promises will culminate in a “once-for-all” showdown between mass murderer Michael Myers and Curtis’ Jamie Lee Laurie Strode.
It wouldn’t be fall without a musical biopic, and this season it’s all about Whitney Houston in Sony’s I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Dec. 21); Naomi Aki (“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”) plays the pop legend with the golden voice and troubled personal life. For big laughs, there’s Billy Eichner in Universal’s rom com “Bros” (Sept. 30), which Eichner co-wrote and is peppered with an almost entirely LGBTQ cast.
Disney’s big animated film of the season is the fantasy adventure Strange World (Nov. 23), with a cast led by Jake Gyllenhaal and Lucy Liu. And how about James Cameron’s 13-year-old sequel, Avatar: The Last Airbender (Dec. 16 from 20th Century Studios)? There’s perhaps no bigger question this fall than whether anyone still cares about the blue-skinned Na’vi, on a budget of around $250 million. As always, you have big and small screen options, but as the seasons change, they include more for adults. If you like these options, it’s time to get out the vote with your entertainment dollars, or it won’t be long before it’s all capes and explosions.