Hello Friends & Neighbors To The South
It’s the end of relevant film festival season and here’s what’s been making the rounds, how they’ve been received so far and what to expect over the next six months hype and publicity-wise.
Jesus, can that be right? Six months until the Oscars… damn.
Okay — well then — no time to waste!
This list is in no way complete rather an overview of the films you may have heard of and will hear of over the next half year.
Most of these have been doing the festival circuit and with Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) wrapping up this past week I’ll be laying out how they fared there and what to expect to hear about them over the next… six… months.
Renee Zellweger is Judy Garland playing her last series of concerts in London, England.
The hype on this has been slowing building throughout production. It earned a “prolonged standing ovation” at TIFF where the star was reduced to tears.
Defining quote from TIFF via Live For Films:
After taking a hiatus from 2010 to 2016, this is the FILM that will launch her back into awards contention and is a blatant reminder that she is an Academy Award winner (Cold Mountain). From the way she smiles to the way she holds the microphone cord, to the sadness behind her eyes, she is simply transcendent as Judy. And yes, she does sing and she pretty well nails that too.
Expect lots of publicity for this one and awards push all the way to Oscars.
Wide Release: September 27
Todd Phillips of Old School and The Hangover fame and Joaquin Phoenix, who won the Inaugural Actor Award at TIFF this year, put together a comic book origin.
It’s apparently bloody and disturbing and has audiences divided on how much love it deserves. Phoenix is right in his wheelhouse as a tortured outcast who handles things in his own unique way, sounds sort of like his Freddie from The Master which I’m good with.
That was a solid movie and earned him one of his three Academy Award nominations so look for him going all the way to the podium this year.
Expect variations of this twaddle provided by TIFF co-head and artistic director Cameron Bailey to the Toronto Sun:
“It’s a really original take on comic book movies and on the Joker character in particular. It’s not based on an existing story, it has one of the greatest actors in modern cinema, Joaquin Phoenix, in the lead, and Robert De Niro is in it as well, one of the best actors that has ever lived. But it has an interesting tone and approach to it. It’s set in the late ’70s, early ’80s and it feels like it was made then. It’s gritty in its look. It has references to Martin Scorsese’s filmmaking and it feels like a cinematic achievement on a high level. Although it’s working with very populist material, it has great ambition.”
You’ll love it before you ever even see it.
Wide Release: November 27
Written/directed/co-starring Taika Waititi as Adolf Hitler who is the imaginary friend of a young boy during WW2.
World War II satire that follows a lonely German boy named Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) whose world view is turned upside down when he discovers his single mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a young Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in their attic. Aided only by his idiotic imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi), Jojo must confront his blind nationalism.
I don’t know about this one but it sounds okay, plus it won the top prize at TIFF which has helped propel many of the last several best picture Oscar winners, including last year’s Green Book.
I’ve liked all of his work so far, so I’ll see it eventually, as will you because you like all the correct things.
Again Cameron Baily, this time with the official TIFF review:
Jojo Rabbit walks a precarious high wire, savaging the antisemitism of the Nazi era while identifying pointed parallels to today’s fascist groupthink. Waititi, who has long had a gift for infusing even his wildest comedies with real heart, guides this film from taboo-breaking scenes reminiscent of Monty Python or Mel Brooks into far more emotional territory, as Jojo confronts the damage he’s done. A singular and essential response to both history and our current moment, Jojo Rabbit simply must be seen.
Wide release: October 18th
Dolemite Is My Name
Eddie Murphy stars as Rudy Ray Moore, the creator and inspiration of the 1975 blaxploitation hit Dolemite.
It’s directed by Craig Brewer who did Hustle and Flow and is directing the upcoming Coming To America 2.
It seems like Eddie brings it all back here and should be strapping in for some award show appearances.
The official TIFF reaction:
(Eddie Murphy) could have made Moore simply his latest outlandish screen character, yet he also invests him with the ambition and focus of a true, American trash auteur. As his Rudy Ray Moore embraces the gratuitous violence and female nudity of blaxploitation cinema, he insists on his own kind of perfection from his Dolemite director, D’Urville Martin, played deliciously by Wesley Snipes. With a cast that also includes Craig Robinson, Keegan-Michael Key, Da’Vine Joy Randolph — in a role that works to counteract the gender politics that typified the era — Tituss Burgess, and some standout surprise cameos, Dolemite Is My Name is a celebration of Black creativity from one of comedy’s greatest entertainers.
You’ll come for the black creativity but stay for the gender politics.
Cast also includes Snopp D-oh-double-gee!
Expect Globes and SAG nods and maybe Eddie and a writer or something at the Oscars.
Wide Release: October 4 via Netflix
Pain And Glory
Pedro Almodóvar’s (Talk to Her, All About My Mother) latest offering is a semi-autobiographical tale about becoming a filmmaker, making films, livin’ and also maybe being in love with his mother?
It stars Antonio Banderas who is getting legitimate buzz for his performance.
Listen for Almodóvar’s name when it comes to directing honors and also look for stars Antonio and Penelope Cruz to get some award season love.
And also listen to Diana Sanchez from TIFF:
It’s the cast, however, who render this memoir-fiction hybrid so achingly resonant. Cruz, who was nominated for an Oscar for her work in Almodóvar’s Volver, imbues her role with her trademark vivacity, while Banderas has never been more charismatic and moving in a role at once grounded in authentic experience and elevated by flights of wild imagination.
Expect a soft but steady push for this one.
Wide Release: November 4
A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood
Tom Hanks dons the cardigan as Mr. Fred Rogers and apparently it’s legit.
Hanks — last nominated for 2004’s Castaway — plays more of a supporting role to Matthew Rhys who is a reporter doing a story which digs up a few interesting nuggets on everyone’s favorite single, middle-aged male neighbor.
It’s directed by Marielle Heller who helmed last year’s biopic Can You Ever Forgive Me about the curmudgeonly con-woman Lee Israel.
“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood offers both real catharsis and the pleasure of a signature Tom Hanks performance. Technically perfect and imbued with the almost spiritual good that marks all his work, his Fred Rogers finds adult truths in the deep wisdom of childhood.”
Some say Heller was snubbed for award consideration so look out for all three names getting some attention for this ‘un.
Wide Release: November 22
A Korean language film by Snowpiercer‘s director Bong Joon-Ho that follows a family of con artists as they insert themselves into the lives of a wealthy and gullible family.
It looks like a thriller but it’s really about economic inequality which is so hot right now.
It did well at Cannes and it came out of TIFF looking strong.
According to TIFF’s Giovanna Fulvi:
The film moves quickly from one tone to another, mixing pathos and satire with thrills and drama, in a perfectly controlled blend of many different genres. A vertical story of class struggle — punctuated by staircase scenes going from mouldy basements to top floors, from darkness to breezy spaces designed by star architects — Parasite observes and dissects with surgical precision the life of two families of different social backgrounds.
It sounds good and could cross over but look for it on Foreign Language award ballots for now anyway.
Wide release: October 25
The Two Popes
Starring the very well cast Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce as two Popes Poping it up, making smoke and battling for the keys to the Popemobile I’m assuming.
It’s directed by Fernando Meirelles (City of God, The Constant Gardener) so expect this one to get some respect up to at least the Golden Globes, depending on how it plays.
Diana Sanchez from TIFF, once again:
The year is 2013. Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Pryce) could not be a less conventional candidate for the papacy. Dodging pomp at every turn, he prefers walking or biking to limousines. He likes to tango and watch soccer with ordinary people. In an amusing early scene, we hear him whistling “Dancing Queen” in the Vatican men’s room. Most importantly, he believes it is the Church’s obligation to respond to the shifting needs of its followers — which makes him the opposite of Pope Benedict (Hopkins), who regards any change as a perilous compromise to the Church’s integrity.
I’m catching a whiff of a puff piece in favor of the Catholic Church, but the pedigree is legit.
Wide Release: December 20 via Netflix
Stars Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, My Cocaine, LaKeith Stanfield, Michael Shannon, Riki Lindhome, Toni Collette, Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, Christopher Plummer and Frank Oz all directed by your boy Rian Johnson.
As described by TIFF’s Michael Lerman it’s a:
…propulsive mystery, mixing elements of Alfred Hitchcock and Agatha Christie. Exercising his sharp-witted ear for dialogue, Johnson is in top form as a writer here, serving up hilarious and eloquent material… A master in blending genres, and with a keen eye for detail, Johnson employs unexpected cinematic tropes to keep the audience on their toes as the story weasels its way through twists and turns to a shocking conclusion. Irreverent, intelligent, and, most importantly, pure fun from beginning to end, Knives Out is a modern popcorn whodunit of the highest.
Oh yeah. So good for him to try something new I guess, while still somehow employable and seen as a good advertising tool.
RJ is burrowed in like a well-connected tick so expect to hear a lot about this one until word of mouth changes the track.
Wide Release: November 27
What’s Sort Of Buzzing
Gone Girl Rosamund Pike stars as Marie Curie doing Marie Curie stuff like being the only person ever to win the Nobel Prize in two different fields, physics and chemistry.
Her daughter is played by legitimate star on the rise, Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, Split).
I think I speak for most people by saying I’m not really sure how I feel about Rosamund Pike so I’ll see how this one fares before committing any interest.
From the Hollywood Reporter review:
The film is animated by Rosamund Pike’s prickly perf as Marie, born Maria Sklodowska, whose almost comical aggressiveness toward male authority figures hides a touching self-defensiveness at being a woman in a man’s field. Shot in English with a contemporary American ring, the Amazon Studios/StudioCanal release is clearly headed for the small screen, where it will inform new generations about the role Curie played in the development of atomic power.
Wide release: sometime 2020 depending on how it screens
Renowned civil rights defense attorney Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan) as he recounts his experiences and details the case of a condemned death row prisoner (Jamie Foxx) whom he fought to free.
It also stars Brie Larson (perfectly cast as an activist) and draws attention to the myriad flaws in the American penal system.
Check this praise via Consequence Of Sound:
Sometimes it’s not about how a story is told, but who gets to have their stories told. Racism, the structural inequality of the incarceration system, and the inhumanity of the death penalty are issues that have all been tackled in movies before, from To Kill A Mockingbird to The Green Mile, but rarely if ever with the frankness and immediacy that Just Mercy brings to McMillian (Foxx) and Stevenson’s journeys.
Seems like some ideal Oscars-baiting shit with three actors who are in but good with media. You will hear more about this one.
Wide Release: January 10
Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) directs Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Ray Liotta, Merritt Weaver and — inconceivably — Wallace Shaw.
It’s about a marriage breaking up and how a family deals with that. Yay!
I’m not really a fan of this guy unless he works with Wes Anderson, I find his solo efforts, super seriously self-absorbed and boring.
A website called Goomba Stomp thinks:
Marriage Story isn’t just a portrait of a couple separating, but a primer on divorce court that far surpasses something like Kramer vs. Kramer, which was out of date even in 1979. The film is also an opportunity to observe two of the BEST LIVING ACTORS (caps lock is mine – Mhatt) at the top of their game. Johansson and Driver have a knack for finding the sweet spot between un-actorly naturalism and the stylistic ticks that we recognize as compelling acting.
I shouldn’t be too surprised, this guy always gets good press despite no one really seeing his movies so I don’t know what to expect.
Wide Release: November 6 via Netflix
Stars Adam Sandler as a gem dealer whose debts force him into some creative money-making schemes.
This is supposed to be a “very good performance” from billionaire man-child Sandler and good on him, I guess!
At least it wasn’t produced by Netflix.
I’ll watch only if the hype sustains which it will at least until the Globes because Michael Lerman from TIFF thinks that:
Sandler commands the screen with such a nuanced performance that it’s like Howard has been sewn into his skin. He juggles the film’s uneasy comedy with a sense of imbued optimism, one that keeps him in trouble but also keeps everyone around Howard — including the audience — rooting for him.
Wide Release: December 25
Sterling K. Brown, Clifton Collins Jr. and Lucas Hedges in a coming of age story about two couples growing up and falling in love.
It’s directed by Trey Edward Shults (It Comes At Night) so it’s probably at least a decent film.
Not sure if it belongs on this list but it impressed at TIFF with its:
Searingly spot-on performances and full of evocative imagery, the film grabs you tight and never lets go….this deeply personal film is tough on the outside, tender when it needs to be, and never anything less than completely audacious.
Shults bathes the film in lush visuals and a moody, pulsating soundtrack from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, placing the audience inside the characters’ perspectives in a lurid manner that echoes Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream, while employing that sense of palpable filmmaking in a very different milieu.
Vibrant and conductive, Waves is unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
So it’s got all that going for it and I guess we’ll see how it goes?
Wide Release: November 1
What’s Not Buzzing
Starring Nicole Kidman, Ansel Elgort, Sarah Paulson, Finn Wolfhard and directed by John Crowley (Brooklyn) with cinematography by the Roger Deakins.
It centers around a boy who lost his mother in a bombing in the Met and then steals a painting called The Goldfinch on his way to being adopted by a wealthy family.
This had some decent hype coming into the festival circuit but seemed to have petered off as soon as people started seeing it.
I guess they expected some good reviews out of TIFF would help opening weekend, but you can’t have one without the other.
Given a wide last weekend, it generated under four million dollars and this is a bit of why:
The Goldfinch a textbook example of prestige filmmaking gone awry.
It goes on and on with too many barbs to paste here but it’s a lot of ragging on the actors which I was delighted by, mainly because they deserve it, and not just for this.
Expect little follow up on this one or maybe a pity nod somewhere.
Wide Release: September 13
Lucy In The Sky
Stars Natalie Portman and John Hamm and is directed by TV guy Noah Hawley (Fargo, Bones, The Unusuals).
Follows the rocky return to life on earth suffered by the titular Lucy, a fictionalized version of astronaut Lisa Nowak.
It has been criticized for its flimsy plot and being referred to as an “over the top melodrama” director Hawley plays with the aspect ratios to enhance emotional beat which results in what some are calling decent acting but I would count this out of all but a shoehorned in golden globe nom and maybe some technical attention for its space stuff.
There was a lot of bashing on this film which Portman has well earned.
I leave you this insight:
It’s anchored by a Natalie Portman performance that borders on high camp, with her affecting a southern accent and sporting a pageboy haircut that, like the ratios, simply serves as a distraction. The film starts strong, with Portman expertly conveying her character’s wonderment, but when they get down to earth the problems start. For one thing, she seems to have a really hard time playing unhinged. Perhaps this could have made for a good psychological drama, but Hawley shows no restraint whatsoever. He’s always going for big moments and climaxes, which gives the film a ridiculous quality. You eventually wind up feeling like you’re watching a particularly expensive Lifetime original movie with A-list stars.
Wide Release: October 4
So that’s a bit about what to expect next from these films.
Make of this what you will of the list and take it with several grains of salt.
The truth is rarely what’s advertised but sometimes, awards do go to the most deserving which makes this time of year confusing but it’s fun energy when everyone’s talking about movies.