This time last year we were feeling pretty down about the state of the blockbuster summer, having had a run of duds so instantly forgettable that we had to look them up again to remember (stuff like “X-Men: Apocalypse,” “Alice Through The Looking Glass,” “Warcraft,” and “Independence Day” — see what I mean?). Spin forward a twelvemonth and the picture is very different. Sure, there’ve been duds and follies — “The Mummy,” “Transformers: The Last Knight,” “Baywatch” — and there was a ‘Pirates of the Caribbean‘ movie too. But any summer that you can find “Wonder Woman,” “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” “Baby Driver” and “War for the Planet of the Apes” rubbing shoulders in the multiplex is a pretty sparky one. It’s just a shame everything else in the whole wide world is so dreadful.
There are still some big guns to fire in the next couple of months, particularly “Dunkirk,” “Logan Lucky,” “The Dark Tower” and “Detroit” not to mention our prediction for Cahiers du Cinema film of the year, “Le Monde Secret des Emojis” aka “The Emoji Movie.” But however much we’ve been enjoying the season, round about now we always start to get a bit antsy, anxious to scratch our more highbrow cinephile itches.
So here we’re taking a break from the bomb-or-boffo box office derby that is the tentpole summer, and looking ahead to the fall festival season. This is our 50 title-strong wishlist of films we believe to be in a rough state of readiness that we hope to see in Venice, Telluride, TIFF, NYFF or AFI Fest. Of course, while we’re anticipating all of these greatly right now, at least some will undoubtedly generate awards hype after their premieres, and that is a conversation that continues until early March, by which time we’ll be heartily sick of them all and simply dying to watch some smashy-smashy-boom-boom again. Really, there’s no pleasing some people.
With even Cannes getting in on the game with “Top Of The Lake: China Girl” and “Twin Peaks” this year, no major festival is now complete without a high-profile TV bow, and one of the more sought-after this year must be “Alias Grace.” The second Margaret Atwood adaptation on the small screen this year after “The Handmaid’s Tale,” this six-part CBC/Netflix miniseries, directed by Mary Harron and written by Sarah Polley, tells the true story of two servants who were convicted of murder in 1843, with Sarah Gadon, Anna Paquin and Zachary Levi starring. Both Harron and Polley premiered their last movies at Venice so it could turn up there (as “The Young Pope” did last year), but TIFF is the more obvious home given the Canadian connection and a CBC airdate in late September.
“Battle Of The Sexes”
With a topical, post-Hillary premise about the famous tennis match between icon Billie Jean King and washed-up self-promoter Bobby Riggs; defending Best Actress winner Emma Stone in the lead; and a top-notch creative team including “Little Miss Sunshine” duo Dayton & Faris, producer Danny Boyle, and writer Simon Beaufoy, Fox Searchlight understandably have some awards hopes for “Battle Of The Sexes.” It hits theaters September 22nd: TIFF seems like a certainty, and maybe Telluride as well.
“Blade Runner 2049”
Usually when a director we admire takes on a sequel, we groan inwardly, but the long-mooted follow-up to Ridley Scott‘s sci-fi masterpiece feels like one occasion where a sequel is a more ambitious, more daring and dangerous choice than most original films would be. Starring Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis and Jared Leto, ‘2049’ picks up thirty years after “Blade Runner” left off, and reteams director Denis Villeneuve with his “Sicario” DP Roger Deakins and his “Arrival” composer Johann Johannsson. Given “Arrival’s” trajectory, a Venice premiere is very possible (and, if for the Venice-goers among us, prayed-for).
Seeing as “The Good Dinosaur” premiered at AFI Fest, and the year, in general, has been a bit thin in terms of big animated features (hence “Boss Baby” is still in the 2017 top 10), there’s a strong possibility that the upcoming Pixar film will get a fest berth prior to its Nov 22nd release. Directed by Lee Unkrich of “Toy Story 3” fame, “Coco” is the story of a little boy discovering a centuries-old book that relates to the Mexican Day of the Dead. This might sound a teeny bit familiar to anyone who saw the Guillermo Del Toro-produced “Book Of Life” a few years back, but then, very few did.
“The Current War”
This historical drama from “Me, Earl & The Dying Girl” helmer Alfonso Gomez-Rejon about George Edison and George Westinghouse’s battle to sell electricity to the American public is The Weinstein Company’s big awards hope for the season, not least thanks to a starry cast including Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Shannon, Nicholas Hoult, Katherine Waterston and Tom Holland. Expect it to follow Harvey’s usual playbook a la “The Imitation Game,” with a Telluride and/or TIFF bow ahead of its December release.
The Playlist fell hard for “Kumiko The Treasure Hunter,” David and Nathan Zellner‘s offbeat story of a lonely young Japanese woman, her bunny and a VHS of “Fargo,” and we were delighted to hear they’d secured such terrific performers for their follow-up. Starring Robert Pattinson, whose career-best lead performance in “Good Time” just wowed Cannes, and the never-not-good Mia Wasikowska, details are thin but this is apparently a period western comedy about a man heading west to his fiancee, which is possibly the last thing we’d expected. ‘Kumiko’ was a Sundance premiere, but the profile of this cast means a fall fest bow is not out of the question, with TIFF, NYFF or AFI Fest feeling most likely.
After the brutal commercial and critical failure of “Pan,” Joe Wright seems likely to bounce back with this year’s second Winston Churchill movie, starring an unrecognizable Gary Oldman as the British leader as he takes command at the start of the Second World War. Ben Mendelsohn, Kristin Scott Thomas and Lily James co-star in a script from “The Theory Of Everything” scribe Anthony McCarten, and this could either end up bowing at Venice, as Wright’s “Atonement” did, or TIFF, like “Anna Karenina.”
If you aren’t actively anticipating Clio Barnard‘s “Dark River,” which stars Ruth Wilson as a woman returning to lay claim to her family farm after her father’s death, it can only mean you have not seen the UK director’s previous two features. Good news! There’s time to catch up. “The Arbor” is a fascinating hybrid doc and “The Selfish Giant” a wrenching coming-of-age story, and both show her astonishing facility for hard-edged, socially engaged lyricism. ‘Giant’ scored a Directors’ Fortnight slot, so Venice is a strong possibility for “Dark River” — whatever the case, we can’t wait.
“The Death Of Stalin”
We’ve been hearing for a while now that this dark comedy, which sees Armando Iannucci bring his particular “In The Loop”/“Veep” brand of political know-how to Soviet-era Russia, is terrific, and the director’s been hinting for a while that we’ll be seeing it in the fall. With a terrific all-star cast including Jeffrey Tambor, Steve Buscemi, Michael Palin, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Paddy Considine and Jason Isaacs, it’ll open in the UK in October, which makes an LFF bow a certainty: Venice, Telluride or TIFF could all be on the itinerary before that.
Chilean director Sebastian Lelio doesn’t have a lot of prior fall festival premieres — his last two terrific films “Gloria” and “A Fantastic Woman” both played in Berlin. But since ‘Woman’ was earlier this year and it looks like his Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams and Alessandro Nivola-starring “Disobedience” could already be done, there’s a chance to buck that trend. Weisz plays a woman returning to the fold of her Orthodox Jewish family after the death of her rabbi father, and either Venice or TIFF would doubtless be glad to have it, with Venice perhaps just edging out Toronto in terms of likelihood.