SO LONG SUMMER
August is almost over and now it’s time to get serious. The summer of 2016 has been filled with plenty of duds (Independence Day: Resurgence, Ben-Hur, Now You See Me 2) along with several hits (The Nice Guys, Star Trek Beyond, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Swiss Army Man). But as September rolls in, launching the unofficial start of “awards season,” everyone begins marking their calendars for the prestige releases. You know the type – those self-serious movies the studios prop up as Oscar-fodder and that all the prognosticators believe will make the most noise when it comes to dishing out awards. On the surface this list would appear no different. The five movies listed below, I believe, will have great critical (and hopefully commercial) success. Except these titles are not worthy of special mention because of studio marketing or prestige deception. My aim is to cut through the fog of awards hype and advertisement and select projects based solely on their merit. Whether it be due to the talent in front of the camera or behind it, these five movies deserve the anticipation spotlight and are not to be missed this fall.
*In order of release date
1. The Light Between Oceans – dir. Derek Cianfrance
With only two movies into his feature directorial career, Derek Cianfrance is as consistent as they come. With Blue Valentine and The Place Beyond the Pines, Cianfrance has crafted two enthralling, humanist visions of love, family, and legacy with his acting muse Ryan Gosling. With his third feature The Light Between Oceans set to release this week, a new crop of acting powerhouses have joined the fray. Real-life couple Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander (fresh off her Oscar win last year for The Danish Girl) play a coastal couple who rescue a baby girl who has washed up on their shore in post-World War I Australia. All seems well until Rachel Weisz’s character enters the picture and threatens to splinter their newly formed family. Cianfrance has always been a no-frills director, preferring to capture a scene “in the moment” and ignore his own scripts if need be in favor of improvisation and naturalism on set. It will be interesting to see what he does with a proper budget and more formal subject material. Either way I’m pumped.
U.S. Release date: September 2nd
2. American Honey – dir. Andrea Arnold
We’re all familiar with road movies. Usually breezy, lighthearted affairs with sprawling vistas and overhead shots of the countryside or Californian coast. But we haven’t seen an Andrea Arnold road movie and we DEFINITELY haven’t seen one with Shia LaBeouf. Arnold is best known to me as the writer/director of 2009’s Fish Tank (also starring Michael Fassbender). Take that same feeling of loneliness and rebellion of an East London teenager and apply it to the American Midwest and you get American Honey. AM stars newcomer actress Sasha Lane as “Star,” an on-the-loose teenager who teams up with a ragtag group of misfits armed with nothing but their ambition and reckless youth. This film looks mysterious, entertaining, and explosive. Perhaps Shia LaBeouf with a rat-tail has something to do with that.
U.S. Release date: September 30th
3. Loving – dir. Jeff Nichols
Similar to Derek Cianfrance, Jeff Nichols is a relatively young director (only four features to his name) who has quickly developed a reputation synonymous with quality. Growing up in Little Rock, Arkansas, Nichols is heralded as the embodiment of Southern Gothic cinema. His cinematic style is often compared to the literary works of Mark Twain, specifically the way his images capture that warm, rural feeling of Southern hospitality. His movies also have big heart, a key ingredient of his recipe. Already having one movie released earlier this year that was hotly anticipated by yours truly, Nichols is poised to finally break out into the mainstream with his retelling of the story behind the landmark Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia. Joel Edgerton returns for his second Nichols collaboration coming straight from Midnight Special and of course Nichols’ own source of inspiration Michael Shannon has a supporting role. One Nichols movie in a calendar year is great but two is a real gift.
U.S. Release date: November 4th
4. Arrival – dir. Denis Villeneuve
This list may as well serve as a showcase for my favorite working directors. French-Canadian auteur Denis Villeneuve is certainly near the top of that list. With three hits released back-to-back-to-back (Prisoners, Enemy, Sicario) that very well could define any other director’s entire career, Villeneuve had carte blanche to choose any project he wanted. Never one to follow the beaten path, he chose to adapt a sci-fi short story about an alien invasion where the central protagonist is a linguist. Re-teaming with Villeneuve are Sicario faithfuls Jóhann Jóhannsson and Joe Walker to score and edit the film, respectfully. Add first time collaborator and rising cinematographer Bradford Young to the mix and you have a crack shot team behind the camera. Unsurprisingly, Villeneuve is also tapped to helm next year’s Blade Runner sequel slated for a Fall 2017 release. This really is Villeneuve’s world and we’re just living in it.
U.S. Release date: November 11th
5. Manchester by the Sea – dir. Kenneth Lonergan
Full disclosure, I’ve never seen a Kenneth Lonergan-directed film. Given that he’s only directed two (11 years apart) it’s not that shocking that I missed out on his first two features. I am however familiar with him as a screenwriter. He wrote the Harold Ramis comedy Analyze This along with its sequel Analyze That. He also worked on the script for the more promising film Gangs of New York. I hope to right my initial wrong this November when his third feature film Manchester by the Sea finally sees the light of the cinema dark in a limited theatrical run. Critically beloved at Sundance earlier this year, Manchester… was purchased by Amazon Studios for an impressive $10 million. A charming script paired with an ensemble cast spearheaded by the vastly underrated Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, and Kyle Chandler…I’d say money well spent.
U.S. Release date: November 18th
“Operation Avalanche,” September 16th
“The Birth of a Nation,” October 7th
“Nocturnal Animals,” November 18th
Share what movies you’re most excited for in the comments below.