Summer is over, so that means that we are about to enter the season of serious films for grown-ups.
Audience and critic reaction to movies at the Telluride, Venice, and Toronto Film Festivals will be a good indication of how the autumn film season and subsequent awards campaigns will go.
Here are 21 films already been heavily talked about as serious contenders for 2015 awards.
These are the movies you’ll need to know about so you can talk bullshit about them at dinner parties in the coming months.
Johnny Depp looks terrifying (and reminds you that he can still be a great actor instead of a cartoon) as Boston gangster Whitey Bolger in what looks like it could be a great true-life crime drama in the vein of Goodfellas or Depp’s own Donnie Brasco. Co-starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, Joel Edgerton, Adam Scott.
Another true-life crime drama. Starring Tom Hardy and Tom Hardy as notorious East End gangsters the Kray twins, who were celebrities in swinging London in the 1960s. Hardy is always watchable even when he’s only in so-so films. After Mad Max: Fury Road, his star is definitely on the ascendant. Brian Helgeland directs what looks like a decent gangster pic with some right proper villains, what with all the nutting and the knives and, who knows, jellied eels, probably. Expect a surge in the popularity of Cockney rhyming slang.
I Saw the Light
Biopics of troubled artists who die young tend to do well with audiences, critics, and the Academy, so don’t be surprised if this shows up in the mix at the end of the year. The idea of consummate posh British thespian Tom Hiddlestone as country music legend Hank Williams raised eyebrows, but by all accounts he delivers on both the acting and singing fronts.
Hiddlestone again (along with Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska) in a gothic horror from Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy, Pacific Rim) that will either terrify you or leave you laughing at how crummy it is.
The latest from the twisted imagination of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich; Adaptation) is a stop-motion animated feature about a motivational speaker in existential despair, starring Jennifer Jason-Leigh and David Thewlis. Expect weirdness at a stuttering 24 frames per second.
The Scottish play gets the rough, dirty, muddy, treatment. Michael Fassbender looks as ferocious as ever as the ambitious king. Marion Cotillard will worry that damn spot out of her hands. Expect lots of blood, shouting, sound and fury. Oh, and witches.
Fassbender again, this time as Apple visionary and turtleneck aficionado Steve Jobs. The script is by Aaron Sorkin, so you know it will be talky as hell. Danny Boyle directs. I’m not sure about this one at all. Fassbender looks and sounds nothing like Jobs. Seth Rogen may surprise with his performance as Steve Wozniak (is the Woz a stoner??) With Sorkin’s involvement, this may come over as a sort of watered-down version of The Social Network.
Son of Saul (Saul Fia)
The Hungarian director László Nemes makes his debut with a Holocaust drama that many thought would win the Palme D’Or at Cannes (it didn’t) and is already tipped to take home Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars.
Matt Damon going to have to science the shit out of it, as he says in the trailer, if he’s going to survive alone on Mars. Will this Robinson Crusoe in Space story be a return to form for director Ridley Scott? God, I hope so. Also starring Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Peña and Sean Bean (maybe for once he won’t die.)
The Danish Girl
Will Eddie Redmayne win back-to-back Oscars for his portrayal of artist Lili Elbe, one of the first people to undergo gender reassignment surgery? Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) directs what looks like typical middlebrow Oscar fodder, and transgender rights are a hot topic at the moment, so this film may do very well come awards time. Rising star Alicia Vikander plays Elbe’s wife.
The Hateful Eight
Quentin Tarantino makes another western, reuniting with the likes of Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, and Kurt Russell. There has been much talk about the 70mm anamorphic lenses used in the cinematography as well as the score by Ennio Morricone. Will that be enough to get people to like the film, which will no doubt be violent, gory, blackly comic, and motherfucking verbose, but also possibly self-indulgent, meandering, and not as audacious as its once-wunderkind director thinks.
Another snowy western. Alejandro González Iñárritu’s follow-up to Birdman is a grim, bloody western revenge epic, shot in sequence and using only natural light. The production has been much-troubled (as I write this, the filmmakers are still out there somewhere looking for snow.) But based on the trailer, it looks insanely good. Please, just give Leonard Dicaprio his Oscar once and for all. Also stars the hardest-working man in movies, Tom Hardy, as well as Domhnall Gleeson. This will be the prestige drama that everyone will want to see, unless we get a repeat of The Shawshank Redemption and people get confused by the title (it means someone who comes back from the dead, but not, you know, a zombie.)
Domhnall Gleeson also appears in the Irish immigrant drama, based on Colm Toibin’s novel, along with star Saoirse Ronan (whose performance is getting serious buzz.) Set in Brooklyn, obviously, but with nary a hipster in sight.
Irish director Lenny Abrahamson follows up What Richard Did and Frank with an adaptation by Emma Donoghue’s of her own bestselling novel about a woman and her son who spent years held captive in one room by her rapist-abductor. Alison Brie, William H. Macy and Joan Allen star. Young Jacob Tremblay is already getting raves.
Beasts of No Nation
Netflix decides it’s not content with streaming content through your computer. It wants to be in the movie business. True Detective director Cary Fukunaga’s tense thriller about child soldiers in Africa stars the always-brilliant Idris Elba. Early word is that is intense, although we don’t know if it features a six-minute tracking shot.
Cate Blanchett could scoop another Oscar in Todd Haynes’s drama about married couples, infidelity, lesbianism and desire in Haynes’s best milieu: 1950s suburbia. Rooney Mara co-stars.
By the Sea
Want to see Brangelina fight? You’re in luck. Angelina Jolie writes and directs herself and her hubby Brad Pitt in a drama about a married couple on holiday. He’s a writer. They drink a lot. They argue. It looks pretty but will it actually be any good or just a nicely-shot, well-acted soap opera?
In the Heart of the Sea
A movie about manly men fighting nature, madness and each other. This was supposed to have been released in March, but was pushed back to the autumn to increase its chances with the Academy. The true story of the doomed whaling vessel the Essex (the inspiration for Melville’s Moby Dick.) Ron Howard directs the ocean-going action. It will be epic and Chris Hemsworth‘s name will probably draw crowds (although the last time Howard and Hemsworth worked together was on the underwhelming Rush.)
Denis Villeneuve looks like he’s borrowed from the Michael Mann handbook as he directs Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio del Toro in an intense-looking thriller about Mexican drug cartels. It’s shot by the great Roger Deakins (please, just give this guy an Oscar.)
Joseph-Gordon Levitt plays NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, to some a traitor, to others a hero. Oliver Stone directs in what will surely be one of the most talked-about, controversial films of the season. But will it be any good? Expect Stone’s signature unsubtle directorial tricks, paranoia and conspiracy theories.
Gordon-Levitt again, as daredevil Philippe Petit walking a tightrope between the as-yet unfinished Twin Towers in the 1970s, and the heist-like shenanigans of his crew to prepare for the illegal stunt. Robert Zemeckis directs so the technical virtuosity will be impressive. If you’re at all afraid of heights, you might want to skip this one.
All photos courtesy of Variety
And in the interests of balance, the list of upcoming films you can probably skip is here.