Sunday, May 28, 2023

Preview: This year, Oktoberfest adds a new art form; the movies

It’s easy to consider the summer as being the general year’s “stacked” movie season, but if you’re one of those people who think this is the case, hate to break it to you but you’re wrong. If anything, autumn is where things get dangerously crowded, especially for us that want to go out and see everything (where’s the time?!). Now that is officially October, Hollywood has no choice but to play with solstice rules; the fall movie season is officially upon us.

And get ready folks, because the October-2017 roster is a doozy. The competition will be fierce and bountiful, some will gain the necessary momentum while others will fade into obscurity, leaving the playing field with only their memories of losing the October game, quoting On the Waterfront’s Terry Mallory (“I coulda been a contender.”). So who contends and who loses? Because the month’s releases are so diverse this year, we’ll need to split this between Wide Releases, Limited Releases, and perhaps even some notable Documentaries.


Wide Releases

Let’s face it, there’s really only one. Ridley Scott and modern auteur Denis Villeneuve have joined forces to deliver the “sequel” to Scott’s 1982 masterpiece in Blade Runner 2049. Starring a returning Harrison Ford alongside Ryan Gosling, Jared Leto, Robin Wright, Dave Bustista, Mackenzie Davis, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Barkhad Abdi, Lennie James (I’m out of breath already), early buzz suggests a major win for the science fiction genre; in fact, by the time you’re reading this, you’ve probably already seen the film. Major excitement is due to Ridley Scott finally stepping away from the director’s chair for one of his resurrected franchises (sorry Prometheus and Alien: Covenant fans), but also to see if Roger Deakins will finally win an Oscar after 13 nominations. If Blade Runner just isn’t your thing, be on the lookout for Jackie Chan in the action thriller The Foreigner as well as Chadwick Boseman in the historical legal drama Marshall, both of which (may) have potential.

As October progresses, so does the cold weather; that may or may not have been a terrible segue to talk about The Snowman. Directed by Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) and starring Michael Fassbender and Rebecca Ferguson, the film certainly looks like a cold (tehe) thriller, but one that looks immaculately crafted and frightening, evoking the best of Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs; perhaps even a film that could rival that great one. It certainly beats holding out hope for the return of the Jigsaw killer in Jigsaw, am I right? But if you are actually looking forward to the return of the Saw franchise, well, good for you, you get your wish; we just won’t endure the pain with you, even if you chain our legs to the theatre seats.

Rounding out the month’s noteworthy wide releases includes the quirky George Clooney directed outlet Suburbicon, starring Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, and Oscar Isaac. Already seeing a very mixed response after premiering at TIFF (surprising given its appeal earlier in Venice), there’s a lingering curiosity to see Clooney take on material co-written by the Coen brothers themselves; will it be a unique experience or simply just Coen-lite? Well, if this bloody excursion doesn’t work out, there’s also the return of S. Craig Zahler (Bone Tomahawk) with his new film Brawl in Cell Block 99, expecting a potential wide release this month as well. Starring Vince Vaughn, be sure to expect some shock and awe.


Limited Releases

And this is where things get even more competitive; the wide releases were just playing AAA ball, now the professionals are coming in. One of the first to look out for has already seen incredible acclaim among the festival circuit, and that’s The Florida Project. Directed by Sean Baker (the underseen Tangerine) and co-starring Willem Dafoe, this could be THE film of the year depicting childhood innocence; taking place at a rundown motel just outside of Disney World, how do you get more innocent than that? A few other potential Oscar hopefuls arrive in the following weeks, all biographical stories too; the directorial debut from Andy Serkis in Breathe, starring Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy about Robin and Diana Cavendish; Goodbye Christopher Robin, starring Domnhall Gleeson and Margot Robbie about A.A. Milne’s creation of Winnie the Pooh; and Victoria & Abdul, starring Judi Dench as Queen Victoria, which technically had its limited release last month already. However, all three of these true stories have earned very mixed initial responses, so time will tell if they’ll earn any biographical credence or end up like another Unbroken or Theory of Everything (ugh).

Even more exciting, many competitors from last May’s Festival de Cannes are getting their limited distributions in the U.S this month. And believe me, many of these you don’t want to miss out on, such as The Killing of a Sacred Deer, the latest “horror” film from A24 and Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster and Dogtooth) and starring Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman, which also won the screenplay award at Cannes. There’s also Wonderstruck, the next in a string of acclaimed directors tackling family films, this one being Todd Haynes (Carol and Far from Heaven), also starring Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams, and Oakes Fegley; The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), the latest from Noah Baumbach (Mistress America and The Squid and the Whale, among others) and starring Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, and Adam Sandler (who is apparently getting a lot of acclaim for his performance here); and then there’s The Square, the ridiculous satire directed by Ruben Ostlund (Force Majeure, a film you should definitely see), which also won the Palme d’Or this year, and that’s enough of a reason to seek this one out.



We can never discredit documentaries, especially if some of the month’s biopics fail to deliver any authenticity (and I wouldn’t be surprised if they do fail). But if anything, be on the lookout for Faces Places, from director Agnes Varda and photographer JR, about their simple journey through rural France. If the name Agnes Varda means nothing to you, that’s a problem; as one of the defining voices in the French New Wave, put her on her radar, especially if Faces Places turns out to be her last film (at least we still have Cleo from 5 to 7). A few others to get excited about are Jane, about Jane Goodall directed by Brett Morgen; 78/52, about the infamous shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho; Dina, about a suburban Walmart greeter; and Human Flow, about the global refugee crisis.


When all’s said and done, don’t just drink beer and listen to folk music this Oktoberfest, also go to the movies; be moved, be wowed, be (hopefully not) disappointed. All good art celebrates and embraces new tastes aside from a good lager, new perspectives, as well as the fall of newly colored autumn leaves. This October, the movies hope to do just that.

Summary of films to look out for this month: Blade Runner 2049, Brawl in Cell Block 99, Breathe, Dina, Faces Places, The Foreigner, The Florida Project, Goodbye Christopher Robin, Human Flow, Jane, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Marshall, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), The Snowman, The Square, Suburicon, Victoria & Abdul, Wonderstruck, 78/52

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