It’s now the second Friday in October which means…we’re now in Oscar season – my favorite non-fantasy football related time of the year.
In celebration of this important time of the year and with apologies to “Office Christmas Party” (in theaters December 9!), I’ve selected the ten movies I’m most excited to see before the calendar turns over.
No. 10: “Inferno” – Oct. 28*
Wait, where are you going? Come back. I promise we’ll get to some films with better Oscar-odds. But for now come with me as we explore the greatest cover-up in human history! Wait, no, that’s not right. This is the Dan Brown adaptation that no one asked for, but that Tom Hanks was contractually obligated to film. On location in Italy!
Here’s the thing. I know critics are going to hate this film. And no actor, not even Tom Hanks, is review-proof. But historical-mystery is my absolute jam. “National Treasure” remains truly indispensable. So does “The DaVinci Code,” if we’re being honest with ourselves. The sequels to these films didn’t quite provide the same sense of adventure as their originals, but the ride was still fun. I think “Inferno” will be as well.
No. 9: “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” – Nov. 18
We’ve both written and podcasted about the Harry Potter universe on this site, so this film was always going to make the list. But I’m worried.
Like “Cursed Child,” “Fantastic Beasts” is a non-cannon work. Its source text is essentially a text book, meaning everything about this film (besides character names, likely) will have been made up for the film. Now, J.K. Rowling is credited with the screenplay – a good sign for people who would eye roll Ministry-confiscated time turners – and Eddie Redmayne has hit on a lot of his recent work, but this film acts as an unrelated story in the same world we’ve grown to love…as large as the Star Wars (film) universe has gotten, it hasn’t yet broken from the main storyline. Color me cautious.
No. 8: “Allied” – Nov. 23
A Robert Zemeckis joint, “Allied” looks like a sexy thriller set during WWII in the obviously sexy places of Africa and Europe.
Brad Pitt seems to love war, at least of late. In 2014, he starred in “Fury;” 2016 he’s got “Allied;” and in 2017 he’s in post-production on a film called “War Machine.” Dude loves the past. “Allied” looks less like a fighting/ action flick, and more like a love story, set against the backdrop of war. Damn, that sounds like “Casablanca.” Maybe I should move this higher?
No. 7: “Dr. Strange” – Nov. 4
Will wrote about this film in one of his trailer reviews, but I’m way more pro-Marvel than he is. Whereas he’s surprised by how good this looks, I knew.
“Dr. Strange” is the latest Marvel joint (the 14th in what’s known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe), in which surgeon Stephen Strange learns mysticism after a career-ending car accident. The marketing makes this one look like a trip, stuffed with heady ideas and awe-inspiring graphics. For those playing the infinity stone game at home, “Dr. Strange” promises to introduce more to the collection. I’m ready.
No. 6: “Manchester By The Sea” – Nov. 18
The good word out of the Sundance Film Festival was that this film has no equal in 2016. Maybe that’s true. I’ll see it either way. But for me, seeing the marketing, watching the trailer, and reading a quick synopsis of the plot I’m prepared for this to drain me emotionally.
And sure you’d want that out of a film. There are just a few others that I’m more excited to spend two hours of my life watching in a dark room.
No. 5: “Birth of a Nation” – Oct. 7
Everything that I’ve said about “Manchester By The Sea” holds true for this film, a Sundance darling that has lost a ton of critical momentum these past few months. “Birth” looks intellectual and didactic in ways that are important in 2016 America.
But it also looks exciting where “Manchester” seems understated. Violent more than emotional. It’s already in theaters as I’m writing this, but hey it’s my list and I can do what I want.
No. 4: “The Founder” – Dec. 16
A biopic chronicling the rise of Ray Kroc? Count me in seven days a week and on national holidays. Michael Keaton stars as Mr. Kroc and John Lee Hancock (“Saving Mr. Banks”) directs. Laura Dern, Nick Offerman, Patrick Wilson, B.J. Novak? Linda Cardellini? Just let me watch this now. We don’t need to waste two months to find future-Best Picture favorite. I’m calling it now.
No. 3: “Passengers” Dec. 21
The trailer for “Passengers” looks dope. I agree with Will on this. Watching it, you get a little bit of a Stanley Kubrick-vibe. A mix of “The Shinning” and “2001.”
Directed by Morten Tyldum, and starring famous people Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, one gets the sense that this will be a large sci-fi production with a little more character depth and nuance than maybe other genre films have allowed themselves in the past. With this at No. 3 and another at No. 1, the fall of 2016 will be the place for sci-fi lovers to hang out. Oh, and “Rogue One” didn’t even make this list.
No. 2: “Fences” – Dec. 16
I read the play in college for a class I was taking – this was not far removed from Denzel’s 2010 Broadway work. It’s a powerful story. One of my favorite plays we read that semester, and Denzel Washington was born to play Troy Maxson. It’s perfect.
It will be interesting to see how far the film strays from the play – obviously you can do a little more onscreen than you can on stage – and the marketing hasn’t let much of the plot slide out. Stay tuned for a future podcast episode, perhaps?
No. 1: “Arrival” – Nov. 11
On paper, this is a knockout. Denis Villeneuve, the director, made my favorite film last year, “Sicario.” The film is based on the novella “Story of Your Life,” by America’s greatest living science-fiction writer Ted Chiang (argue with me, please).
Chaing’s work was the winner of the 2000 Nebula Award for Best Novella as well as numerous other honors, and provides Villeneuve an interesting entre considering his status as the director of “Blade Runner 2049.” Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner star within a story that demands as little knowledge going in as possible – hence my lack of synopsis. Suffice it to say: extraterrestrials, life, death, and language loom large.
*All release dates current as of October 7.