The last three months of 2017 are full of delights for Rogues Portal readers. The Last Jedi! Blade Runner 2049! Thor: Ragnarok! And of course, Wonder Woman and Her Less Awesome Friends! (Oh, sorry, Justice League.)
However, we all need momentary breaks from superheroic or science-fictional extravaganza. Thankfully, fall and winter have long been ear-marked as the time for studios to drop the films they most hope will bring home an Oscar or two. (Or more.) Here are ten movies hitting cinemas between October 6th and Christmas Day which should provide great nights out.
The Florida Project (10/6)
Writer-director Sean Baker’s last picture, Tangerine, was one of the best movies of 2015. This tale of transgender prostitutes and their Armenian cab driver friend that brought Los Angeles to life in a new way. Now Baker will do the same for the tourist-trap town of Kissimmee, Florida. His POV character this time is six-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Kimberly Prince), who lives at the Magic Castle Motel with her single mother. The trailer promises more the same amount of laughs, insight, and heartfelt sincerity as Tangerine. As a bonus, Willem Dafoe plays the motel manager.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (11/10)
Playwright Martin McDonagh didn’t waste time when he decided to start directing movies. His rookie effort won the Oscar for Best Short Film. His first feature, In Bruges, is now a cult classic. Now, McDonagh has crafted a story set in America’s heartland but with the black comedy and unsettling emotions of his Irish plays. Small-town sheriff Woody Harrelson can’t apprehend a murderer. The victim’s mother, Frances McDormand, erects three billboards lambasting his failure. Things, as they so often do in McDonagh’s world, escalate quickly. I anticipate a brilliant screenplay ranging from the hilarious to the tragic and stellar acting. Besides McDormand and Harrelson, the cast boasts Sam Rockwell, John Hawkes, and the always welcome Peter Dinklage.
Lady Bird (11/10)
Founded in 2012, A24 is now one of the premier film production companies in the world. In 2016, they released a one-two punch of masterpieces at the year’s end. Moonlight won the Best Picture Oscar and 20th Century Women was an overlooked gem that should have gotten more recognition. This year A24 is trying the same strategy. The first film in the punch is the semi-autobiographical, directorial debut of Women co-star Greta Gerwig. Lady Bird promises exceptional turns from Saoirse Ronan in the title role and Laurie Metcalfe as her mother. But I’m most excited for what Gerwig, an established master of depicting the lives of 21st century women, can do with full creative control.
Darkest Hour (11/22)
The early buzz on Darkest Hour was that the Best Actor Oscar was Gary Oldman’s to lose. Then the movie premiered at Telluride, and the buzz changed. Now the entire picture, about Winston Churchill’s early days as Prime Minister, is being hailed as great. In a year when critics already had a sumptuous World War II film to chew on in Dunkirk, that’s saying something. Give credit to a top-flight cast—Oldman, Ben Mendelsohn, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Lily James—and Joe Wright in the director’s chair. Apparently, this is the Wright who gave us Pride and Prejudice and Atonement, not the one who served up the dreadful Pan.
Molly’s Game (11/22)
Screenwriting icon Aaron Sorkin has never directed a movie. Jessica Chastain, one of the best actresses alive, has never won an Academy Award. On November 22, Sorkin’s first film behind the camera premieres, and it might garner Chastain a little gold man. Chastain is known primarily for her serious turns in fare such as Zero Dark Thirty. Now, she gets to mix her dramatic presence with a bit of thrill and a bit of fun. Her titular heroine, Molly Bloom, ran one of the largest illegal poker empires in history. The fast-paced crime drama is a perfect vehicle for Sorkin’s inimitable style, and he gives Chastain a terrific leading man to play off by casting Idris Elba as Molly’s devoted attorney.
The Shape of Water (12/8)
Guillermo Del Toro’s name alone conjures up a sense of magic. His newest movie adds a wondrous touch of sci-fi to the prestige of awards season. It’s also his first real love story, but it’s romance with a twist. The central couple is mute cleaning lady Sally Hawkins and a half-man, half-fish reminiscent of Abe Sapien. (Sapien himself, Doug Jones, plays the part.) Del Toro sets the action in 1962 amidst the Cold War. Michael Shannon represents the imperious establishment in contrast to the central duo’s tenderness. It’s a panorama only one with Del Toro’s imagination could create, and there may be no more unusual movie this year.
All the Money in the World (12/8)
Speaking of genre films, Sir Ridley Scott gave us Alien: Covenant in May. But for him, only one film in 2017 wasn’t enough. Scott’s always at his most fascinating when he makes realistic stories–consider Thelma and Louise and Black Hawk Down. Now he offers a portrait of J. Paul Getty, one of the richest men who ever lived, and Getty’s troubled family, centered around the 1973 kidnapping of his grandson. The thriller is filled with actors Scott has never worked with before. Notably, the cast boasts Michelle Williams, Mark Wahlberg, and in an undoubtedly grandiose performance, Kevin Spacey as Getty.
The Disaster Artist (12/8)
The second part of A24’s one-two punch this year is a most unexpected film. This ambitious comedy focuses on Tommy Wiseau and the most famously bad movie of our time, The Room. Such subject matter is far from mainstream. However, positive reviews and A24’s decision to give it a major Christmas release suggest there’s more to the movie than laughs and inside jokes. James Franco directs, plays Wiseau, and brought together an incredible cast. Viewers will recognize dozens of comics from stand-up stages, podcasts, and television.
The Post (12/22)
May we all have Steven Spielberg’s energy at age seventy. Somehow, during the extensive production of Ready Player One, he also directed this fascinating historical drama. The titular Post is the Washington Post, and Spielberg focuses on 1971. That year, editor-in-chief Ben Bradlee and publisher Katharine Graham fought to publish the truth about the Vietnam War. This became a prelude to their uncovering the Watergate scandal. For the dramatization, Spielberg has assembled one of the greatest acting lineups of his career. Tom Hanks is Bradlee. Meryl Streep is Graham. And to support them… well, let’s just say Spielberg fell in love with the Second Golden Age of Television. He cast as many actors from it in this movie as possible. Hence we have Alison Brie, Sarah Paulson, Carrie Coon, Tracy Letts, Jesse Plemons, Matthew Rhys, Bob Odenkirk AND David Cross together again, and even more.
Phantom Thread (12/25)
The final film on the list concerns itself with fashion designer Charles James, whose haute couture was renowned in New York and London in the 1950s. Annapurna Pictures has kept production under the tightest secrecy, but it makes this list because of the two men at its center. Those men are writer-director-cinematographer Paul Thomas Anderson and stars, Daniel Day-Lewis. Dat-Lewis has hinted that Charles James might be his final role. Given both their careers, one has to imagine we’re in for something special.