Finally. Serious moviegoers can breathe a sigh of relief, now that Labor Day has come and gone, and the last of the summer blockbusters has offered its death rattle.
By Noah Gittell
Finally. Serious moviegoers can breathe a sigh of relief, now that Labor Day has come and gone, and the last of the summer blockbusters has offered its death rattle. It was a particularly weak crop this year, with sequels to franchises like “Transformers” and “The Amazing Spider-Man” showing that even our most beloved heroes can wear out their welcome. It is a good thing that awards season is here, when the studios trot out their best, most prestigious picture of the year. Here are nine of the most intriguing titles in cinemas this fall.
1> “Gone Girl” – (October 3)
Based on the best-selling novel by Gillian Flynn, “Gone Girl” stars Ben Affleck as a man who becomes a prime suspect in his wife’s (Rosamund Pike) disappearance. The opening night selection for the upcoming New York Film festival, “Gone Girl” is being positioned as an Oscar contender, and it is easy to see where the buzz is coming from. Affleck is a hot property right now due to 2012’s “Argo” and his upcoming appearance as a certain caped crusader, but director David Fincher seems like a particularly good fit as a filmmaker who specializes in uncovering mysteries (“The Social Network,” “Zodiac”).
2> “Birdman” – (October 17)
Speaking of inspired choices, Michael Keaton seems perfectly cast in Alejandro Gonzalez Innarritu’s (“21 Grams,” “Babel”) fantasy drama about a down-on-his-luck actor once famous for playing a superhero trying to mount a comeback. No one has seen much of Keaton since he played Batman in two films in the 1990s, making “Birdman” a perfectly-positioned meta comment on art imitating life.
3> “Nightcrawler” – (October 31)
There are few movie stars who take risks like Jake Gyllenhaal. Instead of attaching himself to a big-budget superhero franchise, he explores the dark sides of mankind in indies like last year’s “Prisoners” and this year’s doppelganger thriller “Enemy.” “Nightcrawler” looks like another winning entry in his dark oeuvre. Gyllenhaal stars as a freelance crime journalist who roams the streets of Los Angeles at night, looking for carnage to document.
4> “Rosewater” – (November 7)
Fans of “The Daily Show” were shocked when host Jon Stewart took last summer off to direct a movie, especially since Stewart regularly mocks his short-lived career acting in movies. But the early buzz is good on “Rosewater,” about a London-based journalist (Gael Garcia Bernal) who is detained in Iran after a controversial interview. Stewart has been typically self-deprecating about his directorial skills in interviews, but the movie is serious and, if early screenings are any indication, important.
5> “Foxcatcher” – (November 14)
When it comes down to Best Picture on Oscar night next February, “Foxcatcher” may be the one to beat. Directed by Bennett Miller (“Capote,” “Moneyball”) and starring Steve Carell in a dramatic role, “Foxcatcher” tells the true story of John Dupont, an American philanthropist who murdered an Olympic wrestling champion.
6> “The Imitation Game” – (November 21)
Devotees of Benedict Cumberbatch (BBC’s “Sherlock) will be glad to see their favorite star finally get this kind of meaty role. Cumberbatch plays Alan Turning, the British mathematician who cracked Nazi Germany’s code that played a key role in winning WWII.
7> “Wild” – (December 5)
Last year, Jean-Marc Vallée directed Matthew McConaughey to an Oscar and a career resurgence in “Dallas Buyers Club.” Reese Witherspoon is hoping he can do the same for her in “Wild,” which tells the story of Cheryl Strayed, a drug addict who leaves behind her marriage to hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail on her own.
8> “Inherent Vice” – (December 12)
Director Paul Thomas Anderson has never made a bad film, so he’s got that going for him. From “Boogie Nights” to “There Will Be Blood” to “The Master,” Anderson has made a career of exploring vital periods in American history. In his latest, based on a novel by Thomas Pynchon, Joaquin Phoenix plays a hard-boiled private eye exploring the seedy underbelly of the counter-culture in 1970 Los Angeles.
9> “Unbroken” – (December 25)
You may have already heard that Angelina Jolie recently got hitched, but did you know she directs movies, too? Her 2011 war drama, “In the Land of Blood and Honey,” went mostly unnoticed, but that won’t happen with “Unbroken,” which chronicles the life of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who lived for three years in a Japanes POW camp during World War II. Lead actor Jack O’Connell is a star in the making, and the studio thinks highly of the film with its Christmas Day release.