AT THE MOVIES
Fall Film Preview: The Safe Bet Is on Streaming
By Noah Gittell
It’s time for a weird fall movie preview. If you look at the official release schedule, it still says blockbuster films like “Wonder Woman 1984”, Spielberg’s remake of “West Side Story”, and “No Time to Die”, the new James Bond flick, are coming to theaters before the end of the year. I’m skeptical. Theaters may be open now, but if the reopening of schools triggers another spike in Covid-19 cases, the entire fall theatrical season could be canceled. I hope it isn’t. But when it comes to writing a fall preview, I’m sticking to those films you’re most likely to be able to see.
“Cuties” (September 9 – Netflix)
Terrible marketing. Pretty good movie. Last month, Netflix got scalded when they released promotional materials for this coming-of-age story about a pre-teen Muslim immigrant in Paris featuring the lead character and her friends scantily clad in hip-hop attire. The streaming giant was rightly accused of sexualizing young girls, but the film, which is about that sexualization but hardly endorses it, deserves better.
It’s a thoughtful and provocative story that tackles a difficult subject and ends up taking its young women far more seriously than most films do.
“The Devil All the Time” (September 16 – Netflix)
This prestige film sports a cast that includes seemingly every Hollywood up-and-comer. There’s Robert Pattinson, the next Batman; Tom Holland, the current Spider-Man; and Bill Skarsgård, the clown from “It”, plus a full roster of indie stalwarts such as Riley Keough (“Logan Lucky”), Haley Bennett (“Swallow”), Sebastian Stan (“I, Tonya”), and Mia Wasikowska (“Stoker”).
The film is a mystery set in postwar Alabama. With that cast, I don’t care what it’s about. I’m in.
“Kajillionaire” (September 18 – Select Theaters)
This is the third film from author, artist, and filmmaker Miranda July, following “Me and You and Everyone We Know” and “The Future”. Some find her directing style a bit too precious, but she’s a unique talent with artistic vision, and her latest — about a family of con artists played by Richard Jenkins, Debra Winger, and Evan Rachel Wood — is rumored to be more conventional than her previous work. Even if this one doesn’t make it to a theater near you, I imagine it’ll be available to stream before too long.
“Misbehaviour” (September 25 – Select Theaters and On Demand)
In 1970, feminist activists disrupted the Miss World competition during a live broadcast to draw attention to the show’s objectification of women. The end result was a victory for Miss Granada, the first Black contestant to wear the crown. It’s a cool story that seems well-suited to our era, and it’s got Greg Kinnear playing Bob Hope, that year’s host of the contest. That’s enough.
“Dick Johnson Is Dead” (October 2 – Netflix)
Kirsten Johnson, the documentarian behind 2016’s excellent “Cameraperson”, which formed an autobiographical video collage out of unused footage from a cinematographer’s prior projects, is back with another groundbreaking work. “Dick Johnson is Dead” follows Johnson and her father, who is suffering from dementia, as they act out together various ways that he could die. It could be cloying or downright distasteful, but the early word is that it totally works.
“Rebecca” (October 21 – Netflix)
Remake Hitchcock? Talk about artistic courage. “Rebecca,” Hitch’s 1940 masterpiece about a woman who married a handsome aristocrat but is burdened by the memory of his deceased first wife, was hardly begging for a remake, which makes me even more curious to see what British director Ben Wheatley has in store.
Wheatley is known for his elevated B-movies like “High-Rise” and “Free Fire”, and while it’s unclear what his take on this classic Gothic romance will be, he at least got the cast right: He’s got Armie Hammer as the rich, distant widower and Lily James in the title role.
“Nomadland” (December 5 – Select Theaters)
I’m taking a chance on this one. “Nomadland,” the third feature from Chloe Zhao, is scheduled to close the New York Film Festival this year, and, no matter what happens with Covid-19, the distributors will find a way to follow through on the Oscar campaign, which necessitates getting it in front of audiences. Zhao is an exciting filmmaker. Her last movie, “The Rider”, wowed critics with its minimalist character study of a rodeo rider on a South Dakota reservation; her next film is Marvel’s “The Eternals.”
“Nomadland”, which stars Frances McDormand as a woman who travels the country without a home in the years after the 2008 recession, could be the last time we see Zhao working outside the superhero genre for a while. See it while you can.