As the summer ends and we begin shifting toward Autumn, we also change movie seasons. Gone are the glossy superhero blockbusters that ruled the hottest months. In their place will come art films, Oscar bait, and more than a few crime thrillers. There are still a few event films left. The next Hunger Games arrives November 21, and I’m sure it will dominate at the box office. It just barely misses my top 10, but this mix of films big and small captures my interest just that much more:
Nov. 14. While Jon Stewart’s directorial debut Rosewater is the movie that’s gotten all the press, fellow Daily Show alum Steve Carell is the one more likely to get an Oscar nomination. He portrays John du Pont, an unstable millionaire who invested considerable resources into America’s olympic wrestling program, only to kill his friend, olympic wrestler Dave Schultz (Channing Tatum). Director Bennett Miller (Moneyball, Capote) is known for getting singular performances out of his leads.
9. Men, Women & Children
Oct. 1. Director Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the Air) is known for using his comedic eye to plumb the dramatic depths of everyday life. His latest centers on the role technology plays in our modern romantic lives. Like Carell above, Adam Sandler has hinted at a dramatic core – most notably in Punch Drunk Love – that’s rarely been tested. Jennifer Garner is one of the most underutilized actresses of her generation.
8. Inherent Vice
Dec. 12. P.T. Anderson directed There Will Be Blood, arguably the greatest American film since the turn of the millennium. With Josh Brolin, Jena Malone, Joaquin Phoenix, Owen Wilson, and Reese Witherspoon, Inherent Vice has the pedigree of a captivating, off-beat mystery. This really should be higher, but the sheer lack of information about it makes it difficult to form any expectations.
7. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Dec. 17. Who hasn’t wanted to see Peter Jackson’s treatment of J.R.R. Tolkien’s defining moment – the battle between human, elf, dwarf, giant eagle, and goblin? There’s also that pesky dragon, the One Ring, and an evil necromancer left to deal with. If any movie has ever guaranteed three straight hours of high-fantasy swordplay and magic battles, this is the one.
6. The Guest
Unscheduled. You’re Next was one of the hidden gems of 2013, a smart horror movie that was intensely frightening and profoundly funny at the same time. Director Adam Wingard’s The Guest follows a young man who claims to be the friend of a family’s dead son. He moves in to “protect” them and takes the duty much too far. Wingard puts complex psychological storytelling into his horror movies, evoking humor and empathy. Being scared is so much more fun when it’s not the only emotion you’re feeling.
Oct. 17. Ever since I watched Clint Eastwood command his tank crew deep into German territory in Kelly’s Heroes, I’ve had a fond fascination for tank warfare in movies. It’s not tackled often, which is why the Brad Pitt vehicle looks so captivating. The tale of one surviving tank crew left to hold off a full company of German soldiers echoes the brilliant Sahara, and what they’ve shown of the tank warfare thus far looks frighteningly realistic.
4. Exodus: Gods and Kings
Dec. 12. If anyone can tackle the epic of Moses, it’s director Ridley Scott. Christian Bale remains an odd choice to play Moses, and trailers make this look like a fantasy-hued reboot of Gladiator. That’s a lot of flavors to chuck in one pot, and Scott’s storytelling can sometimes suffer at the hands of his art. I have hope, but even if it’s a disaster, it’s going to be one of the most fascinating disasters in movie history.
Oct. 31. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a freelance reporter who, in the name of ratings, dresses up the crimes he reports to make them appear more fantastic. In an age of networks reporting narratives instead of news, it’s a metaphor that hits close to home for all. At some point, we’ll have to recognize Gyllenhaal in the pantheon of great American actors. This role looks to get him one step closer.
2. Gone Girl
Oct. 3. Arguably the most important director since Alfred Hitchcock, no filmmaker has changed film in the last 25 years as much as David Fincher. From Madonna music videos to Fight Club and The Social Network, he’s consistently re-invented both himself and the technology and storytelling of film. Gone Girl investigates a husband (Ben Affleck) whose wife has gone missing. We’re left to figure out whether he’s guilty of her disappearance or not.
Nov. 7. The Dark Knight. Inception. Memento. Director Christopher Nolan needs no introduction. His tale of humanity reaching out to the stars as the Earth dies looks inspirational, chilling, thought-provoking. It sparks of Golden Era science-fiction, when ideas were bigger than the people who thought them. When a two-minute trailer can completely command your emotions and attention, you know you’re in for something truly special.