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Poor Things Trailer.jpg

The Most Anticipated Films of the 2023 Fall Festival Season

By Kayleigh Donaldson | Film | August 20, 2023 |

By Kayleigh Donaldson | Film | August 20, 2023 |

Poor Things Trailer.jpg

The Summer blockbuster season is coming to a close, and the fall is ready to take over with the madness of the festival rollout. The next few months will see a lot of conversations with the word ‘Oscar’ front and centre taking place. The fall festivals are where studios hope to build up sufficient hype to inspire awards talk. Sometimes it works, and other times they crash and burn and leave behind a beautiful corpse for This Had Oscar Buzz to do the autopsy.

The season primarily focuses on five festivals: Venice, Telluride, Toronto, New York, and London. The first one seems to have attracted the lion’s share of most anticipated works, but tis the season where nobody really knows anything. Still, there’s a lot to look forward to, so here are ten films of the festival rollout I am especially eager to see.

Poor Things (Venice)

Alasdair Gray is one of the most important authors in Scotland. His books are baroque, satirical, grand in scope, occasionally deeply filthy, and extremely Scottish (specifically Glaswegian.) Gray’s work is never adapted, so the notion of Yorgos Lanthimos, the king of Greek dry weirdness, tackling Poor Things almost feels too good to be true. This riff on Frankenstein follows a not-at-all mad scientist (Willem Dafoe), who saves the life of his daughter Bella (Emma Stone) by transplanting her unborn fetus’ brain into her skull. Now, she’s a new woman growing up at an accelerated rate with no concept of shame, patriarchy, or a Victorian lady’s expected decorum. The trailer is as visually splendid as Gray’s illustrations, and this is the exact kind of material that the director of Dogtooth should be handling. I am, however, concerned that the film won’t be as wildly Scottish as the book, and Gray’s enduring concerns about national identity are a key part of the novel that shouldn’t be omitted. Prove me wrong, Yorgos! At least Dafoe is kind of attempting a Scottish accent.

Next Goal Wins (Toronto)

The last time Taika Waititi brought a film to TIFF for its world premiere, it was Jojo Rabbit, and he walked away with the coveted Audience Award. An Oscar later, he’s back with the long-delayed football comedy Next Goal Wins. Based on the documentary of the same name, the story follows the American Samoan national football team, who have never scored a goal against their opponents, let alone won a game. More likely to lose 36-0 than be victorious, they enlist a Dutch manager (played by Michael Fassbender) to whip them into shape. This is the sort of film we want from Waititi: small-scale, comedic but with room for tears, an ensemble piece that puts indigenous and Pacific Islander actors to the forefront, and not a speck of CGI greenscreen in sight. Disney/Searchlight has pushed this movie’s release date back too many times, but that seems to have more to do with studio politics than Waititi’s work. Here’s hoping it’s more Hunt for the Wilderpeople than Thor: Love and Thunder.

Priscilla (Venice/New York)

Yes, we just had an Elvis Presley biopic quite recently, but Sofia Coppola still has a few things to add to the story. For all of the joys of Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis, it barely featured the woman who was front and centre in his life for decades and helped to define his legacy to the present day. If anyone is properly equipped to tell the story of a teenager thrust into the isolating world of privilege and fame, it’s Coppola. Taking inspiration from Priscilla’s own memories, she has Cailee Spaeny in the title role and Jacob Elordi as the hip-swinging spouse. Expect impeccable costuming, very large hair, and aching melancholy over the lost innocence of womanhood.

Ferrari (Venice/New York)

Michael Mann commands intense devotion from his fans (just check out the Twitter cult for his version of Miami Vice.) While many of his more recent works have disappointed commercially, his supporters have ensured that they’ll always be reappraised (and that’s before Mann himself starts with his cycle of director’s cuts.) His first film in eight years, tackles the might of Enzo Ferrari, ex-Formula 1 racer turned legendary car manufacturer. This is a director who loves stories of obsessive men and any chance to demonstrate his meticulous eye for detail. Adam Driver is in the title role, with Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman having been previously attached, and his co-stars include Penelope Cruz, Shailene Woodley, and Sarah Gadon.

The Boy and the Heron (Toronto)

Hayao Miyazaki is a legend whose importance to the realm of animation cannot be overstated. He’s so powerful a figure in Japanese cinema that he was able to release his latest film, The Boy and the Heron in cinemas there with no trailers, no promotion, not even a synopsis, and make it a box office smash. Critics are eager to recreate the experience at its TIFF premiere and are studiously avoiding any spoilers that may be floating around the internet. This also makes the movie an unexpectedly perfect choice for a strike-era film festival. Why worry about getting big stars on the red carpet when the sheer mystery of the film itself is the star?

Origin (Venice)

Ava DuVernay has been building her media empire for a long time now, delving into TV and documentaries with much success, but she hasn’t made a feature film since A Wrinkle in Time. Her return to the big screen is certainly ambitious, adapting the non-fiction book Caste by Isabel Wilkerson. It’s not exactly a traditional narrative, with the book following Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Wilkerson as she examines racism in the U.S. through the lens of a caste system. DuVernay’s take seems to be to turn this concept into an ensemble drama, with the likes of Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor, Jon Bernthal, Nick Offerman, and Niecy Nash-Betts among its cast. While not as mysterious as The Boy and the Heron, Origin is certainly an enigmatic prospect.

The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial (Venice)

The recent passing of William Friedkin is a major loss for American cinema. He would have turned 88 this month, and just in time for the premiere of what will now be his final film. The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Herman Wouk, which he then turned into a multi-award-winning play, followed by a number of film and TV adaptations. This new take, with Jason Clarke as the lieutenant on trial for mutiny against his commanding officer, will reportedly be faithful to the play, although it is rumoured that the setting will be updated to the Gulf War. The movie will also be the final work of the late great Lance Reddick, who passed away earlier this year.

Poolman (Toronto)

Hey, Chris Pine has directed a movie! The Best Chris is now getting behind the camera with a noir comedy inspired by Chinatown where he’s also in the lead role. We love a multi-talented Chris. Poolman He plays a Dude-esque pool cleaner in L.A. who gets caught up in a water heist. So, yeah, very Chinatown. Will it satirize that set-up or play it straight? Pine is a good fit for both crime dramas and weird character actor stuff, so this seems like a chance for him to make something that plays to his strengths. His able co-stars include Annette Bening, Danny DeVito, and Ariana DeBose.

Rustin (Toronto)

Awards season means a lot of biopics, and there are a ton coming out over the past few months. We could probably fill out this list a few times over through biopics, but we’re sticking to a couple because it’d get boring. Rustin catches our eye for a couple of reasons. One, it’s focused on Bayard Rustin, the gay civil rights campaigner who helped to organize the 1963 March on Washington, and it’s near-unheard of for Black queer men to be front and centre in this genre. Second, it’s actually made by queer people, like director George C. Wolfe, screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, and producer Bruce Cohen. Third, the title role is being played by the brilliant Colman Domingo, one of the most striking and charismatic actors working today (did you see him in Zola?) He’s long deserved a meaty leading role so it’s going to be something special to see him with a part he can sink his teeth into that’s also guaranteed to get some decent attention from the industry. Oh, and it’s executive-produced by the Obamas as well.

Saltburn (London)

If you loved Promising Young Woman and didn’t feel like you got enough Emerald Fennell from Barbie (justice for Midge), never fear because Saltburn is just around the corner. Fennell is clearly inspired by Patricia Highsmith with her latest, a drama about a college student who develops an infatuation with a charismatic classmate who invites him to hang out with his aristocratic family over the Summer. Hello, baby Tom Ripley. The student is Barry Keoghan, his classmate Jacob Elordi (who’s having a hell of a year), and the case includes Rosamund Pike, Richard E. Grant, and Carey Mulligan. Sounds juicy.