Sorry everyone, but it’s official: We are now in Oscar season. Just when you thought the blockbuster dominated Summer was exhausting enough, with its constant bickering over expanded universes and failed franchise starters, now we’re about to dive head-first into the needlessly complicated process of awards campaigning. Prepare for the arse-kissing, the sycophantic round-table discussions, the dodgy tactics, the desperate attempts of would-be candidates to whitewash their questionable behaviour, and of course, all the Harvey Weinstein. The good news is that, amidst this chaos, we’ll also get a few good movies to actually enjoy. At least, that’s the theory. Anything could happen because, as William Goldman famously said, nobody knows anything.
With the Fall Festival season about to kick off in Venice and Toronto, there’s much to look forward to, so here are five of my most anticipated movies of the year. This is in no way a comprehensive list, nor does it include everything I’m excited for (including Thor: Ragnarok, Call Me By Your Name, The Papers, and Mudbound). I’m also not counting festival releases from earlier in the year that do not have a release date (in which case, You Were Never Really Here would easily be number one), or films I want to see solely for the trainwreck potential (hi, Mary Magdalene). Please share your most anticipated films in the comments!
Guillermo del Toro is the cinematic embodiment of “Shut up and take my money”. Whatever he does, you can be sure my wallet will be flung across the kiosk in preparation to accept his genius. While Crimson Peak was unforgivably overlooked by the general public despite being a stunning gothic romance, The Shape of Water is said to be a more crowd-pleasing affair, but one that never loses its inimitably del Toro-esque essence. How could it when it’s a romance between a woman and a fish-man? It’s a Cold War set supernatural romance involving government conspiracies, a Black Lagoon style creature played by Doug Jones, a rare starring role for the effervescent Sally Hawkins, and not one but two Michaels for us to enjoy - Shannon and Stuhlbarg! For all his creature capers and genre delights, del Toro is also a wonderfully sincere storyteller with a keen eye for romance. How this isn’t everyone’s most anticipated film of the year, I’ll never know.
This is being billed as the swansong of Daniel Day-Lewis, who announced his plans to retire earlier this year. Honestly, I don’t think he will retire. He’s probably just going to quietly go make some shoes and hang out with his super cool wife for a bit, then someone will entice him back with a role he just can’t say no to, like what happened with Gangs of New York. Having said that, if he is indeed hanging up his acting shoes, there’s no better way to do it than with Paul Thomas Anderson. Not much is known about this project - allegedly it’s set in the fashion world of the 1950s and Day-Lewis’s character is based on designer Charles James - which only heightens our intrigue. The most fascinating part of it all is rooted in the oft-repeated rumours that the plot centres on the designer’s obsessively passionate power-play relationship with a model. Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Thomas Anderson do an artsy version of 50 Shades of Grey? Count us in.
Sean Baker’s been an indie favourite for a while, but his break into the big time came with Tangerine, a vibrant comedy drama about trans women sex workers that was shot entirely on iPhones. To even distil it to such a glib one-line pitch doesn’t do it justice, as Tangerine is the kind of film you’re just so damn glad exists in this world. Now, Baker has turned his eye back to the themes of poverty and the American dream, as seen in the landscape of Disneyworld. The Florida Project follows a single mother and her daughter who live in a Disney-themed run-down motel in Orlando alongside various other poverty-striken families. Stories of financial strife and desperation can often delve into poverty porn and paint such situations as something almost worthy, but Baker has been lauded for his ability to create a layered portrait of being down and out in the shadow of the Magic Kingdom. It’s already gone down a storm at the Cannes Film Festival and is set to continue its acclaimed run later this year.
What is there left to say about mother!, a film that confuses my spellcheck and remains shrouded in mystique, even with two trailers and a series of eye-catching posters available for us to obsess over? Director Darren Aronofsky says there’s still one major hint in the posters people haven’t spotted yet, so keep an eye out for that! For now, speculation’s all we’ve got, as the admittedly brilliant and totally bananas trailer gave away nothing in terms of plot beyond uninvited guests interrupting the tranquil peace of Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem. Throw in some speedily rotting rooms, a bit of fire, sexy Michelle Pfeiffer, and Lawrence screaming in fear, and it’s certainly enough to keep me hooked until release day. Is it a biblical retelling? A haunted house horror? A home invasion thriller? An unsubtle parallel to Lawrence’s relationship with Aronofsky? We’ll keep you updated.
Armando Iannucci is the political satirist of our time, and thankfully the one we desperately want during these days of living parody and inevitable destruction. What does the creator of The Thick of It and Veep choose to do after taking on British and American power? How about the Soviet stalwart Stalin himself? Based on a little known graphic novel, The Death of Stalin features a murderer’s row of acting talent in the roles of the power players trying to wrangle control of the USSR from one another following the death of the dictator. Don’t expect a dry drama of sly deception: This is from the guy who created Malcolm ‘fuckety bye’ Tucker. Thankfully, there isn’t a wonky Russian accent to be heard from the ensemble (which includes Jeffrey Tambor, Steve Buscemi, Jason Isaacs and Michael Palin), and the humour is of the gloriously curse-ridden kind, which is exactly what we need right now. Expect to leave the cinema highly entertained, a tad depressed, and just a little bit in fear over our bleak futures.