Labor Day is the signpost every year that the sugary summer junk is behind us and that the nutritious square meal of awards season has finally arrived. That's the theory, anyway: In actuality, summer movies like Before Midnight and Fruitvale Station will be as well-received as any Oscar bait, and the biggest hits this fall will almost certainly be sequels (The Hunger Games, Thor, The Hobbit).
Still: Anticipation is three-quarters of the fun. Here are the 16 movies coming out in the last four months of 2013 that we're most looking forward to. Note: Grierson went to the Cannes Film Festival and saw some high-profile movies that haven't come out yet; Leitch didn't do that.
Quick note: I'm not including really good movies I already saw at Cannes, such as All Is Lost, Blue Is the Warmest Color, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska, and The Past. Even so, there are plenty of promising films still out there.
Blue Caprice. One of the best-reviewed titles at Sundance, Blue Caprice is inspired by the Beltway snipers. It's a story of a chillingly calm maniac (Isaiah Washington) who takes an impressionable young man (Tequan Richmond) under his wing and teaches him how to be a killer.
Captain Phillips. Based on the 2009 rescue of an American cargo ship that was seized by Somali pirates, Captain Phillips is the first film directed by Paul Greengrass since he and Matt Damon made Green Zone. This new movie would seem to be in the same vein as his United 93: raw, unadorned, intelligent, incredibly intense.
Dallas Buyers Club. Come awards season, you're going to hear a lot about this AIDS drama's tortuous path to the screen, but my hope is that Dallas Buyers Club is the crown jewel of Matthew McConaughey's rather remarkable career renaissance.
Foxcatcher. The season's "unbelievable true story" slot goes to Foxcatcher, a drama about a du Pont heir (played by Steve Carell) who killed his close friend (Mark Ruffalo), a wrestler who won gold at the 1984 Summer Olympics. It's directed by Bennett Miller, who's shown a knack for real-life tales such as Moneyball and Capote.
Gravity. The Venice reviews have been glowing, and after Children of Men and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, director Alfonso Cuaron has been on a roll. This is how excited I am for Gravity: I haven't watched any trailers. I don't want to know a thing before I get to see this for myself.
Her. A sucker for idiosyncratic indie romances—Punch-Drunk Love, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind—I immediately responded to this trailer, which features a heartbroken, mustachioed Joaquin Phoenix falling in love with his computer (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). I do worry it's going to be rated R for "excessive twee," though.
Oldboy. I don't love the Park Chan-wook original, but I'm always happy when Spike Lee goes into thriller mode, which he doesn't do often (Inside Man, Clockers). Plus, here's what's really exciting: Despite making movies for more than 25 years, Lee is still willing to push himself into new terrain. He's never made a movie this dark and violent.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. If you read last year's New Yorker profile of Ben Stiller, you know that The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is the comedian's all-in stab at Being Taken Seriously As An Artist. He hasn't softened that stance since the profile came out: This summer, he sent a letter to members of the film press in which he laid bare his aspirations for Walter Mitty: "I hope it is funny and serious, epic and intimate, realistic while also being sort of a fantasy too." Dude wants this bad.
12 Years a Slave. Filmmaker Steve McQueen is two-for-two so far: Hunger was an impressive debut, but Shame was a triumph, a deeply affecting story of addiction and loneliness. 12 Years a Slave feels like McQueen's entry into the kind of sweeping, Oscar-seeking drama that either shows a director's true range or dulls him out. But I have faith in a cast that includes Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Brad Pitt, and McQueen regular Michael Fassbender.
The Wolf of Wall Street. Or, Goodfellas: Stockbrokers Edition. At this point, if you're not sold on the Martin Scorsese/Leonardo DiCaprio partnership, The Wolf of Wall Street probably won't do much to convince you otherwise. But these guys have never made the same movie twice, moving from period epic (Gangs of New York) to biopic (The Aviator) to crime thriller (The Departed) to psychological horror movie (Shutter Island). The Wolf of Wall Street looks like a very dark comedy. Also, this:
American Hustle. The unlikely career renaissance for David O. Russell—remember, this guy was toast as recently as five years ago; he still has a movie out there, Nailed, starring Jessica Biel, Jake Gyllenhaal, Tracy Morgan, and Josh Brolin that no one will even release—continues with this instant-trailer-classic about '70s corruption involving politicians, drug dealers, and con men in Boston and Philadelphia. (It's the infamous Abscam scandal.) This cast is a dream: Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper (with amazing hair), Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams, and Louie CK, of all people. It looks a little Scorsese-derivative, but then again, all modern American films sort of look that way.
Anchorman: The Legend Continues. Yeah, like you're not going to be there opening night. Plus, it's an excellent sign that they've taken their time to do this comedy sequel; The Hangover sequels showed what happens when people rush to get a sequel in theaters when they obviously don't care. Those sequels made you forget how great The Hangover was. That's unlikely to happen here.
Captain Phillips. Paul Greengrass knows how to do real-life-as-drama better than anyone on the planet. The idea of Tom Hanks grizzling up to play a ship captain overtaken and kidnapped by Somali pirates, directed by an eager-to-show-off Greengrass … I'm tense already.
The Counselor. 12 Years a Slave is the high-profile awards film for Michael Fassbender, but we're talking about a Ridley Scott adaptation of an original Cormac McCarthy screenplay, co-starring Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, and Dean (Hank Schrader) Norris. This is the sort of fall fare I most look forward to: less concerned with winning some sort of award and more interested in the opportunity to go as dark as possible.
Gravity. You know what most excites me about Alfonso Cuaron's space thriller? It's only 90 minutes. Cuaron is a master filmmaker, and to see him so tight and taut … the rapturous early reviews only have me salivating more.
Homefront. This doesn't have much buzz behind it, but I'm fascinated by it for four reasons:
- It's a Jason Statham movie, and no Jason Statham movie can be truly terrible.
- The two female characters in the movie, sort of insanely, are played by Kate Bosworth and Winona Ryder.
- The bad guy in the film is played by James Franco. His character is named "Gator." He is an evil meth dealer. Yep.
- The screenplay was written by Sylvester Stallone. He's not in it; he just wrote it. I'm so there.
Inside Llewyn Davis. It's a movie about a '60s folk singer, directed by the Coen brothers. That's enough.
Monuments Men. So basically: This is a caper film—a group of art collectors attempt to steal precious artifacts stolen by the Nazis—with a crew made up of George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, and John Goodman. I would watch those four actors have lunch together.
Oldboy. I'm with you: I don't understand why anyone would need to remake Oldboy either. (Particularly in a world in which the original is so readily available for streaming.) But handing this to Spike Lee is a fascinating choice: Nothing that man has ever done, even his worst films, has ever been even slightly boring. I can't wait.
The Wolf of Wall Street. This appears to be Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio in fun, fuck-shit-up mode, which is a far more preferable mode for them these days. This seems destined to be one of those movies about assholes that end up being quoted by assholes to justify being assholes.
Grierson & Leitch is a regular column about the movies. Follow us on Twitter, @griersonleitch.