Autumn is definitely the season for movies. The awards shows are just on the other side of the new year, and all the best films of the year, those far better than the big-budget crap of the summer season, are slated for release. And this fall is chock-full of great films to look forward to.
The film I'm looking forward to most is one called Sleeping Beauty, which opens 10/28. The film is from an unknown director in Julia Leigh, but stars the amazing Emily Browning, whom I loved in Sucker Punch, as a university student who enters a strange world of high-end prostitution. The trailer purposefully makes it unclear exactly what takes place at this up-scale brothel, but one shot shows a room full of upper-class men in business suits talking while being served drinks by scantily-clad women, and two fully-nude women sit in the fetal position facing the fireplace, their hands shamefully covering their genitals. Although I don't like to use this description, this shot is evocative to me of Salo if it were done by a Sofia Coppola. Sleeping Beauty promises to be a film so strange and unique that it must be seen.
Two other films one could classify as "strange enough that they must be seen," and that both have apocalyptic tilts to them, are Jeff Nichols's Take Shelter and Lars von Trier's Melancholia, opening 9/30 and 11/9 respectively. Take Shelter stars Michael Shannon of Bug and The Runaways, and is about a man's obsession with rebuilding a tornado shelter in preparation for a storm only he knows is coming. It's unclear based on the trailer as to what type of storm it will be, but some very strange, disparate images evoke a plethora of different ideas as to how this storm will impact the lives of the characters. Melancholia also features a storm of sorts, this one brought about by another planet coming a little too close to Earth. This rogue planet causes many strange things, such as lightning emanating from Kirsten Dunst's hands. Both these films, although I don't expect them to get a lot of mainstream recognition, could be the surprise indie hits of the season.
Other highly-anticipated films of the fall are David Cronenberg's biopic about famous psychologists Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud called A Dangerous Method, which releases 11/25 and stars Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortensen and Keira Knightley; Tomas Alfredson's, director of Let the Right One In, espionage thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which releases 12/9 and stars Gary Oldman, Colin Firth and John Hurt; and Pedro Almodovar's The Skin I Live In, about a scientist's mad desire to create a type of synthetic skin for his wife, which opens 10/14 and stars Antonio Banderas and Elena Anaya. The names and talents featured in these three films alone are worthy of the ticket price.
A few other interesting films coming out this fall that, sadly, are relegated to this fall's second-tier because of the fascinating films I've listed above, include Lucky McKee's adaptation of his and Jack Ketchum's horrific story The Woman (10/14). This is McKee's second film from Ketchum material (Red), and the stir caused at Sundance by this film indicates that this one shall be truly insane. Kevin Smith's controversial Red State (10/21) is already available On-Demand through several providers, and should be interesting despite mixed reviews. Johnny Depp returns to the mind of Hunter S. Thompson in The Rum Diary (10/28), directed by Bruce Robinson (Withnail & I). Clint Eastwood's biopic on the FBI head J. Edgar (11/9) should be well delivered by Eastwood and star Leonardo DiCaprio. Martin Scorsese's adaptation of the peculiar story of Hugo (11/23) stars Chloe Moretz and Jude Law and could be a good, if somewhat off-beat, family film. And there's also The Artist (11/23) which features the incomparable Malcolm McDowell and John Goodman.
However, there are some films I will surely be avoiding, such as useless sequels and spinoffs, namely Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol and Puss in Boots, and useless remakes of classic and foreign films, namely The Thing and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Real Steel looks like it's just Transformers moved into the boxing ring, and therefore is sure to be crap. The Big Year-I mean, how funny can bird watching actually be? No one ever needs to see Adam Sandler in drag, so Jack and Jill is right out. And the last thing the world needs is yet another alien invasion movie, so The Darkest Hour will not be seen by me.
Despite these few annoying and unnecessary pictures, this year's fall releases are a laundry list of award contenders, future cult and indie classics and just wonderful films. It will be very interesting to see which of these films wins favor come award season. It's way too early to pick a favorite, but I can easily say that the field will be strong.