James Canellos ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Executive Movies Editor
It’s that time of year again! Where Hollywood begins to cram all their best films in only three months so that the Oscar voters will remember to include them on the ballot. Every movie buff knows that from October – December makes up for a majority of the year’s best films and 2016 seems like no exception. From Sundance to the Telluride Film Festival, the pressure is already on for such word-of-mouth films like, The Birth of a Nation or Manchester By The Sea to receive the same kind of praise from audiences as they have from critics. Aside from some positive early reviews here are the four reasons why you should be excited for this upcoming slate of Fall and Winter films.
*Note some of these films double over in other categories. It goes without saying but you should be extra excited for these films.
1. Returning Pros
It’s been nearly half a decade since some of these directors had their high profile projects screened and it’s always good to have them back. One of the more anticipated returns is actor/ writer/ producer/ director Warren Beatty with Rules Don’t Apply. Beatty directed and stars as famed film director and aviator Howard Hughes in the later half of his life as a romance begins to form between his driver (Future Han Solo – Alden Ehrenreich) and protege actress (Lily Collins). Beatty’s been working on Rules Don’t Apply for a reported 18 years and has been trying to get a film about Howard Hughes made since 1973. If anyone can recapture the glamor of Old Hollywood it’s a living legend who’s lived it.
It’s been 7 years since Disney’s dream team Ron Clements and John Musker directed their last film and they’ve finally returned with the hotly anticipated Moana. Their latest Disney princess is Moana (newcomer Auli’i Cravalho) a Polynesian sea voyager who sets out on an epic journey with the help of a Demi-God Maui (Dwayne Johnson). With Clements and Musker having been responsible for such Disney classics like The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Princess and The Frog and the highly underrated Treasure Planet it’s hard for expectations not to be high. The return of this Disney duo is just as welcomed since they reached out to Broadway superstar Lin-Manuel Miranda to compose original music for the film. Frozen may have to watch out for the newest princess in town.
From the glitz and glamor of Hollywood to the mockmentary king Christopher Guest. The comedic pioneer in Documentary style comedies is back in action after a 10 year break from feature films. His latest effort is the Netflix released film Mascots. Like previous Guest classics such as Best In Show and This Is Spinal Tap, Mascots follows a colorful group of individuals whose passion for their craft often comes before their common sense. His latest film follows a group of individuals coming together for a national Mascot competition. Guest has his usual line up of comedic talents joining this film including, Parker Posey, Jennifer Coolidge, Fred Willard, Jane Lynch, Bob Balaban, John Michael Higgins and of course Christopher Guest himself in what is sure to be another unrecognizable performance.
Also returning this Winter are notable Academy Award winning auteurs. The likes of which include Ang Lee with the exciting, buzz magnet Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (More on that later), Pedro Almodóvar latest film Julieta follows the titular woman (Adriana Ugarte) as she confronts the pain of her worst memories and awaits contact from her estranged daughter. Robert Zemeckis tackles the spy espionage genre with Allied taking place in 1942 as an intelligence officer (Brad Pitt) encounters a resistance fighter (Marion Cotillard) behind enemy lines. Finally Martin Scorsese’s long awaited adaptation of Shûsaku Endô’s Silence may finally be screening this November. The religious based film follows two 17th century priests who face violence and persecution when they travel to Japan to find their mentor. The film does not have a scheduled release date but Paramount Pictures still has it slated for the end of 2016.
2. A Chance at Ending #Oscarsowhite
While there’s still much work to be done on the equal opportunities Hollywood has to offer any creative mind that isn’t white, it is good to see that there is a large amount of films coming out that both star and were directed by artists of color.
*The fact that Tilda Swinton was cast in a role written for a Asian actor in Doctor Strange is a step backward.
Denzel Washington is one of the most sought after actors of his generation. But what a lot of people forget is he’s a pretty great director as well. Between Antwone Fisher and The Great Debaters there’s no denying that he’s double threat. Now Washington directs his third feature and stars in an adaptation of August Wilson’s Fences. Washington played the role on Broadway in 2010 along with his feature film co-star Viola Davis and they both took home the Tony Awards for their leading performance. The adaptation follows former baseball player, now sanitation worker Troy as he deals with race relations in the United States and raising his family in 1950s America. If you weren’t already excited for Fences it’s important to note that this is the first time August Wilson’s classic 1983 play is being adapted for the big screen.
It’s amazing to see such an amazing theatrical classic being shown in a film format but another more contemporary play is inching out the release of Fences by just two months. Playwright/ co-screenplay writer Tarell Alvin McCraney adapts his short theater piece, “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue” along with director/ co-screenplay writer Barry Jenkins for Moonlight. This character study is a three-part arc of the life Chiron (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes) as he questions his masculinity and place in a drug infested Miami. The film has received comparisons to 2014’s Boyhood in its excellent depiction of a boy growing into the man he’s going to be but it really stands out from this mold in its choice to cast three very different actors as Chiron as he drastically changes. The film is said to be incredibly personal to both the Jenkins and McCraney, with all the early buzz though their past troubles is shaping into an amazing piece of art.
While some films are shrouded by controversy from the mere subject matter of their stories, The Birth of the Nation has the misfortune of suffering from the alleged past of its director/star. One of the most hotly anticipated film may be Nate Parker’s passion project that took years to make, which follows literate preacher/ slave Nat turner (Parker) as he begins a slave uprising in the antebellum South. The film caused the most expensive bidding war in Sundance’s history (being purchased for $17.5 Million by Fox Searchlight). Despite the controversy surrounding Nate Parker for his alleged rape accusations there’s no denying the kind of impact this film can have.
From the pages of history, one of the most influential supreme court hearings is finally being told in Jeff Nichols’ Loving. The film follows Richard and Mildred Loving (Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga), an interracial couple in 1950s Virginia who battled for the right to be legally wed. Edgerton and Negga have already gained a lot of Oscar Buzz for their performances after the film screened at the Cannes Film Festival and there’s no doubt that the momentum will continue through the fall. Given the recent equality rights for the LGBT community Loving is a reminder of how far people have come and how much suffering had to be endured for equal marriage to be a given right in the United States.
Disney had been on a roll this fall in terms of their upcoming releases that include a Ugandan Chess prodigy, a Polynesian princess and a diverse rag-tag group of Rebellion soldiers.
First up is Mira Nair’s Queen of Katwe, the inspirational true story of a Ugandan girl named Phiona (Madina Nalwanga) who with the help of her instructor (David Oyelowo) and her mother (Lupita Nyong’o) goes on to try and become a chess champion. The film will be Nyong’o’s first live action performance since her Oscar win in 2014 and is bound to inspire children to start playing chess.
On the action/ adventure front, Disney’s Moana will feature the first ever Polynesian princess. The companies last Polynesian protagonist was from 2002’s Lilo & Stitch and it’s about time they finally have created a princess of this background. The film’s characters are based on Polynesian mythology and will include these characters as Hercules did with Greek mythology in the 1997 animated film. Another little Disney film titled Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has gained a lot of attention for continuing what The Force Awakens started and casting actors of many different backgrounds to play pivotal leads. Some of which include rising star from this year’s The Night Of, Riz Ahmed, Diego Luna, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang and Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker in the epic tale of the Rebellion soldiers planning to steal the plans to the Death Star.
3. Really Great Emerging Talents
While it’s always important to keep the 18-34 year old demographic happy, there’s no shortage of emerging and talented young actors. Let’s hope that 2016 will be the start of a long and prosperous career for all of them, if they still enjoy the art form years down the line.
One of the most anticipated young performances is from Lewis MacDougall for his starring role in the critical darling A Monster Calls. The actor has received universal praise already for his role as the troubled boy, coping with his mother’s illness by seeking the help of a tree monster (Voiced by Liam Neeson). The film’s reviews have been so good that it’s distribution company, Focus Features moved the release date to a more Oscar friendly late December release so audiences will have to wait to see what MacDougall has to offer.
While this next emerging star isn’t the lead, he certainly has critics raving about his devastatingly raw performance. Lion stars Dev Patel as Saroo Brierley a man who uses Google Maps to find his lost family and although he’s received praise for the film as well he’s nearly overshadowed by his younger counter part. Sunny Pawar has been compared some of the best child performances of all time with his role as the five-year-old Saroo lost and alone in Calcutta. With critics praising such a newcomer over heavy weight co-stars like Patel, Nicole Kidman and Rooney Mara it’s no wonder this performer is on his way to being a recurring young talent on the rise.
This next performer is someone whose face is not technically seen but her vocal talents are carrying a potentially billion dollar investment. Auli’i Cravalho is now the youngest (Now fifteen-years-old) voice actress to play a Disney princess in the company’s latest film Moana. This is especially amazing considering that Disney started a global casting call for the role in 2014 and had nearly thousands of actresses audition. It took nearly a year for Cravalho to secure the role. After she was cast there was immediate praise from Disney fans excited to hear the vocals of this actress who will undoubtedly helm some of the original songs written for the film.
This last edition is a very special performance, in that it relies on two performers to continue an amazing overall film. In Moonlight, the story of a boy becoming a man in drug fueled Miami, Alex Hibbert and Ashton Sanders play Chiron the conflicted subject in Barry Jenkin’s film. What makes these roles so difficult is that the choices Hibbert makes in his performance will essentially impact the direction that Sanders’ is going to have to approach. They go hand in hand and it would be impossible to imagine one without the other. This pair, along with the oldest iteration of Chiron that isn’t on this list because he is a grown man, is the most risky choice on this list considering just how fragile these actors have to be to set up and pass on the role to another actor with his own idea of where the performance should be headed.
4. Possible Game Changers:
It’s always every cinefile’s hopes that a few different films will come out and change the way movie executives operate in Hollywood. It can be a chance to see new and exciting new grounds to cover, but it can also lead to a string of copy cats and wannabes. Imagine every writer/ director who tried to be Quentin Tarantino after Reservoir Dogs came out, kind of scenario. While 2015’s fall and winter films didn’t offer anything too groundbreaking, 2014 did have the work of Birdman and who knows maybe one of these next films can truly be trend setters.
Not since Avatar has there been a film that actually had a shot at changing the way we watch films. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk may be the first since to change that. Based on the novel of the same name, this war drama follows a young Iraq war veteran brought home for a victory tour as flashbacks show the gruesome truth of what happened in battle. The reason this film is gaining so much attention is because it is the first feature film to ever be shot on 120 Frames Per Second. Meaning it’s going to look really, really stunning. Unlike The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey which was shot on 48 Frames Per Second, Billy Lynn is already being praised for it’s crystal clear quality and is already leading to discussions about changing the format of future releases. If any film may change the way we actually see films it’s Ang Lee’s latest.
La La Land doesn’t seem like a project that should be that groundbreaking. It’s a modern day love story/ musical about a pianist (Ryan Gosling) and an actress (Emma Stone) falling for each other and trying to maintain their relationship. But there’s something about the trailers to Damien Chazelle’s sophomore entry that feels so unique compared to everything that’s come before it. La La Land feels almost dreamlike and surreal, which is always a risky move for a high profile project let alone someone’s second feature. While this wouldn’t be the first time a more mainstream director has done something like this, check out the works of David Lynch, this film truly feels like it can be whimsical experience that utilizes its star power like older films used to be able to. Reviews have been ecstatic and continue to increase the hype surrounding this modern romance and is carefully balancing the best of old Hollywood with the modern dilemmas and cinema techniques that can truly make this film soar to new heights.
Do you agree with our reasons? What films are you most excited for? Please comment below.