The Most Anticipated Film Releases Of This Year’s Oscar Season
If the deluge of summer blockbuster failures taught us anything it’s that film is starting to mirror TV, in that June-September offerings are becoming increasingly worse therefore leaving fall and winter to pick up the slack. And if this year’s Oscar season fodder is anything to go by, then pick up it will. Of 20 of the most anticipated films, there’s not a single sequel, reboot or reimagining. Pause for a collective sigh of relief.
The only familiar property is that of Rogue One, the first of a series of carefully plotted films from within the Star Wars universe. The same however, can’t be said for television, with this season featuring more film to small screen adaptations than any time in history (just quietly, the Lethal Weapon series is actually OK if you give it a chance). But there is a familiar theme amongst this year’s silver screen contenders - period pieces. Of the 20 films judged most likely to be in Oscar contention, a whopping seven are period pieces, set anywhere from 17th Century Japan to 1980s Reno. What’s more, they’re all adapted from books, plays or true stories. So without further ado, here they are in order of release.
American Pastoral - 1960s (Thursday, October 21)
There’s no decade in post-World War history more pivotal or important than the 1960s. From JFK’s assassination to The Beatles, the Vietnam War, the moon landing, the women’s rights movement, segregation and consequent riots and assassinations, the 1960s was the end of innocence. And American Pastoral relies on many if not all touch points, to tell the story of Seymour Levov (played by Ewan McGregor) and the unraveling of his perfect life as a result. Based on Philip Roth’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, the film centers on a post office protest bombing by Levov’s daughter (played by Dakota Fanning) that accidentally kills a man, then her disappearance and his race to find her before the government does.
Hacksaw Ridge - 1940s (November 4)
From sugar tits to film festival hit, Mel Gibson’s World War II epic has been winning praise at each and every stop on the award circuit - from both critics and audiences alike. Based on the true story of Desmond Doss (played by Andrew Garfield), Hacksaw Ridge tells the story of how Doss became the first ever conscientious objector to not only voluntarily enlist in the army, and refuse to carry a weapon, but also be awarded the Medal of Honor for his part in saving countless lives during the bloody Battle of Okinawa. A devout Seventh Day Adventist, Doss refused to kill anyone but wanted to do his part for his country - even if it meant severe beatings and ridicule by the very infantry division he helped save. It’s already been touted as Gibson’s directorial comeback and for good reason.
Rules Don’t Apply - 1950s (November 23)
Warren Beatty is alive! Yep, you heard it here first. The 1950s-80s lothario and superstar actor/director hasn’t been seen on the big screen since 2001’s Town & Country. Which left many to assume that like so many legends before him he’d died before social media users unfamiliar with his work could dedicate their profile pics to him, therefore being resigned to the history books without so much as a whimper. But at 79 and not looking a day over 60, the Bonnie & Clyde star made infamous by Caryl Simon’s You’re So Vain is well and truly alive. And after dedicating some 40 years to a Howard Hughes bio pic has finally provided a fictional comedy-drama set in the Hollywood golden age of the 1950s, which he directs and stars in as the eccentric Hughes. It’s classy, witty and features an ensemble cast of film’s who’s who - Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen, Oliver Platt and Annette Benning to name but a few.
Gold - 1980s (Christmas Day)
Think American Hustle in the jungle, Matthew McConaughey putting on the pounds and losing the hair to star as Kenny Wells, a Wall Street hack turned Indonesian gold prospector who’s hunted down by the FBI and the Indonesian military alike after uncovering the biggest gold mine of the 1980s. Better yet, it’s based on a true story. It’s classified as a drama/thriller, but like Wolf of Wall Street, is heavy on humor. You could fairly say that Kenny Wells is a poor man’s Jordan Belfort, making McConaughey a poor man’s Leo Dicaprio. The last time McConaughey won an Oscar it was for Dallas Buyers Club, also a true story, where he lost a bunch of weight. Maybe pounding it on to look more like his True Detective counterpart Woody Harrelson will have the same effect.
Silence - 16th Century (November)
Remember seeing an emaciated Liam Neeson a few months back, when the National Enquirer revealed he had AIDS, was dying of cancer and undergoing sexual reassignment surgery simultaneously? Well, he’s A OK. And could win an Oscar for his transformation (physical, not sexual) for Martin Scorsese’s Silence. Based on the 1966 novel of the same name and set in 17th Century Japan, Silence follows two missionaries (Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield) who travel to a volatile Japan at the risk of losing their lives to rescue their mentor (Liam Neeson) and spread the word of Christianity. It’s a movie 23 years in the making and Scorcese suggests is worth the wait.
Live by Night - 1920s (Christmas Day)
He hit home runs with Argo and The Town, and now Ben Affleck is at it again, directing and starring in another dramatic crime thriller (yeah, that’s three genres), Live By Night. Set in the roaring 1920s, Affleck is a returned soldier come gangster who establishes himself as an organized crime figurehead and earning the ire of the mob. It’s part Departed, part Bugsy and part set in Florida - ingredients for a helluva good time at the flicks. Based on the book of the same name, Live By Night is no Batman v Superman (jokes), but Affleck looks to have done a good job all the same.
Fences - 1950s (December 16)
Denzel. Do we need say anything more? Set in 1950s Pittsburgh and based on the award-winning 1983 play of the same name, Fences - both directed by and starring Denzel Washington - tells the story of a one-time Negro League Baseball player struggling to provide for his family as a garbage man who segregation restricts from even driving the truck. It’s classic Denzel - a passionate, protective, frustrated, angry, animated and unstable everyman. It ticks almost every box. More importantly, it’s a truism of life at the time for black families and not irrelevant today. It draws many similarities to Death of a Salesman, which can’t be a bad thing.