As the taste of summer blockbusters rescinds from the palette and is replaced by the promise of fall creativity, the independent, art house and foreign markets begin to rev up their awards season hopefuls, filling theaters with more auteurist tales than mass appeal templates. Though the summer saw releases of quality filmmaking in ‘Fruitvale Station‘ and ‘Blue Jasmine‘, it is undeniable that we have not yet encountered this years ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild‘.
With fall approaching, the annual promise of quality cinema increases with a wide range of independently produced, distributed and funded films reaching stateside theaters with high aspirations. Based on the information provided to this point and our own subjective tastes, we have compiled a list of the films that are sure to provide an impact on audiences and critics alike with our 10 Films to Watch for in the Fall of 2013.
12 Years a Slave – (Oct 18)
Directed by Steve McQueen
Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Brad Pitt & Alfre Woodard
The aesthetically stunning third collaboration between Director McQueen and star Fassbender features one of the seasons most stellar casting ensembles. With Chiwetel Ejiofor (as Solomon Northrup, a free Nothern man only to find himself on a Southern plantation for over a decade; based on his autobiography), Brad Pitt (who’s Plan B Pictures acts as primary production house behind the film), Alfre Woodard and more, ‘12 Years a Slave‘ can boast the perfect mixture of A List talent, quality period material and undeniably clarity of vision. With the festival and art house success of ‘Hunger‘ and ‘Shame‘, the Director/Star duo seem poised to finally break into mass appeal territory with a handful of award season recognitions being a near certainty. The film will premier at TIFF and play a special screening as part of the 51st New York Film Festival.
Blue is the Warmest Color – (Oct. 25)
Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche
Starring Adèle Exarchopoulos, Léa Seydoux
By now any cinephile would have heard of the infamous nature of ‘Blue is the Warmest Color‘ explicit depictions of female sexuality, but it is its multi dimensional character study of young love that will stay in viewers minds. Having garnered the top prize at this years Cannes Film Festival, the film also boasts the festivals Best Actress Prize (going to the duo of Exarchopolous and Seydoux). Playing as an epic, 3+ hour love story against the backdrops of teenage development, social constrictions and modern love, ‘Blue is the Warmest Color‘ comes as the years most anticipated import.
Inside Llewlyn Davis – (Dec. 6)
Directed by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Starring Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garret Hedlund & Justin Timberlake
As, perhaps, the most high profile film on this list the Coen Brothers latest ‘Inside Llewlyn Davis‘ has also been garnering praise from Cannes to NYFF. The highly volatile yet artistically (and socially) fulfilling landscape of the 1960s folk music scene of Greenwich Village is explored with beautiful clarity from Amelie DP Bruno Delbonnel. Featuring a breakout performance from its lead Oscar Issac, as well as an ensemble cast featuring Justin Timberlake and Carey Mulligan, ‘Inside Llewlyn David‘ is as close to a sure thing for audience and critical darling alike as the season will find.
Short Term 12 – (Sept. 13)
Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton
Starring Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr., Kaitlyn Dever, Rami Malek & Keith Stanfield
Much has already been made of ‘Short Term 12‘ leading up to its (finally) nationwide release, but the SXSW & Locarno Film Festival favorite remains one of the most uplifting human films of the year. With an undeniable star making turn from its lead Brie Larson, as well as strong performances from ‘The Newsroom‘ John Gallagher Jr and its multi talented teenage supporting cat, ‘Short Term 12‘ may be the years most relatable film.
Escape from Tomorrow – (Oct. 11)
Directed by Randy Moore
Starring Roy Abramsohn, Elena Schuber, Katelynn Rodriguez, Annet Mahendru, Danielle Safady & Alison Lees-Taylor
Not much is known about the mysterious, Guerilla style filmmaking behind ‘Escape from Tomorrow‘ except for the fact it was entirely shot on location at Disneyworld and without the omnipotent conglomerates blessings (read: permission). A black & white neo noir thriller, ‘Escape from Tomorrow‘ waves a loose narrative against the backdrop of a families distributing final hours vacationing at the magic kingdom. If for no other reason, “Escape from Tomorrow‘ draws its interest from its decidedly anti authoritarian approach, as well as its protocol crushing template in this new landscape of independent film production.
Her – (Dec. 18)
Directed by Spike Jonze
Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde & Scarlett Johansson
Spike Jonze’ latest surrealist tale ‘Her‘ is a love based film in the age of Siri (in this case “Samantha”, as voiced by Scarlett Johansson). The film has already been tapped to close the 51st New York Film Festival and with ‘Being John Malkovich‘ and ‘Adaptation‘ proving that the former Music Video auteur Jonze is a true master at absurdity, surrealism and metaphor. Outside of that, not much else is known about the mysterious ‘Her‘, although on the heels of ‘The Master‘, Joaquin Phoenix seems poised to leave ‘I’m Still Here‘ far behind.
A Teacher – (Sept. 6)
Directed by Hannah Fiddell
Starring Lindsay Burdge & Will Brittain
An under the radar type indie film, ‘A Teacher‘ is a twisted character study on loneliness and affection, incarnating itself in the form of an attractive, Texas based teachers love affair cum obsession with one of her male students. With hints of ‘The Piano Teacher‘, as well as ‘The Graduate‘, ‘A Teacher‘ has already garnered praise from critics and premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Featuring a powerful performance from new age indie film darling Lindsay Burdge, and featuring the steady, atmospheric direction of Hannah Fiddelll, ‘A Teacher‘ is the type of taboo water cooler conversation any inhabitant of the modern century will surely find interesting.
Blue Caprice – (Sept. 13)
Directed by Alexandre Moors
Starring Joey Lauren Adams, Tim Blake Nelson, Isaiah Washington
‘Blue Caprice‘ is the startling feature debut from Director Alexandre Moors, telling a distinctly 21st Century story of physical violence and the sensibilities that lead to it. The Sundance and New Directors/New Films opening feature tells the story of the father/son dynamic between the Beltway Snipers of 2002. A father son story, as much as a chilling depiction of the 21st century human condition, ‘Blue Caprice‘ bold camera work and dynamic performance from Isaiah Washington is sure to affect long after the end credits roll.
Mother of George – (Sept. 13)
Directed by Andrew Dosunmu
Starring Danai Gurira, Isaach De Bankolé, Yaya Decosta Alafia, Tony Okungbowa
Lensed by ‘Ain’t Them Bodies Saints’ talent Bradford Young, ‘Mother of George‘ is a 21st Century tale of Brooklyn love and struggle from Nigerian born director Andrew Dosunmu. This two character study of tradition, conception, love and struggle, highlights the delicate dance between borderless thought and the preservation of traditional values. As Nigerian couple Adenike and Ayodele encounter trouble with the conception of their first child (George, as decided at their wedding), the collective weight of past value and future necessity weave themselves together giving all involved a new found sense of time and place.
Wadjda – (Sept. 13)
Directed by Haifaa al-Mansour
Starring Waad Mohammed, Reem Abdullah, Abdulrahman al-Guhani
Shot entirely in Saudi Arabia, ‘Wadjda‘ is the first ever feature length film from a female Saudi Director. Having won numerous awards internationally and garnering universal acclaim towards its subject matter and development, ‘Wadjda‘ represents a new direction for Middle Eastern film. A simple story of a pre teen girl ongoing for a the green bicycle she passes on her way to school each and every day plays out as an important reminder of contemporary gender roles throughout an increasingly borderless world.
– Steve Rickinson