Ah, awards season – the time of year when everyone becomes an expert on red carpet dresses and pretends to know the difference between sound mixing and sound design.
All kidding aside, the latter quarter of 2016 and early 2017 promise to enthral us with some particularly juicy cinematic gems, and to help demonstrate I’ve picked nine movies that you should keep your eyes peeled for over the next few months.
Director: Mel Gibson
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving
Release: November 2016
Mel Gibson’s 2016 renaissance continues with his return to the director’s chair in Hacksaw Ridge. A gritty WWII drama that recalls the extraordinary true story of an American field medic (Andrew Garfield) who saved 75 men during the Battle of Okinawa without firing a single shot, Hacksaw Ridge is Gibson’s first directorial effort in over a decade and could signal his return to the elusive awards season winners circle.
Filmed right here in Australia, Gibson’s film received a standing ovation at its premiere at the Venice Film Festival and is filled with a host of talented Aussies like Hugo Weaving, Teresa Palmer, Rachel Griffiths and Sam Worthington. Buoyed by positive reviews, could Hacksaw Ridge follow in the footsteps of award-winning war films like Saving Private Ryan and Flags of Our Fathers to scoop a handful of Oscar nominations?
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker
Release: November 2016
Making its debut at the Venice Film Festival to rave reviews, this acclaimed sci-fi is set to send French Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve stratospheric. The movie follows Louise Banks (Amy Adams), a linguist who is drafted by the US military following the arrival of a fleet of monolithic alien spaceships.
Villeneuve has been overlooked by the Academy thus far (2015’s Sicario being a notable snub) but Arrival has been generating a lot of buzz on the film festival circuit, particularly concerning Adams’ central performance and Villeneuve’s work behind the camera. Expect this one to pop up in a lot of the technical categories.
La La Land
Director: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, J.K. Simmons
Release: December 2016
Pop quiz – what’s the one thing that Hollywood loves more than sequels and ringing cash tills? If you guessed ‘prestige pictures about the film industry’, you’re right!
Hollywood goes loopy for films about films; I mean, just look at recent Best Picture winners like The Artist, Argo and Birdman. It should come as no surprise then that Damien Chazelle‘s new movie La La Land is getting rave reviews from all corners of the web and is hotly tipped to scoop up all sorts of statuettes come Oscar night.
La La Land sees Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone partner up once more for a smooth, sweeping romance set against the backdrop of studio-era Hollywood. Stone has already won the Best Actress Award at Venice and the film scooped the People’s Choice Award in Toronto. This one could have the legs to go all the way to a Best Picture win.
Director: Jeff Nichols
Starring: Joel Edgerton, Ruth Neggs, Will Dalton
Release: January 2017
Jeff Nichols already blew our minds earlier in the year with soaring sci-fi road movie Midnight Special; now he returns with an all-together more heartfelt and personal love story in Loving.
Starring Australia’s Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga, the film follows Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple who’re sentenced to a lengthy prison sentence in 1950’s Virginia following their outlawed marriage to each other.
However, rather than following the Supreme Court case in minute detail, writer-director Nichols has endeavoured to showcase a more imitate side of the story by focusing on how discrimination and prosecution affected the day-to-day lives of Richard and Mildred. Reviews have thrown around superlatives such as ‘gentle’, ‘stirring’ and ‘understated’, making this something of a quiet underdog in an already chock-a-block awards season.
The Birth of a Nation
Director: Nate Parker
Starring: Nate Parker, Armie Hammer, Penelope Ann Miller
Release: February 2017
One of the most talked about films this awards season is The Birth of a Nation – and not for all the right reasons either. After emerging as the talk of the town at Sundance, this drama about a 19th Century slave revolt, which is co-written, co-produced, directed by and starring Nate Parker, has since been overshadowed by rape allegations from 1999 against Parker.
The subsequent handling of said allegations hasn’t done the film any favours, but if we attempt to separate the art from the artist, The Birth of a Nation can be considered a timely and poignant examination of America’s past that could still factor into awards season this year. Whether Oscar voters see it that way is another story entirely…
Director: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver
Release: February 2017
Set in 17th Century Japan, Silence follows two Portuguese priests facing persecution and violence whilst searching for their mentor and propagating Christianity. If that sounds like a drag, consider this – it stars Liam Neeson, Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield. Still not convinced? What if I told you that Martin Scorsese directed it?
Okay, now you’re listening. Truth is, we don’t know much else about Silence. Aside from being a passion project of Scorsese’s for the last 20 years, the whole production has been kind of quiet (pun intended), and even though it’s slated for release in February next year, we still haven’t seen a trailer! Plus, the film hasn’t been touring the festival circuit.
Nevertheless, I’ve included it on this list because, y’know – Scorsese. Hopefully we’ll learn a little bit more about the movie in the coming weeks.
Director: Pablo Larraín
Starring: Natalie Portman, John Hurt, Greta Gerwig
After stepping away from the limelight for a few years, Natalie Portman is now eyeing up her second Best Actress statuette with her starring role in Pablo Larraín’s heartrending biopic about Jackie Kennedy.
The Academy sure does love a good biopic (The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything and The King’s Speech are recent examples that spring to mind), so Jackie shouldn’t face a lot of opposition when it comes to racking up those sweet, sweet nominations. Not only that – Jackie Kennedy is a tragic icon of American history and by all accounts Portman brings her to life with aplomb, cutting a strikingly forlorn figure on the screen. The supporting cast pulls in the likes of John Hurt, Greta Gerwig, Peter Sarsgaard, Billy Crudup, John Carroll Lynch and Richard E. Grant.
Director: Barry Jenkins
Starring: Trevante Rhodes, Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris
Written and directed by Barry Jenkins, Moonlight is an ambitious film that follows an African-American man who is struggling with staying true to himself, as well as the challenges of coming out to his family, across three periods of his life.
Starring the likes of Trevante Rhodes (who plays adult Chiron), André Holland, Naomie Harris and Mahershala Ali, Moonlight has been garnering praise as it tours the northern autumn festival circuit, screening at Telluride, Toronto, New York and London.
Billed as “a timeless story of human connection and self-discovery” this could be one indie gem that has enough momentum to chug all the way to the centre stage of the Dolby Theatre. Although it doesn’t currently have an Australian release date, the first quarter of 2017 would be a safe bet.
Director: Denzel Washington
Starring: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Mykelti Williamson
Denzel Washington has made the move back behind the camera for his third directorial effort in Fences. Set in 1950s Pittsburgh, the film follows a retired baseball player (also played by Washington) who now works as a garbage man and is struggling to provide for his family.
Adapted from an acclaimed stage production, the film focuses heavily on race relations and the evolving African-American experience in 50’s America. Both Washington and co-star Viola Davis starred in a 2010 revival of the play, making their familiarity with the material an encouraging sign. Davis even took home a Tony Award for her work on the project. Put all this together and you’ve got an early lock on both Best Actor and Best Actress nominations, possibly even a shot at the Best Director category for Washington.
Images courtesy of Icon Film Distribution, Roadshow Films, eOne Films, 20th Century Fox, Transmission Films, A24,