Fall signals the coming of not only new tv offerings, but the beginning of a slew of movies with performances guaranteed to at least tempt the roving eye of the almighty Academy. The biopic, with its focus on victory over adversity, its celebration of unrecognized genius in our midst, and its prosthetic noses, is often where actors and directors find the spotlight that has ever been their due.
This year is no exception. From Hollywood to the scrappy Indie production companies that fight their way into distribution, a wonderful assemblage of stories from inspiriting to cautionary awaits us this fall.
Cinema Siren has 10 of the most promising films and performances for you to keep in mind and plan to see in the coming months. Trust me, whether they glean recognition from the academy or not, they will advance your knowledge of our collective past, and offer fodder for the many holiday cocktail conversations in your future.
Every single film on the list has potential for Oscar attention, so none of these films will be a waste of your time. They may not be perfect, but they’ve all already garnered big awards buzz. Seek them out. You can thank me or curse me later.
Click on the titles for official information on each film.
Pride (Sept 26th)
Bill Nighy. Isn’t that enough? The beloved Brit actor some Americans only know as the washed up rock and roller from Love Actually co-stars in a true story of a group of LGBT activists who decide to start a campaign to raise money for families affected by the UK miners strike in 1984. When the miners union politely decline their help, they go directly to a small mining village in South Wales, finding connection, compassion, and of course, some bigotry. This is a genuine “Feel GOOD” movie, because it really is based on real life. The acting ensemble is no Slouchers List, with Imelda Staunton, Paddy Considine, Ben Schnetzer, and Dominic West all featured in the cast. Don’t let this Britflick fly under your radar.
The Theory of Everything (Nov 7th)
Eddy Redmayne stars as Stephen Hawking (although it’s been done before) in a story about the hot “ice bucket challenge” topic, ALS, and his diagnosis of the same at 21. It is the actor’s time to shine and he rises to the challenge, while fascinating us with his portrayal of one of the geniuses of our time. He is currently a top contender in the best actor Oscar race, early though it may be.
Rosewater (Nov 7th)
Remember those three months The Daily Show had a guest host because Jon Stewart was off making a movie? Stewart’s directorial debut tells the true story of Maziar Bahari, the Iranian-Canadian journalist who was detained for 118 days while covering the Iranian elections in 2009. Gael Garcia Bernal stars, and it said his touching and subtle performance will play a major role in its likely success.
Foxcatcher (Nov 14th)
This movie is the one that will alter many a perception at its release. Not a fan of Channing Tatum? This will cure you and bring you into the fold. Not a believer that Steve Carell can be a dramatic actor? Say that after he accepts his Best Acting Oscar nom…Cementing Hollywood’s acceptance of director Bennett Miller (Capote, Moneyball) into its A list, the story is of Olympic wrestler Dave Schulz (Mark Ruffalo) who was murdered by John du Pont (Steve Carell) on his sprawling Pennsylvania estate, and du Pont’s relationships with Dave and his brother Mark (Channing Tatum) whom he trained for the 1988 Olympics. The acting buzz from this film? A hive swarming with a thousand bees.
The Imitation Game (Nov 21st)
We have seen Benedict Cumberbatch all over the place in the last few years, and his omnipresence in both Hollywood and on BBC as Sherlock has numbed all but the most diehard fans to his charms (*his fan base has famously dubbed themselves, to Benny’s own consternation, the Cumberbitches). In The Imitation Game, he plays real life brainiac geek-hero Alan Turing, a British mathematician who was the key to breaking the Nazi Enigma code during WW2.
Wild (Dec 5th)
Reese Witherspoon plays a women, the real life Cheryl Strayed, who suffers through the loss of her mother and works through her heroin addiction by walking over 1100 miles alone. Directed by Jean-Mark Vallee, of Dalles Buyers Club, she steers a powerful movie about change and expansion to which we can all relate.
Mr. Turner (Dec 19th)
When films are released this close to Christmas, it means something. Lead actor Timothy Spall has already been awarded Best Actor at Cannes, and all signs point to an impending Oscar campaign. This story of British painter J.M.W. Turner is directed by Mike Leigh, and apart from its gorgeous visual landscape, it promises to deliver the kind of high caliber performance to which fans of character actor Spall have grown well accustomed.
Big Eyes (Dec 25th)
Ahhh, the Christmas day released biopic. This is like a neon sign from Hollywood saying they believe it has serious Award circuit promise. Tim Burton helms the weird chronicle of painting couple Walter and Margaret Keane (Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams) who have fought over credit for those creepy big-eyed child portraits in the 1970s that just about singlehandedly ushered in that hipster lowbrow art popular today.
Selma (Dec 25th)
How about a female Indie director, powerhouse Ava DuVernay, who has already garnered awards at Sundance and the Indie Spirit Awards co-writing and directing a biopic on Martin Luther King’s Montgomery voting rights in 1965? Let’s add Oprah Winfrey as producer and Brit under-the-radar acting phenom David Oyelowo as the star. This labor of love deserves to be seen, and just might turn out to be great.
Unbroken (Dec 25th)
It’s a husband and wife WW2-fer! While Brad Pitt stars in Fury, his new bride Angelina Jolie directs this film version of Lauren Hillenbrand’s bestselling true story about Olympic track star Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell). During the second World War, he goes through the tortures of the damned by surviving a plane crash, being adrift at sea for 47 days, and being abused in a Japanese prison camp, then living to tell the tale.