Now that the summer blockbusters are behind us (WTF, Suicide Squad?), it’s time to take a look at some of the films that could be contending for awards this fall—specifically the ones I have circled on my personal calendar. Don’t hate me Star Wars fans. Rogue One isn’t listed, but just be happy Boo! A Madea Halloween isn’t either. Here’s to three months of movie studios (in most cases) giving audiences the best they’ve got.
The Birth of a Nation
The early 19th century period piece, which is loosely based on the story of Nat Turner, a slave who led a rebellion in Virginia, has received critical acclaim since making its debut at Sundance in January. The film, however, has fallen under a dark shadow since rape allegations from 1999 against director/writer/star Nate Parker resurfaced last month. San Antonio’s own Oscar nominee Jackie Earle Haley and Armie Hammer co-star. Oct. 7
Based on the play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney, the sprawling character study chronicles the life of one African American man, Chiron, from his troubled childhood to his life as an aimless adult facing his sexual identity. Director Barry Jenkins (Medicine for Melancholy) confronts the meaning of masculinity over three chapters of Chiron’s existence. Oct. 21
Oscar-winning filmmaker Mel Gibson returns to the director’s chair for the first time in a decade (his last film was the underappreciated Apocalypto) for this true story about Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield), a WWII American Army medic who refuses to go into battle with a weapon. Doss becomes the first Conscientious Objector in American history to earn the Medal of Honor after saving the lives of 75 of his fellow soldiers. Nov. 4
The true story is based on the lives of Richard and Mildred Loving (Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga), an interracial couple from Virginia who is sent to prison for getting married during the Civil Rights era. Directed and written by Jeff Nichols (Mud), much of the film uses the 2011 documentary The Loving Story as a reference point for the Loving’s relationship and case, which compelled the U.S. Supreme Court to deem laws against interracial marriage unconstitutional. Nov. 4
When earth is invaded by extraterrestrials, the U.S. Army recruits linguist Dr. Louise Banks (five-time Oscar nominee Amy Adams) to come in and attempt to communicate with the beings aboard their spacecraft and find out why they have come. The sci-fi movie is directed by Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Sicario) who is currently filming the new Blade Runner sequel with Harrison Ford. Nov. 11
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Newcomer Joe Alwyn takes on the title role of two-time Oscar-winning director Ang Lee’s war drama, which is based on a 2012 novel of the same name by Texas-based writer Ben Fountain. In the film, Army private Billy Lynn, is sent on a promotional tour across the country after his squad survives a headline-grabbing battle in Iraq. It all leads to a celebration at a halftime show during a Thanksgiving Day football game where Billy recalls the moments that got him there. Nov. 11
La La Land
When jazz pianist Sebastian (Oscar nominee Ryan Gosling) falls in love with aspiring actress Mia (Oscar nominee Emma Stone) in Los Angeles, things get magical—in a Hollywood musical sort of way. Director/writer Damien Chazelle, who was nominated for an Oscar for his Whiplash screenplay last year, attempts to do something rarely done and bring an entirely original musical to the big screen. Dec. 16
In the biographical drama, Oscar nominee Michael Keaton (Birdman) portrays Ray Kroc, the entrepreneur who developed the McDonald’s franchise into the powerhouse fast-food chain it is today. Directed by John Lee Hancock (Saving Mr. Banks), the narrative tells the story of how Kroc maneuvered himself into the business of the McDonald brothers (Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch) and bought them out in the early 60s. Dec. 16 (limited)
Two-time Oscar-winning actor Denzel Washington directs his first feature film since 2007’s The Great Debaters. Based on August Wilson’s play of the same name, which was revived on Broadway in 2010 and starred Washington and Oscar nominee Viola Davis, the film introduces audiences to Troy, an African American father struggling to provide for his family during the 1950s. Dec. 25
Look for Oscar-winning director Martin Scorsese’s epic 195-minute historical drama to be a major player this awards season if Paramount Pictures doesn’t push it to 2017. Based on the 1966 novel of the same name by Japanese author Shusaku Endo, the story follows two Jesuit Portuguese Catholic priests (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) who face violent persecution when they seek out their mentor (Liam Neeson) in 17th century Japan. Dec. 23 (limited)
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