We’re ramping up to bona fide Oscar season, and the excitement is palpable. You can’t actually see me while I type but my eyes are rolling harder than an EDM kid at a Skrillex show. Regardless of how much nobody cares about the awards, October, November, and December are stocked with “Oscar bait,” which can also mean, “the best films of the year.” Here’s the October releases we’ll see in theaters locally that could come back for bald dude hardware next spring.
Based on the popular novel by Andy Weir, it tells the story of an astronaut who gets separated from his crew on Mars and has to survive alone on the planet and try to contact them when they take off without him. Science fiction didn’t use to hold its own at the Oscars like it does these days, but ever since Gravity blew the Academy voters out of the airlock, these types of films have been more warmly greeted in the mainstream.
Directed by Ridley Scott, starring Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, and Michael Peña.
This isn’t the first film take on the life and crime sprees of the Kray brothers, twin British gangsters who ruled the East London streets in the 50s and 60s. Or maybe not so much ruled. The historical accuracy of aggrandizements of the Krays has been oft questioned, but having both brothers played by Tom Hardy is a plus.
Directed by Brian Helgeland, starring Tom Hardy, Paul Bettany, and David Thewlis.
This is a highly anticipated drama about a pair of same-sex partners who have to deal with a cancer diagnosis and fight to keep a pension in the face of discrimination. This one looks sort of predictable, but that never stops Julianne Moore from racking up Oscar noms.
Directed by Peter Sollett, starring Julianne Moore and Ellen Page.
This one has award season written all over it. A biopic about arguably the most influential human of the last 50 years, starring an ultra-A List cast, scripted and directed by Academy darlings. Is there any way this won’t be in the mix somewhere next spring?
Directed by Danny Boyle, written by Aaron Sorkin, starring Michael Fassbender, Seth Rogen, and Kate Winslet.
Another biopic here, which means it will definitely be an Oscar contender. But this one also looks pretty good. Gordon-Levitt plays Philippe Petit, the nut job/visionary who tightrope walked between the World Trade Center towers in 1974. If you’ve seen the documentary Man on Wire (2008), you know most of this story, now see it Hollywooded.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, and Ben Schwartz.
Bridge of Spies
The award bait to end all award bait: a Spielberg-directed Cold War-era spy drama/thriller starring Tom Hanks. They started chiseling the name on the statuettes as soon as this sucker started principal photography. Hanks plays a lawyer conscripted by the CIA to rescue a pilot. Sounds intense. Looks sharp. I’m in.
Directed by Steven Spielberg, starring Tom Hanks and Alan Alda.
Beasts of No Nation
Holy heck, this one looks intense. Netflix is making their first true bid at a narrative feature (being released in theaters to get it Oscar eligibility) that will be a contender at the Academy Awards. A drama from Cary Fukunaga, who directed the brilliant first season of True Detective, about child soldiers in an unnamed African country. It’s on everyone’s must-see list.
Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, starring Idris Elba.
Another biopic, this time about the experiments of Dr. Stanley Milgram, which explored humans’ willingness to submit to authority. Yikes. This one has high expectations on it and looks great. The director has a mixed bag in the past including the preposterous Cymbeline from last year, so who knows? But the cast looks great.
Directed by Michael Almereyda, starring Peter Sarsgaard, Wynona Ryder, and Anton Yelchin.
Talk about Oscar bait. Meryl Streep and Carey Mulligan in a movie about the early suffragette movement. This movie looks crazy good and will definitely be the talk of the award circles. It’s got hot button issues like feminism, voting, and period pieces with Helena Bonham Carter. It would be impossible for this movie to not get multiple nominations.
Directed by Sarah Gavron, starring Meryl Streep, Carey Mulligan, and Helena Bonham Carter.
Rock the Kasbah
Bill Murray in a Barry Levinson comedy about a music producer in Afghanistan. Need I really say more? This one could be like 40% Wag the Dog and 60% Good Morning Vietnam and absolutely destroy at awards time. It could also be 100% Man of the Year (2006) and make me hate myself for seeing it.
Directed by Barry Levinson, starring Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Zooey Deschanel, Kate Hudson, and Danny McBride.
Our Brand Is Crisis
A smart poppy-looking drama about a political strategist who goes up against her arch nemesis in a South American election, based on the popular book by the same name. This one has the power of a brilliant director, whose last film, Manglehorn, starring Al Pacino, was an unexpected treasure, and who always seems to surprise. Here he’s in new territory, but it looks like he’ll be fine and with Bullock on his squad there’s almost no chance he doesn’t land in a tuxedo at an award ceremony.
Directed by David Gordon Green, starring Sandra Bullock, Billy Bob Thornton, and Anthony Mackie.