There’s this “dangerous” film out right now called Joker. Maybe you’ve heard of it. It was the No. 1 film at last weekend’s box office, selling $93.5 million domestically and $234 million internationally over its first weekend of release despite being an extremely dark R-rated art film.
That’s unprecedented. Rated R movies don’t sell like that. Art films don’t sell like that.
The movie is anchored by an all-time-great performance by Joaquin Phoenix that echoes the work of Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver. It’s a film about a sweet, simple man who, while fighting mental illness, is subjected to a series of harsh events that ultimately push him over the edge. It’s the rare must-see film that is not only pleasing serious cinephiles and everyday movie goers alike but is setting box office records and has jumpstarted the fall Oscar conversation, if mostly due to Phoenix’s incendiary performance.
Now that the Oscar Bait Season is upon us, let’s take a look at some of the said-to-be Oscar-worthy films that we have to look forward to in the coming months:
Jojo Rabbit (Oct. 18): Funny man director Taika Waititi (Hunt for the Wilderpeople, The Inbetweeners, Thor: Ragnarok) returns with an absurdist comedy about a boy in Hitler’s army who is looking for his mother. This looks wild, beautiful, and imaginative. It stars Waititi, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, and Rebel Wilson and could end up being a Best Picture nominee as well as one of the hit art films of the year.
The Lighthouse (Oct. 18): Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson lead a black-and-white chamber piece directed by The Witch director Robert Eggers. It looks gorgeous, dark, and odd. I’m very excited for this one, even if I think it will more than likely be a cult film rather than an Oscar-worthy hit.
Motherless Brooklyn (Nov. 1): Actor Edward Norton makes his proper directorial debut with an adaptation of the classic book, and he’s bringing his friends along for the ride. The passion project years in the making stars Bruce Willis, Willem Dafoe, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Alec Baldwin, Michael K. Williams, Norton himself, and many more. This one is aiming for the statues and very much looks like a film worth anticipating.
The Irishman (Nov. 1): Martin Scorsese’s 200+ minute gangster epic is already being called an all-time classic. The film stars Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci, and that should be all you need to know about it. Watch the trailer. This one has the makings of an instant classic and might be the last time we get a masterpiece out of the 76-year-old Scorsese. It’s my pick for Best Picture winner (whether I agree or not).
Marriage Story (Nov. 6): Here’s the one I’m excited about. Writer/Director Noah Baumbach is back and he’s supposedly made his masterpiece. I don’t want to say too much about this one, other than “go see it.” It’ll stream on Netflix, but it will also screen at theaters, and I think it’s one that, if you’re a cinephile, you should get out and see. It feels like a new classic and stars Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver.
Ford v Ferrari (Nov. 15): Director James Mangold returns with his pals Matt Damon and Christian Bale for a film that is getting a lot of buzz after having a successful run on the festival circuit. I’ve already seen the trailer five times, and yeah, it looks good. That being said, I think this one might be more of a crowd pleaser than an Oscar film, although a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Bale is a given at this point in his career.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Nov. 22): The great Marielle Heller directs Tom Hanks in a film about Mister Rogers. I never thought Heller would make a cheesy film, but it looks like maybe she has. That being said, Beautiful Day is likely to peel the 50- to 70-year-old crowd off their couches and out to the theater. I won’t be surprised if this one gets a whole lot of Oscar attention and does well at the box.
A Hidden Life (Dec. 13): One of my all-time favorite directors, Terrence Malick, is back. Word is that he’s once again making films that can hold a viewer’s attention. This one does look pretty dang good, though maybe only to the cinephile crowd.
Also of note: Ira Sachs’ Frankie, Focus Features’ Harriet, the Shia LaBeouf-penned Honey Boy, Trey Edward Shults’ Waves, Todd Haynes’ Dark Waters, Rian Johnson’s Knives Out, Clint Eastwood’s Richard Jewell, the Safdie Brothers’ Uncut Gems, Jay Roach’s Bombshell, Greta Gerwig’s Little Women, Sam Mendes’ 1917, Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, Bill Condon’s The Good Liar, Scott Z. Burns’ The Report, and Destin Daniel Cretton’s Just Mercy. Apologies if I overlooked anything; it’s a crowded Oscar crop this year.
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