This year’s summer blockbuster season was so uniformly disappointing it inspired dozens of publications to proclaim 2016 the year that killed movies. Despite the growing pains of an industry still coming to terms with digital age competition, the movies are alive and well. For proof, look no further than the impending list of fall 2016 movies, which will see dozens of much-hyped independent dramas and prestige epics destined for Oscar consideration. This will provide a much-needed antidote to the vacuous spectacle of summer films like Independence Day: Resurgence.
Will these films help bolster what’s been otherwise an exceptionally disappointing year in film? These eight films coming out soon at least give us hope.
1. Silence (December 23)
Martin Scorsese has been trying to make Silence since the 1990s, and 2016 is finally the year his long-gestating passion project comes to fruition. The film stars Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield, and Adam Driver as Catholic missionaries persecuted by the shogunate in 17th century Japan. Scorsese’s conflicted Catholicism has always been a big part of his work, and this film looks like a pained meditation on that faith and a far cry from the testosterone-fueled insanity of The Wolf of Wall Street.
2. The Birth of a Nation (October 7)
This year’s The Birth of a Nation boldly reclaims the title of D.W. Griffith’s influential, yet appallingly racist 1915 film to tell the story of Nat Turner, an educated slave preacher driven to orchestrate an uprising against the white Southern masters. The film was greeted with standing ovations upon its premiere at Sundance Film Festival, but there’s already a backlash against the film’s hype, specifically in reference to a 1999 allegation of rape for which director and star Nate Parker was acquitted.
3. La La Land (December 9)
Whiplash director Damien Chazelle seems to have left behind the unbearable tension of Whiplash, but kept the jazz of his debut feature for this year’s follow-up, La La Land. It’s a musical starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. It won the People’s Choice Award at this year’s Toronto Film Festival, a win that suggests Chazelle and his leads could be headed for awards season acclaim once more.
4. Moonlight (October 21)
Independent director Barry Jenkins’s second feature, Moonlight premiered at Telluride Film Festival and immediately earned rave reviews from seemingly every critic who saw the film. The story follows a young black man (Mahershala Ali) coming of age in one of Miami’s rougher neighborhoods. Though it sounds perhaps a little artsier than the typical Oscar contender, the timely themes and early critical praise could earn Moonlight a lot of attention with Academy voters.
5. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (November 11)
Ang Lee’s follow-up to Life of Pi looks to be just as visually sumptuous, even without any CGI tigers populating the screen. Based on the darkly comedic Iraq War novel by Ben Fountain, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk follows the homecoming of a battalion glorified as heroes by an American public that seem to care very little about the realities of the war they’re fighting. Lee shot the film at an unusually high-frame rate, and early trailers feature gorgeous cinematography highlighting the empty rah-rah patriotism of modern America.
6. Manchester by the Sea (November 18)
Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, and Kyle Chandler star in this much buzzed-about independent drama concerning a teenage boy who comes to live with his uncle after his father’s death. The story is intimate, yet spans multiple years, and the performances and filmmaking have all been praised across the board in early reviews from film festivals.
7. Paterson (December 28)
Adam Driver stars in Paterson as a bus driver named Paterson living in the town of Paterson, New Jersey. The latest offering from aloof indie mainstay, Jim Jarmusch, earned the admiration of critics at Cannes, but don’t expect anything particularly flashy or exciting — Paterson looks to be little more than a week in the life of its poetry-writing protagonist, which should delight patient fans and deter typical moviegoers.
8. The Handmaiden (October 21)
Park Chan-wook returns to his native South Korea after his American filmmaking debut with Stoker for his new film, The Handmaiden. Set in 1930s Korea, the Oldboy director’s latest thriller concerns an orphan adopted by a demanding and mysterious count who’s interested in more than she initially lets on. Expect a psychologically complex and gorgeously shot film that is as erotic as it is disturbing.
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