Another year, another “strange time” for festivals. And yet, despite a pair of on-going strikes and an entertainment world that seems hellbent on remaining in flux, as the air turns chillier, it’s still time for the laurels to come out, and there are plenty of new films to get excited about seeing soon.
This year’s fall festival season includes new films from Hayao Miyazaki, Michael Mann, David Fincher, Ellen Kurras, Yorgos Lanthimos, Errol Morris, Pablo Larraín, Kitty Green, Andrew Haigh, Harmony Korine, and Anna Kendrick, and that’s only the start. There are films about everything from vampiric dictators to (actual) dicks, dumb money to stupid dreams, true stories of courage to fake stories of Nicolas Cage invading people’s minds, at least one very big suit, and so very much more.
And while a handful of films have opted to skip out on the festivals, like the previously announced Venice opener “Challengers” (which gave up its fest berth and original release date) or chattered-about premieres that were never officially announced before being cancelled (one we keep hearing about: Marielle Heller’s “Nightbitch,” which had been bound for TIFF before the strikes), there’s plenty on offer here.
Many of these films have already set release dates so that wider audiences may enjoy them (take a look at our wider fall and winter preview for further reading and recommendations), and we hope to unearth a few unclaimed gems to join them in our list of most-anticipated films below. And, as other films and festival lineups are announce in the coming days (looking at you, Telluride), this list will be updated accordingly.
Eric Kohn, Anne Thompson, Brian Welk, Samantha Bergeson, and Christian Zilko contributed to this article.
“AGGRO DR1FT” (Venice, TIFF, NYFF)
The daily morphine drip of news that has leaked since the announcement Harmony Korine’s “AGGRO DR1FT” is the closest a cinephile can come to experiencing a galaxy brain meme in real life. First, we learned that Korine shot an entire feature — his first since the delightful slice of cosmic Florida-cana that was 2019’s “The Beach Bum” — in secret. Then it came out that the entire film was shot in infrared. Then Korine said that it’s so different from his previous works that he’s not even sure if it’s technically a movie.
And last — but certainly not least — Gaspar Noe of all people called the film “extremely trippy.” You know you’re doing good work when the guy who directed “Enter the Void” thinks you made something strange. As is the case with most Korine films, nobody will really know what to expect until “AGGRO DR1FT” premieres in Venice. But given that it stars Travis Scott and tells a story set in the criminal underbelly of Miami involving assassins, mobsters, and strippers, it’s safe to assume that this will not be a boring one. —CZ
“All of Us Strangers” (NYFF)
Andrew Haigh — director of the adored gay what-might-have-been romance “Weekend” and crisply told, Oscar-nominated marital breakdown portrait “45 Years” — writes and directs films that feel as finely sculpted as short stories. His latest film, “All of Us Strangers,” finds the director wading into supernatural territory but hardly far from his usual stomping grounds: Star Andrew Scott, in fact, has teased that it’s very gay indeed, and out actor Scott co-starring opposite Paul Mescal should be enough to send fans ablaze as the movie’s first look foretells.
It’s based on a 1987 novel, “Strangers,” by Japanese author Taichi Yamada, transplanting the story to an empty tower block in London. Screenwriter Adam (Scott) has an encounter with his mysterious neighbor, Harry (Mescal), that flips his world upside down, as Adam finds himself pulled back to his childhood home where his long-dead parents (Claire Foy and Jamie Bell) are alive again and look just as they did when they died 30 years before. Is this our last chance to see “Aftersun” Oscar nominee Mescal in his indie roots before he’s swept away by the tides of franchises with “Gladiator 2”? Here’s hoping not. He’s told IndieWire that independent cinema is where he wants to be. —RL
“The Beast” (Venice, TIFF, NYFF)
Here’s a wild one for you: “House of Tolerance” and “Nocturama” filmmaker Bertrand Bonello loosely adapts a Henry James novella about time slipping out of the grasp of a man convinced some awful event is around every turn, diverting him from ever feeling love. But Bonello transports that 19th century tale to a future world where humans (including Léa Seydoux and George MacKay) undergo a procedure that eliminates emotions to make them more productive members of a post-pandemic society.
But Bonello also jumps across time with episodes in present day and fin-de-siecle Paris, featuring those same characters who seem aware of their past and future lives. You would not believe what real-life person MacKay channels in the present-day sequences even if we told you. (Gaspard Ulliel was originally cast in MacKay’s role before the actor died unexpectedly early last year.) This sci-fi melodrama’s brainy ambitions — a little “Last Year of Marienbad,” even a little “La Jetee” — plus the talent and beauty of his leads portend arthouse crossover appeal for any intrepid buyer. —RL
“The Boy and the Heron” (TIFF, NYFF)
How do you follow one of the greatest swan songs in the history of modern fiction? Typically speaking: with retirement and/or death. But there’s nothing typical about a giant like Hayao Miyazaki, who’s retired more times than most of us can remember, and reaffirmed his own immortality with every triumphant return. And now, 10 years after “The Wind Rises” appeared to offer a final, crushingly bittersweet summation of the anime master’s life as an artist, the 82-year-old Miyazaki has come back to us with the third or fourth “last” film of a career that is already destined to live on forever.
Studio Ghibli has shared precious little about “The Boy and the Heron,” which was released in Japan under its infinitely superior original title “How Do You Live?” without a plot description, a trailer, or even a still image from the film. And while screenshots and synopses are now widely available for those interested in finding them, we’d rather preserve as much of the mystery as we can until after its TIFF premiere. It’s safe to assume the story will involve a boy and a heron, and that it will be at least partially set in a rich but haunted fantasy world rife with wonder and regret. But then again, it also seemed safe to assume that “The Wind Rises” would be Miyazaki’s last movie, so who knows what wonders the future might hold. —DE
“The Burial” (TIFF)
We’ve been big fans of filmmaker Maggie Betts since her 2017 feature debut, “Novitiate” (starring a rising Margaret Qualley before everyone else got hip to her skills), so we’re pretty much in the bag for her long-awaited follow-up, the true story “The Burial.” Betts has a keen eye for characters and how they move through the world, the kind of touch that true-life tales like her latest are often lacking.
Based on a New Yorker article by Jonathan Harr, the film follows Jamie Foxx as big-talking personal injury lawyer Willie E. Gary, who takes on a case involving a funeral home owner (Tommy Lee Jones) which unearths new dimensions that tap into everything from race and power to prejudice and corporate oversight. The film, backed by Amazon, also stars Jurnee Smollett, Mamoudou Athie, Bill Camp, Dorian Missick, Amanda Warren, Pamela Reed, Jim Klock and Alan Ruck. —KE
“El Conde” (Venice)
After the detours through history with “Spencer” and “Jackie,” Chilean director Pablo Larraín returns to the lingering trauma of the Pinochet dictatorship he last explored in the Oscar-nominated “No” with his most ambitious treatment of the subject to date — a gothic work of historic fiction that imagines Pinochet as a vampire. Legendary Chilean actor Jaime Vadell plays Pinochet at a crossroads.
Larraín’s script, co-written with regular collaborator Guillermo Calderón, imagines Pinochet as a creature born some 250 years ago who started his life fighting against the French Revolution. Now, after faking his death years earlier, he hides away in the countryside — where his grown children find him and aim to get a piece of his inheritance. A giant metaphor for the potential for tyranny to linger in society even after rulers lose their rule, the movie should please fans of Larraín’s early work and win him some genre aficionados in the process.
Shot in glorious throwback black-and-white by veteran Todd Haynes cinematographer Ed Lachman, the provocative satire blends the familial dysfunction of “Succession” with the classic horror atmosphere of “Vampyr,” a delectable combination that proves even the most serious subjects can be entertaining at the same time. This is historical revisionism with bite. —EK
“Dicks: The Musical” (TIFF)
The Oscar race has barely begun, but the Best Movie Title of 2023 race was over before it even began. Try as they might, no other film had a prayer of beating “Dicks: The Musical.”
The first musical released by A24 is an adaptation of the equally well-named Off-Broadway show “Fucking Identical Twins.” The plot splits the difference between “The Parent Trap” and “You’ve Got Mail,” with Josh Sharp and Aaron Jackson starring as sworn business enemies who conspire to reunite their parents after learning they’re actually identical twins.
In typical A24 fashion, they’re rounded out by a stellar supporting cast that includes Nathan Lane, Megan Mullally, Megan Thee Stallion, and Bowen Yang as God. With “Seinfeld” veteran and regular Sacha Baron Cohen collaborator Larry Charles handling directing duties, “Dicks the Musical” could turn into a raunchy runaway hit when it premieres in the Midnight Madness section of the Toronto International Film Festival. —CZ
“Dream Scenario” (TIFF)
Get on the Kristoffer Borgli train now. The acerbic Norwegian filmmaker delighted last year’s Cannes with his painfully funny feature debut “Sick of Myself” — billed by this very website as the real Worst Person in the World — and show no signs of letting up when it comes to his A24-backed sophomore outing. Like any dedicated cinephiles with a wicked dark streak and a hearty sense of humor, Borgli reveres Nicolas Cage, enough to cast him as the “loser” start of his next feature.
In “Dream Scenario,” Cage stars as a middling professor who has mostly avoided attention — until he starts showing up in people’s dreams, like everyone’s dreams. The film will premiere at TIFF before its November premiere, and the festival’s official synopsis hints at another banger from Borgli, a “satirical swipe at celebrity and groupthink” that “features an iconic intensity not seen in a Cage part since ‘Mandy.’” Borgli + Cage should be enough to thrill astute movie-goers, but further treats await: it also stars Julianne Nicholson and Michael Cera, and was co-produced by Ari Aster. —KE
“Dumb Money” (TIFF)
At one point destined to be one of about a half dozen projects all about GameStop and the “meme stock” phenomenon driven by a Reddit forum, Sony’s “Dumb Money” wants to be the zany, truer-than-fiction underdog story about the stock shorting mayhem that ensued. Craig Gillespie’s film looks like a mix of his own “I, Tonya” and Adam McKay’s “The Big Short,” rife with agitated Wall Street suits, a whole lot of “Holy f***ing s***” line readings, and even on-screen asterisks explaining thorny financial terms (Margot Robbie in a bathtub not included). The film based on Ben Mezrich’s book “The Antisocial Network” even has the real life “Winklevi” twins involved as executive producers.
“Dumb Money” stars Paul Dano, Pete Davidson, Vincent D’Onofrio, America Ferrera, Nick Offerman, Anthony Ramos, Sebastian Stan, Shailene Woodley, and Seth Rogen. And though the strikes forced Sony to delay fall titles like “Kraven the Hunter” and the next “Ghostbusters” movie to 2024, Sony actually moved “Dumb Money” up to a plumb September spot. —BW
“Ferrari” (Venice, NYFF)
Michael Mann’s first movie since the unjustly maligned “Blackhat” came out at the beginning of 2015, “Ferrari” finds the “Ali” director returning to biopic mode — at least in his way — with this narrowly focused look at the life of a legendary car manufacturer in crisis. Dusting off his delightful Italian accent from “House of Gucci,” Adam Driver stars as Enzo Ferrari, who enters the summer of 1957 with his company facing bankruptcy and his marriage on the ropes as he and his wife (Penélope Cruz as Laura Ferrari) continue to grieve the loss of their son.
Under those harried circumstances, Enzo does what anyone would do in that situation: He stakes his entire future on the outcome of a single, 1,000-mile race across the whole of Italy. While that premise might have the makings of a mile-a-minute sports movie, Mann’s interest in steely, isolated men suggests that his focus here won’t be on the suspense of winning the race itself so much as the tenacity required for Enzo to find a new gear when everything else seems lost. —DE
“Finalmente L’Alba” (Venice)
Italian filmmaker Saverio Costanzo has taken his kitchen-sink psychodramas from the Palestinian-Israeli (2004’s “Private”) to as far as New York City (2014’s “Hungry Hearts” with Adam Driver and Alba Rohrwacher) and throughout Naples in his television serial “My Brilliant Friend,” adapted from Elena Ferrante’s universally beloved novels about a fractious female friendship over decades.
For “Finalmante L’Alba,” he’s again working with Rohrwacher (who narrates “My Brilliant Friend”) and back on home turf with a show business drama set in 1950s Rome at the heyday of when major Hollywood productions made the Eternal City its playground. And so Saverio Costanzo shrewdly casts an ensemble of rising and veteran American stars for this story of one aspiring actress’ career reckoning over the course of an intense evening. Lila James, Rachel Sennott, Joe Keery, and Willem Dafoe star in the feature shot mainly at Cinecittà Studios — all the makings for something glitzy and star-eyed on paper, but Costanzo’s earthly prior work foreshadow something gritty and tougher. —RL
What if the key to finding your soulmate was at the tip of your finger? Lauded Greek filmmaker Christos Nikou (“Apples”) returns to the festival stage (the film will screen at TIFF in September) with sci-fi love story “Fingernails,” produced by Cate Blanchett. In the film, Jessie Buckley stars as Anna, a new employee at a company that produces a machine that can determine whether or not a couple is right for each other. All it takes is ripping off your fingernail (ouch, but writer-director Nikou promised Vanity Fair this is not a body horror film) and voila, confirmation of a soulmate.
Anna is happily dating Ryan (Jeremy Allen White), whom the machine has deemed her perfect match, so why then does she start to develop feelings for her boss Amir (Riz Ahmed)? Luke Wilson and Annie Murphy also star in the meditation on nature vs. nurture, technology vs. IRL meet-cutes, and ultimately, whether one should follow their mind or their heart. And the A-list actors involved are only half of the buzz for the upcoming feature: “Fingernails” also boasts “Euphoria” cinematographer Marcell Rév, who shot the retro-inspired romance on film. —SB
“Gasoline Rainbow” (Venice)
Sibling directors Bill and Turner Ross have emerged as some of the more exciting and inventive non-fiction storytellers in recent years, with everything from New Orleans charmer “Tchoupitoulas” to the boundary-pushing “Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets” (which takes place in a Las Vegas bar that was actually a NOLA set) showing their capacity to push the documentary form in bracing new directions. “Gasoline Rainbow” promises to continue that tradition and even take it to greater heights with the story of five teenagers from rural Oregon who embark on a road trip to the Pacific Coast.
Wild hijinks unfold as they career across the American West and encounter a series of colorful characters along the way. Per usual, expect ambiguity around how much of the movie has been scripted or staged, at least until these maverick filmmakers render those questions moot through the authenticity of their cinematic craftmanship. This is one coming-of-age story likely to break the mold. —EK
“The Holdovers” (TIFF)
Almost 20 years after “Sideways,” Alexander Payne has reunited with Paul Giamatti for a very different kind of character study. As the professor at a private school tasked with overseeing students who can’t go home during the Christmas break, Giamatti plays the kind of dyspeptic grinch he does better than anyone, while Payne (building off a script initially meant as a TV pilot by “Kitchen Confidential” showrunner David Hemingson) seems poised to resurrect his unique blend of caustic humor and poignant storytelling within the kind of personable narrative that suits him well.
After the overly ambitious and costly VFX endeavor “Downsizing” in 2017, “The Holdovers” reportedly brings Payne back to sturdier ground with the kind of “sad angry man gets emotional” trajectory that has been so well realized in everything from “About Schmidt” to…well, “Sideways.” Plus, it promises breakout potential for Dominic Sessa as the wayward student whom Giamatti’s character takes an interest in, and Payne has a good track record with emerging talent, from Reese Witherspoon to Shailene Woodley.
Focus Features picked up “The Holdovers” for $30 million last year, another good sign that this fall release will fit into the season like a warm and welcome blanket (but hopefully with a little Payne-ian bite, too). —EK
“Housekeeping for Beginners” (Venice)
Australian-Macedonian filmmaker Goran Stolevksi has scored a dedicated patron in Focus Features, which released his 2022 folk-horror Sundance breakout “You Won’t Be Alone” and gay whirlwind romance “Of an Age” and will next bring “Housekeeping for Beginners” from Venice to the rest of the world. The openly gay filmmaker has found queer stories in the unlikeliest of corners — such as Noomi Rapace as a shapeshifting witch in 19th century Macedonia for “You Won’t Be Alone.”
Stolevski makes his Venice Orizzonti debut in the drama about a found family, loosely formed and eking it out in Skopje, Macedonia as out-of-her-depth Dita (“4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days” actress Anamaria Marinca) is forced to raise her recently deceased girlfriend’s kids, including the tiny troublemaker Mia and wanderlusting teen Vanessa. The three clash as Dita faces institutional hurdles to take custody, with Stolevski situating the drama mostly inside their chaotic apartment, shooting handheld. The pressure-cooker setup — and what must have been an encouraging and open rehearsal process — yields warm connections and poignant chemistry among the actors, many of whom are in front of a camera for the first time.
Both “Of an Age” and “Housekeeping” were financed before the arthouse acclaim for “You Won’t Be Alone,” making his steady output of idiosyncratic queer features rare for a budding director. —RL
“Janet Planet” (NYFF)
Almost a decade since she won the Pulitzer Prize for her play about the ushers of a rundown Massachusetts cinema, “The Flick” writer Annie Baker is returning to the big screen with a movie of her own; her medium might have changed, but it’s safe to assume that the piercing stillness of Baker’s work has made the transition intact.
Set in the summer of 1991, the A24-produced “Janet Planet” tells a mother-daughter story through the eyes of an 11-year-old girl named Lacy (Zoe Ziegler), who waits for sixth grade to start while watching a small handful of different people drift through her mother’s orbit (Julianne Nicholson plays the titular acupuncturist). Those people include a boyfriend played by Will Patton, an old friend played by Sophie Okonedo, and a new friend played by Elias Koteas, all of whom offer Lacy unique lenses through which she starts to see her mother in a strange new light — a light that allows Baker’s film to trace the invisible boundaries that separate us from our parents. —DE
“The Killer” (Venice)
“Mank” may not have lit the world on fire (it’s hard to sell a black-and-white movie about Gary Oldman writing “Citizen Kane,” especially at the height of a global pandemic), and “Mindhunter” may have left its fans in the lurch, but David Fincher seems happy to call Netflix his home, as the director has reteamed with the streamer — and “Seven” writer Andrew Kevin Walker — for this long, long, long-in-the-works psychological action thriller about a sniper-for-hire played by an unsmiling Michael Fassbender who finds himself on the wrong end of an international manhunt after a job gone wrong.
Adapted from the French graphic novel of the same name, “The Killer” promises to be the most elliptical of Fincher’s many elegant genre exercises, as thedirector vibes off Jean-Pierre Melville and ’70s noir for this minimalistic revenge story. Tilda Swinton co-stars, in the unlikely event you weren’t sold already. —DE
Making her feature directorial debut, cinematographer and documentary Oscar nominee (“The Betrayal”) Ellen Kuras directs Oscar-winner Kate Winslet (“The Reader”) in this biopic of British model-turned-war photographer Lee Miller, who covered World War II for Vogue magazine. Liz Hannah, John Collee and Marion Hume adapted the book “The Lives of Lee Miller” by Antony Penrose, who is played by Josh O’Connor in the film. Also starring are Marion Cotillard, Alexander Skarsgård, Andrea Riseborough, and Andy Samberg.
Kuras assembled a top-level crew, too: Oscar-winning composer Alexandre Desplat (“The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “The Shape of Water”), Oscar-winning costume designer Michael O’Connor (“The Duchess”), Oscar-nominated cinematographer Paweł Edelman (“The Pianist”) and BAFTA-winner Ivana Primorac (“The Darkest Hour”) as head makeup and hair artist. —AT
“Maestro” (Venice, NYFF)
Venice premiere “Maestro,” producer-star Bradley Cooper’s sophomore directing effort after “A Star is Born,” is more than a biopic of “West Side Story” composer and New York Philharmonic conductor Leonard Bernstein. Steven Spielberg intended to direct the movie before passing it off to Cooper; Martin Scorsese is also listed in the producer credits.
Co-written by Cooper and Oscar-winner Josh Singer (“Spotlight”), the movie highlights the composer-conductor’s relationship with Costa Rican-born actress/activist Felicia Montealegre (first-billed Carey Mulligan), his wife of 27 years and the mother of his three children. Their family life was vital to him; she accepted that he had affairs with other women and men. But after he left her to live with another man, he returned to her side until she passed away from cancer in 1978. The film also stars Matt Bomer, Maya Hawke, Sarah Silverman, and Josh Hamilton, and features Academy ratio cinematography by Matthew Libatique and Cooper’s prominent prosthetic nose, designed by two-time Oscar-winner Kazu Hiro (“Bombshell,” “Darkest Hour”). —AT
“Memory” (Venice, TIFF)
Secrecy surrounds the latest provocation from Michel Franco, the controversy-courting of 99-percent-uprising apocalypse “New Order” and the searing school-bullying Michael Haneke homage “After Lucia.” But details are now emerging for his highest-profile feature yet, starring Jessica Chastain as a recovering alcoholic who’s stalked back to her home by a former classmate (Peter Sarsgaard) from her high school reunion. The New York-set “Memory” is rumored to deal with issues of caretaking, returning Franco to the realm of “Chronic,” which starred Tim Roth as an end-of-life hospice worker, and perhaps even to Haneke’s “Amour” — an unsurprising throughline for a filmmaker of cold rigidity whom as we saw with “New Order” and “Sundown” is beginning to loosen his formalistic tendencies.
Chastain is on a hot streak of physically challenging roles — from her Oscar-winning turn in “Eyes of Tammy Faye” to playing another Tammy in Showtime’s Wynette family saga “George and Tammy” and a soul-baring, Tony-nominated Broadway turn this past spring in “A Doll’s House.” —RL
“Mother Couch” (TIFF)
Cannes favorite short film director Niclas Larsson (“Our Broken Heart”) makes his feature directorial debut with obscure family drama “Mother Couch” adapted from Swedish novel “Mamma I Soffa” by Jerker Virdborg. A trio of estranged siblings, played by Ewan McGregor, Rhys Ifans, and “Twin Peaks” alum Lara Flynn Boyle visit their mother (Ellen Burstyn) who is refusing to leave a furniture store’s green couch. “Bones and All” breakout Taylor Russell and F. Murray Abraham are the store’s managers who assist the family through a series of surreal revelations, with Lake Bell co-starring.
While “Mother Couch” appears to be a mix of “Beau Is Afraid” existential dread, Larsson’s filmography for commercial brands like Volvo and Mercedes-Benz led him to be nominated for a DGA Award in 2021. Vogue short film “The Magic Diner,” starring Alicia Vikander and Vogue EIC Anna Wintour, has set the stage for buzzy “Mother, Couch,” which lead actor McGregor is executive producing. After its TIFF premiere, “Mother, Couch” is off to the San Sebastian New Directors screening in competition. —SB
“Next Goal Wins” (TIFF)
Years after its initial production (reshoots were necessary after Armie Hammer was replaced by Will Arnett and the initial shoot was waylaid by the pandemic), the latest energetic comedy from Taika Waititi has crowdpleaser written all over it. A sports movie adapted from the 2014 documentary of the same name, “Next Goal Wins” stars Michael Fassbender as soccer coach Thomas Rongen, who’s tasked with improving the odds for the failing American Samoa soccer team.
With Elisabeth Moss as the coach’s wife and Arnett as a soccer executive (as well as non-binary actor Kaimana as trans player Jaiyah Saelua in a potential breakout role), “Next Goal Wins” has a stacked cast that even includes Waititi in a supporting role. The writer-director-actor excels at uplifting storytelling that blends silliness with surprise emotional depth, and as interest in “Ted Lasso” wanes, “Next Goal Wins” may benefit from its many delays by staking its claim as the major soccer story of the moment. —EK
The Oscar-winning documentary team Jimmy Chin and Chai Vasarhelyi (“Free Solo”) have proved after “Meru,” “The Rescue,” and “Wildlife” that they are nonpareils at delivering consistently stunning visuals and provocative non-fiction content. The directing duo choose their subjects carefully. In this case, they’ve directed their first fiction film, making the transition from documentary filmmaking, where you’re looking at what’s in front of you, to fiction, where you’re creating what’s in front of you.
“Nyad” is based on the true story of swimmer Diana Nyad, who tried to swim from Cuba to Florida four times, starting when she was 28. During her 30-year retirement from swimming, she pursued a vibrant broadcasting career. But she wasn’t finished with her dream: Nyad finally completed the swim on the fifth try when she was 64 — the same age as the actress portraying her, Annette Bening. The film costars Jodie Foster as Nyad’s partner, playing an openly gay woman for the first time. —AT
“Pet Shop Days” (Venice)
We haven’t seen a new film from neo-expressionist iconoclast Julian Schnabel in a hot minute, but his son Olmo Schnabel looks to paint in the void with his first directorial feature, “Pet Shop Days.” Schnabel has also cast his father’s pal and “At Eternity’s Gate” Oscar nominee Willem Dafoe in this New York story that Olmo said homages the ‘80s grit and grime of urban classics from John Cassavetes and Brian De Palma.
Starring Jack Irv, Dario Yazbek Bernal, and Dafoe, “Pet Shop Days” follows two young men — one an impulsive drifter, the other a pet-shop employee — down a rabbit hole of vice and desire. Peter Sarsgaard and Emmanuelle Seigner play other adults who get caught up in their messy entanglements along the way. Olmo was so confident in his vision that he sent an early cut to Martin Scorsese, who ended up coming on board as an executive producer. Being a nepotism baby has its rewards, though Scorsese wouldn’t hand his imprimatur over to just any newbie filmmaker. —RL
“The Pigeon Tunnel” (TIFF, NYFF)
Oscar-winning documentarian Errol Morris (“The Fog of War”) finds a worthy adversary in one-time British spy David Cornwell AKA novelist John le Carré, whose bestselling spy novels often made strong film adaptations, among them “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold,” “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” “The Night Manager” and “The Constant Gardener.”
Le Carré’s memoir, “Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life,” provides the spine for this six-decade portrait of the novelist’s life, dominated, as readers of “A Perfect Spy” will recognize, by his con-artist father. During this last interview before Le Carré’s death in 2020, Morris tries to ferret some version of the truth, as le Carré reminds that he’s the ultimate story spinner. —AT
“Poor Things” (Venice, NYFF)
Returning to directing after five years, three-time Oscar nominee Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Favourite,” “The Lobster”) reunites with his “The Favourite” Oscar nominee Emma Stone and co-writer Tony McNamara (adapting Alasdair Gray’s 1992 novel) in Venice premiere “Poor Things.”
The darkly humorous coming-of-age tale stars Stone as free-wheeling Frankenstein’s monster Bella Baxter, who was created by unorthodox scientist Dr. Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe). As she thirsts for experience, she takes off on a raucous cross-continental adventure with decadent lawyer Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo). —AT
“Priscilla” (Venice, NYFF)
Sofia Coppola’s “Priscilla” features Jacob Elordi’s transformation into Elvis Presley, with Cailee Spaeny becoming American royalty (and the titular role of) Priscilla Presley for the dazzling-looking period piece. Writer-director Coppola adapted Priscilla Presley’s 1985 memoir “Elvis and Me” for the A24 film, which will make its North American debut at 2023 NYFF.
Coppola has compared “Priscilla” to her 2006 film “Marie Antoinette,” calling Priscilla a larger than life figure. The real-life Priscilla Presley has already praised the film as being a “masterful” reimagining of her teenage years at the height of Elvis’ fame. Priscilla is a producer on the film, with Coppola telling Vogue she wanted the feature to feel as “emotionally authentic” as possible. —SB
“Quiz Lady” (TIFF)
Awkwafina and Sandra Oh are sisters in unhinged dramedy “Quiz Lady,” directed by “This Is Us” helmer Jessica Yu. Gameshow-obsessed Anne (Awkwafina) and her messy estranged sister Jenny (Oh) are forced to come up with cash, quick, to cover their mother’s gambling debts. The easiest way to do it? Turn Anne into a gameshow champion among the ranks of “Jeopardy” champion Ken Jennings. The star-studded supporting cast includes Will Ferrell, Jason Schwartzman, Holland Taylor, and Tony Hale in the retro-inspired comedy. —SB
“In Restless Dreams: The Music of Paul Simon” (TIFF)
“Taxi to the Dark Side” Oscar-winner Alex Gibney returns to the music world with a portrait of the 81-year-old Grammy-winning singer-songwriter’s work over six decades, moving back and forth in time between the 60s Simon & Garfunkel folk era through Graceland and Rhythm of the Saints and the studio recording of his acoustic 2023 album “Seven Psalms” during the pandemic, while dealing with his hearing loss. His fifteenth album is a 33-minute suite of seven related songs about faith and mortality. Gibney interviews Wynton Marsalis, Lorne Michaels, and Simon’s wife, Edie Brickell, among others, about the artist and his music. —AT
“The Royal Hotel” (TIFF)
When documentarian Kitty Green moved into the narrative space with her 2019 feature “The Assistant,” the filmmaker proved that her keen eye for telling wrenching stories about women could cross mediums with ease. For her next feature, Green is again teaming with her “Assistant” star Julia Garner, plus rising actress Jessica Henwick and the always-intriguing Hugo Weaving.
This time around, Green again mines a true story for big drama (the film is billed as a “social thriller”), and the film follows a pair of pals (Garner and Henwick) who, while on a trip to Australia, decide to earn some quick cash by working at the eponymous Royal Hotel. But when the women become enmeshed in the alcohol-addled local culture, things start to rapidly spiral out of control. Green is a master of building tension out of horrifying true stories, and “The Royal Hotel” sounds right up her alley. Neon picked up the film last April before it started shooting in Australia. —KE
The first narrative feature from the Obamas’ Higher Ground productions stars the ever-reliable Colman Domingo as civil rights legendy Bayard Rustin, who co-founded the March on Washington movement among many other achievements. The Netflix-produced biopic comes from director George C. Wolfe, whose 2020 “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” was the latest proof that he’s well-equipped to handle the lofty task of depicting key figures in African American history on their own terms. Screenwriter Julian Breece shares a writing credit with “Milk” Oscar winner Dustin Lance Black, a potent combo that suggests the movie won’t shy away from Rustin’s ability to live an openly gay lifestyle despite the inhospitable times.
Premiering 60 years after the March on Washington — and in the midst of an ugly moment for civil rights in the U.S. with the abolishment of affirmative action and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — “Rustin” is likely to add a key historical perspective to a national conversation that must continue. —EK
“Silver Dollar Road” (TIFF)
Among high-profile names possibly in Oscar contention are Raoul Peck, whose family saga “Silver Dollar Road” (Amazon), seven years after Oscar-nominated “I Am Not Your Negro,” takes a hard look at Black resistance to systemic racism. Based on massive reporting from Lizzie Presser in The New Yorker and ProPublica, the movie chronicles how a Black family fights for decades to keep their waterfront North Carolina property from rapacious land developers.
For generations, Silver Dollar Road was passed through the the Reels family, who fished the water and farmed the land. Peck tracks the 90ish matriarch and her sons who lived all their lives on Silver Dollar Road, until the men go to jail after being served with an eviction notice. But the Reels keep fighting. —AT
TIFF’s closing night feature is, per the festival, “a vivid exploration of an illustrious life woven through the silver screen,” following the heavy-hitting Sylvester Stallone on an “intimate journey” that seems like it will encompass many eras of his wild Hollywood life. TIFF tends to love celebrity-centric documentaries (hello, 209-minute Paul Simon joint!), but it’s telling that the festival will close out this year with what sounds like a very special Netflix offering. Fans of Stallone already know the ins and outs of his life, so we’re interested to see what this doc digs up and how much Sly lets fly.
Directed by Thom Zimny (“Springsteen on Broadway,” “Elvis Presley: The Searcher”), the documentary is billed as “an intimate and unexpected look at the early life of the action megastar as well as a reflection on his career that spans nearly 50 years.” The doc was announced in June and will debut on the streaming platform in November. “Sly” comes on the heels of the Netflix three-part docuseries “Arnold” about Stallone’s competitor and acting counterpart, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Keep punching! —KE
“Stop Making Sense” (TIFF)
“Hi, I’ve got a tape I want to play.” The greatest concert movie of all time is coming back to theaters for its 40th anniversary, beginning with a nationally simulcast IMAX screening of the new 4K restoration followed by a live-streamed Q&A with David Byrne and three of his former bandmates. It would probably be too much to hold out hope for a Talking Heads reunion tour, but experiencing Jonathan Demme’s euphoric rock doc in a packed room full of people mouthing along to every word of “Psycho Killer” and “Burning Down the House” has to be the next best thing.
IndieWire recently asked producer Gary Goetzman to describe what it’s like to see “Stop Making Sense” in IMAX, and the producer told us everything we needed to hear: “You know the big suit?” He said. “It’s REALLY big.” —DE
Ethan Hawke’s auteurism deepens with this Flannery O’Connor biopic, starring his own daughter Maya Hawke as the legendary author. Filmed on location in Kentucky, “Wildcat” charts O’Connor’s struggle to publish her first novel after attending the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop. O’Connor was diagnosed with lupus and died at age 39, receiving posthumous acclaim for her short stories on the American South and winning an National Book Award.
Ethan Hawke co-writes, directs, and produces “Wildcat,” which marks the first time he has directed daughter Maya onscreen. The duo co-starred in limited series “The Good Lord Bird,” and Maya is set to act opposite mother Uma Thurman in upcoming action-comedy “The Kill Room.” Maya and brother Ryan Hawke also produce “Wildcat,” which co-stars Laura Linney, Cooper Hoffman, Willa Fitzgerald, Alessandro Nivola, Vincent D’Onofrio, Steve Zahn, Philip Ettinger, and Rafael Casal. —SB
“Woman of the Hour” (TIFF)
It was only a matter of time before Anna Kendrick jumped behind the camera, and her feature directorial debut certainly sounds like the kind of story worth waiting for. Kendrick, who directs from an Ian MacAllister McDonald script, turns her keen eye and interest in excavating the truth of tough stories to a true one, with a twist.
The Oscar nominee also stars in the film, which follows the insane story of Rodney Alcala, better known as the Dating Game Killer, given that he appeared on the beloved ’70s era dating show while in the midst of a murder spree that is believed to have involved as many as 130 murders. Kendrick is Cheryl Bradshaw, a would-be actress who appeared on the show — and ran into Alcala (played here by Daniel Zovatto) in the process — and the filmmaker uses Cheryl’s tale as a way to further explore the world Alcala inhabited and that, in many ways, may have abetted his crimes. —KE