Fall means many things. To some, it's the turning of the leaves and sweater weather. To others, it's a time to come together with family and celebrate. But for me, it means movies.
With the Golden Globes and Academy Awards just around the corner, movie studios are about to roll out their best films from the best directors with the best actors. So let's get ready for fall with a look ahead at the films you're most likely to see vying for a golden statue next year, including a few you may have already missed.
1. Phantom Thread, December 25th
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Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Daniel Day Lewis
Writer: Paul Thomas Anderson
Possible Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Original Screenplay
Set in 1950's London, Reynolds Woodcock is a renowned dressmaker whose fastidious life is disrupted by a young, strong-willed woman, Alma, who becomes his muse and lover.
If they were to cast someone as an actual Oscar, it would be Daniel Day-Lewis, and he'd win an Oscar for it.
The three-time Academy Award winner last took home gold in 2012 for his portrayal of President Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, and before that in 2008 with his first Paul Thomas Anderson collaboration There Will Be Blood.
This period piece looks like a typical Paul Thomas Anderson slow-burn with strong Kubrickian camera design, but having PTA at the helm doesn't always deliver great results.
You'll remember 2012's convoluted Scientology-inspired The Master which was panned by critics and landed no nominations for the writer/director, as well as 2014's miss Inherent Vice, with no best picture or director noms.
PTA's Oscars strong suit is definitely writing, with four of his six nominations in the original and adapted screenplay categories and this moody period piece may very well break his losing streak.
2. Downsizing, December 22nd
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Director: Alexander Payne
Starring: Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, Christoph Waltz
Writers: Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor
Possible Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor/Actress
When scientists discover how to shrink humans to five inches tall as a solution to overpopulation, Paul and his wife Audrey decide to abandon their stressed lives in order to get small and move to a new downsized community.
If it sounds too weird for you, just remember this comes from the writer/director of Sideways and The Descendants -- two emotionally devastating Oscar-winners that take a completely different direction than what you were expecting.
That's Alexander Payne's super power and it could make this sci-fi satire an awards sleeper, much like 2013's Her.
Because of the Golden Globes' top prize being split into two categories (Best Drama and Best Comedy/Musical) Downsizing will likely fall into the comedy category, giving it far better odds over the other, more straight-forward dramas. You'll remember this happening with Matt Damon's The Martian winning the Globe for comedy, and going on to score an Oscars Best picture nomination.
Will Matt Damon see gold for this? Probably not. But with a supporting cast that includes two-time winner Christoph Waltz, and comedy favorites Kristen Wiig and Jason Sudeikis alongside Damon's 'average Joe' demeanor, it may give way for some serious scene-stealing.
3. I, Tonya, December 8th
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Director: Craig Gillespie
Starring: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Alison Janney
Writer: Steven Rogers
Possible Nominations: Best Picture (maybe), Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress
Tonya Harding rises through the ranks of competitive figure skating only to find disgrace when her ex-husband tries to eliminate her rival.
If you don't know the true story of Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan, this will probably be the best way to start.
Cliff notes version is Tonya's ex-husband, and body guard hired someone to break her rival Nancy Kerrigan's leg. The attack only bruised her thigh, but forced Kerrigan to withdraw from competition. All hell broke loose once word of Harding's involvement got out, and the 1994 Olympics turned into a media frenzy. Truly stranger than fiction.
Margot Robbie is definitely going for gold in and out of this movie, but the Aussie star has recently suffered from 'when bad movies happen to good actors' with Focus, The Legend of Tarzan, and of course Suicide Squad.
I can tell you Allison Janney is at the top of her game. She's been killing it since The West Wing and this looks like the kind of raw performance the Academy likes to see from veteran actors.
Though this performance will likely bring Robbie and Janney nominations, the forecast of a Best Picture nom is looking hazy. If the trailer is any indication of director Craig Gillespie's approach, it's likely a heavy-handed, overly stylistic approach to cover up the film's bigger flaws.
In all seriousness though, it's going to be very hard to dethrone Blades of Glory as my favorite ice skating movie.
4. Get Out, out now on Blu-ray/DVD
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Director: Jordan Peele
Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford
Writer: Jordan Peele
Possible Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay
It's time for a young African American to meet with his white girlfriend's parents for a weekend in their secluded estate in the woods, but before long, the friendly and polite ambiance will give way to a nightmare
If you haven't seen Get out, you're the last one.
Jordan Peele's 'social thriller' is a prime example of our current golden era of horror films. The Guess Who's Coming To Dinner meets The Stepford Wives directorial debut from the Key & Peele star shows horror's potential for social influence with a timely look through the eyes of a young African-American man in America.
Though derivative, the movie's homage to classic horror movies plays a vital role in carrying the themes of the movie, and will almost certainly secure a Best Original Screenplay nomination for Peele, who penned the script in addition to directing and producing.
As much as I'd love to see some acting awards thrown around for the movie (especially Bradley Whitford from The West Wing) I don't see it happening with so many other big names in play this season.
Best Picture is almost certainly a lock, which would mean another shot at a statue for Jason Blum of Blumhouse, whose 'high-quality, micro-budget' producing style gave us modern classics like Insidious and Paranormal Activity.
In all honesty, if this doesn't get nominated for Best Picture I will scream 'shame' at all the producers power-lunching at Il Pastaio in Beverly Hills until I get arrested.
5. Dunkirk, out now on Blu-ray/DVD
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Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Fionn Whitehead, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh
Writer: Christopher Nolan
Possible Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Sound Design
Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire and France are surrounded by the German Army, and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II.
Christopher Nolan called this movie 'VR without the goggles,' and there's really no better description.
From the director of The Dark Knight and Inception, this hour and forty six minute mini war epic is as immersive as it is lacking in plot and character development. But despite it's shortcomings compared to other films in the genre, Nolan utilizes the medium in a way that puts you into the action more than any 3D movie could.
Shot almost entirely with bulky 70mm cameras, cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema is sure to secure a nomination, if not a win (if Roger Deakins doesn't snag it for Blade Runner 2049) and the artfully cuts echo the days of linear editing.
Say what you will about Nolan, but with movies like The Prestige and (the first two) Dark Knight films, he's about due.
6. The Shape of Water, December 8th
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Director: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Elisa Esposito, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer
Writers: Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor
Possible Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Production Design
In the hidden high-security government laboratory where she works, lonely Elisa is trapped in a life of isolation. Elisa's life is changed forever when she and co-worker Zelda discover a secret classified experiment.
I'm not going to sugar coat this -- it's about a mute cleaning lady who falls in love with a fishman.
There's no other way to say it, that's just what it is. But that being said, it's a fishman/cleaning lady love story that won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival and that's going to give del Toro his first trip to the Oscars since Pan's Labyrinth.
Set against the backdrop of Cold War era America circa 1962, this is another visually-striking movie from the filmmaker behind Hellboy and Pacific Rim, with green and brass steampunk design most closely resembling the video game Bioshock . Del Toro is actually a huge video game fan, having directed one of the most elusive and terrifying min-games, Silent Hill PT -- and I suspect even Octavia Spencer's character Zelda is named after the game.
The movie features one of the absolute most underrated actors of all time, Michael Shannon, alongside Oscar winner Octavia Spencer, and Oscar nominee Richard Jenkins, giving this film the supporting cast of Academy members likely to help the film's campaign lock in a nomination or two.
It seems far-fetched, but if there's one filmmaker that can make me cry at fish love, it's del Toro.
7. The Post, December 22nd
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Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Sarah Paulson, Alison Brie
Writers: Liz Hannah, Josh Singer
Possible Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Score
A cover-up that spanned four U.S. Presidents pushed the country's first female newspaper publisher and a hard-driving editor to join an unprecedented battle between journalist and government.
With Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, and Meryl Streep, you might as well give them the nomination now. Oh, and John Williams is doing the score, so you can give him Best Score while you're at it.
This true story, formerly titled The Pentagon Papers, sees Hanks and Streep in their first movie as co-stars ever, if you can believe that. Again we have Bradley Whitford, whose resurgence started with 2012's The Cabin in the Woods (underrated horror satire you need to see) with Mad Men alum Alison Brie, as well as notable character actors Bob Odenkirk, and David Cross. I'll have to wait for the trailer before speaking on supporting actor and actress, but it's safe to say Spielberg teed up everybody for a shot at something.
The timing of this movie may give it an even greater advantage over its competitors as well. At a time in which freedom of the press is being challenged more than ever, The Post may serve as a strong political statement for first-amendment rights for Academy voters can rally around.
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