With award season looming I’ve compiled a catalogue of the must see films this winter, from the possible award winners to the 3D adventures, I’ve left no stone left unturned. A trailer accompanies each summary so you can pick and choose what you’d like to see before venturing out to the cinema.
Mistress America is the second feature after 2009’s Frances Ha from Director and co-writer power couple Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig. It looks likely to cement Gerwig’s place as one of the leading comediennes of her generation in this witty screwball comedy. Gerwig plays Brooke who entangles Tracy (Lola Kirke), her stepsister, into alluringly mad schemes in New York City. Mistress America is a comedy about dream chasing, desperation, score-settling, makeshift families, and most importantly cat-stealing.
The End of the Tour
The story of the five-day interview between Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky and acclaimed novelist David Foster Wallace, which took place right after the 1996 publication of Wallace’s ground breaking epic novel, ‘Infinite Jest.’ Jason Segel has received wide praise for his portrayal of David Foster Wallace with his piercing intellect, although like all biopics, the film itself divides opinion. Would Foster Wallace despise the idea of this film existing? Maybe so, but watching two hyper-articulate writers have this conversation makes for a powerful and unusual adaptation.
Set to open the Venice Film Festival, Everest is likely to be a big contender for this year’s award season, with a stellar cast and crew this is a real life mountaineering drama. It stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Jason Clarke as leaders of two expedition groups that encounter substantial storms on their way to the summit. Also starring in the snow are Josh Brolin, John Hawkes and Sam Worthington, while Keira Knightley, Robin Wright and Emily Watson play concerned spouses back at home. The script is by two British veterans in William Nicholson (Gladiator, Shadowlands) and Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire, The Full Monty) so it has all the right ingredients. We will have to wait and see if it hits the right notes to grab any of next year’s big awards.
Room stars indie favourite Brie Larson, who impressed with 2012’s Short Term 12, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen and William H Macy. It’s based on the 2010 novel by Emma Donoghue about a woman and her 5-year-old son Jack who live in confinement in a 10-foot by 10-foot single room. Room is the only home Jack has ever known, but as his curiosity is building alongside Ma’s own desperation, she knows it cannot contain either of them indefinitely. The film recently sold out at the Cannes festival and has been picked up for distribution by Universal so it looks promising and will be worth a watch for Brie Larson’s performance alone.
A Ridley Scott, lost-in-space drama with Matt Damon. Need we say more? The anticipation is high for The Martian, which is based on Martin Weir’s beloved novel of the same name. Matt Damon stars as a stranded NASA Botanist trying to survive on a foreign planet while a crew attempts to save him. Unlike Damon’s last appearance in a space suit in Interstellar, he looks a lot less menacing. This has all the trappings of a big US 3D space adventure. Ridley Scott thrives with extra terrestrial outings and Matt Damon has that everyman likeability, it’s bound to do well.
Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin have teamed up to take on the Steve Jobs story. Set backstage at three iconic product launches and ending in 1998 with the unveiling of the iMac, the film takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution. Michael Fassbender plays Steve Jobs, the pioneering founder of Apple, with actress Kate Winslet starring as Joanna Hoffman, former marketing chief of Macintosh. Steve Wozniak, who co-founded Apple, is played by Seth Rogen, and Jeff Daniels stars as former Apple CEO John Sculley. If Sorkin can bring the same pace, intensity and electrifying dialogue as he did with 2010’s The Social Network, then this biopic could hit the ground running, unlike its predecessor 2013’s Jobs.
Rock the Kasbah
It has Bill Murray in it, that’s all you need to know. Rock the Kasbah is the story of “Richie Vance,” a has-been rock manager who takes his last remaining client on a USO tour of Afghanistan. When Richie finds himself in Kabul, abandoned, penniless and without his passport, he discovers a young girl with an extraordinary voice and manages her through Afghanistan’s version of “American Idol,” the wildly popular “Afghan Star.” It looks like great fun, and with Zooey Deschanel and Bruce Willis in supporting roles, it’ll be a breather from the heavier, more serious films on this list.
Johnny Depp may well be hoping to restore some of his acting integrity with this one after his recent ventures, and judging from the trailer he has found some of his menacing pre-Pirates form. The story is set in1970s South Boston, where FBI Agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) persuades Irish mobster James “Whitey” Bulger (Johnny Depp) to collaborate with the FBI and eliminate a common enemy, the Italian mob. The drama tells the story of this unholy alliance, which spiralled out of control, allowing Whitey to evade law enforcement, consolidate power and become one of the most ruthless and powerful gangsters in Boston history.
Bridge of Spies
Bridge of Spies has all of the components of an award winning film. Oscar favorites Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks reunite for this Cold War spy drama. Joel and Ethan Cohen have written the screenplay, it sounds like someone wrote down an Oscar Recipe. The film is based around Brooklyn lawyer James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) who is thrust into the middle of the Cold War when he is given a mission to negotiate the release of Francis Gary Powers, a pilot whose U-2 spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union. Donovan is responsible for negotiating Powers’ (Austin Stowell) release. Mark Rylance co-stars as Rudolf Abel, a suspected KGB spy who was defended by Donovan in a US courtroom in 1957, and is the likely swap for Powers in a deal with the Soviets. It’s an agreement that doesn’t exactly sit well for America at large, and Donovan feels the brunt of the protests.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
In a year where reboots have largely been a monumental success at the box office there remains one franchise that everyone hopes can re-capture the wonder of it’s predecessors. Yes, this Christmas Star Wars: The Force Awakens will kick off a whole host of Disney owned and produced Star Wars films for years to come. J.J Abrams has the task of seamlessly blending the old with the new introducing us to a whole host of new characters including John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver who’s rumored to be villain Kylo Ren which sounds like some kind of evil Jedi samurai. If Abrams pulls it off, it’ll be the movie event of the decade.
Don Cheadle’s Miles Davis passion project is set to close The New York film festival and he stars and makes his directorial debut. The film’s title is taken from the 1957 album featuring iconic trumpet player Miles Davis in his first collaboration with arranger Gil Evans following the “Birth of the Cool” sessions. The film is set in New York in 1979, when Davis was ending a five-year “silent period” and teaming with a Rolling Stone reporter — played by Ewan McGregor — to start a career revival. Davis died in 1991 at the age of 65. His years with the love of his life, Frances Taylor, played by Emayatzy Corinealdi, are also explored in the film. Miles Ahead is made on a very modest budget, but Davis is more then a selling point for film and music fans alike.
Alejandro González Iñárritu could make it two in two this year after the success of Birdman last year. The Revenant stars Leonardo DiCaprio as bedraggled trapper Hugh Glass, while exploring the uncharted American wilderness he withstands a brutal bear attack, but is left for dead by members of his own hunting team. Betrayed by his confidant John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), Glass endures unimaginable hardships as he navigates a vicious winter in a relentless quest to live and find redemption. Determined to make it home to his family, Glass must use sheer will to survive against all odds. The trailer looks gritty and intense with Iñárritu’s unusual camera angles. It could be seventh time lucky for DiCaprio and maybe he can finally get the Oscar in the bag next February.
The Danish Girl
Last year’s Best Actor Eddie Redmayne returns with a meaty role which explores gender and sexuality as he plays pioneering transgender artist Lili Elbe, who became the first man to undergo gender reassignment surgery. The plot is set In early 1920s Copenhagen, when illustrator and artist Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander) asks her husband, Einar Wegener(Eddie Redmayne) to stand in for a female model. The popularity of the portraits leads to Gerda painting her husband in further pictures as a woman. Einar develops an attraction for a female physical appearance and begins living as a woman named Lili Elbe. Ultimately Elbe becomes the first ever recipient of male to female sex reassignment surgery. The Best Actor category has followed a trend of awarding transformative performances of late so this sensitive role could ensure Redmayne is in the running come February.
Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel star in this beautiful ode to music and cinema. They play friends of 60 years standing, who are enjoying a stay at a hotel in the foothills of the Alps. Retired composer Fred Ballinger (Caine) and film director Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel) discuss old flames, their children, and the activities of the assortment of guests holidaying in Switzerland.
Fred is asked to play one of his compositions at a music concert for the Queen. He refuses and if there is anything resembling a plot, it’s the question of whether Fred will eventually agree or not. Caine, whether wandering the hills with Keitel, swimming with Miss Universe or helping young violinists improve their style, gives his best performance in decades. He could well win an Oscar. Director Paolo Sorrentino expresses his love for cinema through Harvey Kietel’s character Mick. It’s a swan song for Sorrentino and perhaps for Caine who has been tied to the Batman franchise for so long.
This 50’s set romance starring opened to mostly positive reviews at this years Cannes festival. Based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith and directed by Todd Haynes it stars Cate Blanchett as a woman in a loveless marriage who falls for a department store clerk, played by Rooney Mara. Mara picked up the award for best actress at Cannes and is an early favourite, along with Blanchett, for further success next year.
In the Heart of the Sea
A big budget 3D adventure to hit our screens this winter, In the Heart of the Sea is a historical disaster film that inspired the story of Moby Dick by Herman Melville, directed by Ron Howard and starring Chris Hemsworth and Cillian Murphy. It’s based on the novel of the same name by Nathaniel Philbrick set in 1820. The whaleship Essex is crewed by Captain George Pollard Jr., first officer Owen Chase, second officer Matthew Joy, and cabin boy Thomas Nickerson. During their voyage, the ship is sunk when it is rammed by a very large and enraged bull sperm whale, ultimately leaving its crew shipwrecked at sea for 90 days more than a thousand miles from land. After the attack, the crew sails for South America and is forced to resort to cannibalism. Judging by the trailer it looks well worth heading to the imax for this whaling adventure.
Suffragette, the first feature film to tell the story of women’s fight for the vote, will kick off this year’s London film festival. Starring Carey Mulligan, the film tells the story of the working-class British women who, inspired by the suffragette leader, Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep), took their fight for enfranchisement to the male establishment in Westminster. It looks to be a gritty drama that does not shy away from the violent struggle women faced in gaining the vote.
Julianne Moore stakes her claim for back-to-back Oscars with Freeheld. From the trailer we can see that it shows domestic partners who become embroiled in a battle for equality when police officer Moore is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Moore’s character then fights to ensure her pension benefits are passed on to her girlfriend, played by Ellen Page. The film has a particular resonance for Page who recently came out as gay during the filming, she claimed “To be shooting the movie so soon after coming out was some of the most joy I’ve ever felt on a film set, which is a tricky thing to say because we’re telling a story that’s incredibly tragic,” she said. “But the feeling of being out and playing someone who’s gay, and someone whose courage has allowed me to live my life, that feels amazing.”
Possibly Daniel Craig’s last outing as Bond, Spectre sees him team up with Skyfall director Sam Mendes for the latest installment of the secret agent franchise. Spectre seems to be paying homage to the franchise, reintroducing the global crime syndicate we first encountered more than 50 years ago in Dr No. According to the rough plot outline, a cryptic message from his past sends Bond on a quest to uncover a sinister organization while M (Ralph Fiennes) battles political forces that want to shut down the British secret service. The film is equipped with a stellar cast and we can’t wait to see Christoph Waltz as Bond’s ultimate nemesis.
The Walk is a Hollywood makeover of the acclaimed documentary 2008’s Man on Wire. It stars Joseph Gordon Levitt as Phillippe Petit, the man who walked across a tight rope between the World Trade Center towers. I feel that it would be pretty hard to improve upon the documentary and real life footage of this story, however I am interested as to what Robert Zemeckis has done to distance the film from its predecessor. Unfortunately Gordon Levitt sports a rather unconvincing French accent in the trailer and a suspicious haircut. The official website claims it is a ‘love letter to Paris and New York city’ so hopefully we can get some pretty astonishing shots to accompany this hair raising true story.
Beasts of No Nation
Perhaps one of the most interesting films on the list from a business sense. Netflix make their first push for award season with Beasts of No Nation. Directed by Cary Fukunaga who gave the first series of True Detective it’s ominous and brooding aesthetic, and starring Idris Elba, the film concerns child soldiers and their manipulative leaders. The teaser trailer is quite a statement as we see Idris Elba persuading a young boy to pull the trigger on his first victim. The progress of this film will be interesting to chart, as it is the announcement of online providers going up against the major film distributors.
Two years after making his U.S. debut with the kidnapping drama “Prisoners,” French-Canadian director Dennis Villeneuve ups his own ante with a blisteringly intense drug-trade thriller that combines expert action and suspense with another uneasy inquiry into the emotional consequences of violence. If Prisoners was anything to go by, this will not be an easy watch and may be too much for some audiences. However, Emily Blunt’s performance has gained attention and is being called ‘reminiscent of Jodie Foster in Silence of the Lambs’ by Variety Magazine, which is quite an endorsement. The plot follows Blunt’s character FBI agent Kate Mercer when she receives a top assignment. Recruited by mysterious government official Matt Graver (Josh Brolin), Kate joins a task force for the escalating war against drugs. Led by the intense and shadowy Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), the team travels back-and-forth across the U.S.-Mexican border, using one cartel boss (Bernardo Saracino) to flush out a bigger one (Julio Cesar Cedillo).
99 Homes has received good reviews, with critics complementing director Ramin Bahrani’s muscular drama about real estate starring Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon. Set amidst the backdrop of the 2008 housing market crash a desperate construction worker (Garfield) reluctantly accepts a job with the ruthless real-estate broker (Shannon) who evicted him and his family from their home.
The Program is the movie makeover of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal that rocked the world of professional sport. Starring Ben Foster as Armstrong it charts his meteoric rise to fame and the lengths he was willing to go to ensure that it endured. Directed by Stephen Frears and inspired by Irish journalist David Walsh’s book ‘Seven Deadly Sins’, it follows Walsh’s (played by Chris O’Dowd) determination to prove that the seven-time Tour De France winner Lance Armstrong was illegally using performance enhancing drugs. This is a big step up for Foster who has show glimmers of brilliance in smaller budget films such as ‘Ain’t Them Bodies Saints’ and ‘Here.’
This film from director/co-writer Tom McCarthy tells the true story behind the Boston Globe’s investigation into child abuse in the Catholic Church. The group of journalists won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 2003 after uncovering the local Boston Archdiocese’s massive cover-up of sexual abuse. The Globe’s reporting eventually led to the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law, who had hidden years of abuse by other priests, and yielded other revelations of molestation and cover-ups around the world. This Catholic sex scandal drama could be the most provocative since 2008’s Doubt and is bound to ruffle a few feathers. The movie also stars Rachel McAdams, Brian d’Arcy James, John Slattery, Liev Schreiber and Stanley Tucci.
Diary of a Teenage Girl
This is a striking debut from writer/director Marrielle Heller that is being heralded as an enteraining, insightful and confident piece of feminist cinema. This is also due to the fearless performance of British actress Bel Powley who addresses what it is to be a real woman, sexually and psychologically. In every sense Powley owns the role as Minnie and is a fascinating on screen presence. The film is set in 1970s San Francisco, a precocious 15-year-old (Powley) embarks on an enthusiastic sexual odyssey, beginning with her mother’s current lover (Alexander Skarsgård). The only real shame about this film is its 18 rating as it separates the message of the film with its intended audience. Instead of empowering young women, the rating itself has distanced them from ever seeing it.
Bryan Cranston takes on the role as 1940’s prolific screenwriter Dalton Trumbo who is summoned by the House of Un-American Activities Committee to reveal his Communist sympathies and cronies. Trumbo remains silent and convinces his friends to do the same to protect their rights as Americans. He is held in contempt of Congress and sent to prison. Upon his release, he finds that he and his friends have been blacklisted. After writing successfully under a pseudonym, Trumbo reveals major works he has written and hopes this brings an end to the devastation felt by the victims of the Hollywood blacklist. Cranston’s performance seems to be the draw here, supported by John Goodman and Helen Mirren. If the film fairs well early on with audiences, expect his name to be in the mix come February.
Andrew Haigh’s moving story of an elderly couple facing marital crisis has been gaining momentum since bagging the Edinburgh Film Festival’s main award. Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling play retired couple Kate and Geoff Mercer and are excitedly planning a party to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary. However, one week before the celebration, a letter arrives for her husband. The body of his first love has been discovered, frozen in the icy glaciers of the Swiss Alps. As the party nears there might not be a marriage left to celebrate. 45 Years is a portrait of elderly couple who are inherently reliant each other and their resolve is tested by Geoff’s passed. Many are saying this is Tom Courtenay’s finest hour and Charlotte Rampling is the perfect counterpart. With these two at the helm, it could fly the flag for Britain across the pond early next year.
Perhaps the strangest film on this list, but also one we’re most excited to see. Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz star in The Lobster, a film by Greek writer/ director Yorgos Lanthimos. The plot is set in a dystopian near future, where single people, according to the rules of The City, are taken to The Hotel where they are obliged to find a matching mate in forty-five days. If they fail, they are transformed into beasts and sent off into The Woods. In that setting, one man escapes into The Woods and falls in love with a Loner, despite the rules. The film won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival and a script award at the Rotterdam film festival and most people emerge from the cinema claiming they’ve never seen anything like it. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s certainly an interesting prospect. If you’re interested in Lanthimos’ previous work then we highly recommend you check out 2009’s Dogtooth.
By Will Harper