|Ruben Ostlund's Palme d'Or winner, The Square|
Labor Day has passed, the film industry’s official end to summer, and this will go down as the worst summer box office in 25 years. Labor Day weekend was the worst on record. Grosses are way down, which means, given the steep rise in ticket prices, attendance has fallen off a cliff. Studios will fall all over themselves, trying to figure out where they went wrong, then come back next year and repeat the same mistakes. Analysts will present their theories, and some will be compelling, others less so. Ultimately, cause and effect will remain murky, and business will proceed as usual.
There certainly is not one answer to this problem, if we want to call it that, but if I may humbly suggest a possibility: This summer’s movies just were not that good. Audiences see good movies. This is a fact of moviegoing. People go to films with positive reviews and see movies their friends like. Should a movie tick both boxes, so much the better. Over the past four months or so, there has been a dearth of films that meet either category, let alone both.
As someone who spends much of his life in theaters, even I have had a hard time getting excited about any of this year’s crop of films thus far. I hope soon to take a deeper dive into the year so far – both the highs and lows – but suffice it to say I am ready for the fall movie season, when smart movies made by and for adults rule the day.
Last year’s list featured what would turn out to be some of the best films of the year, including Martin Scorsese’s Silence, which was the No. 1 most anticipated film and finished at No. 2 on our year-end best-of list. Beyond that, there were Jeff Nichols’ Loving (No. 3 most anticipated) and Ava DuVernay’s 13th (No. 8), which both earned honorable mentions. I have no doubt we will be talking more and more about the following films in the months ahead, so without further ado, Last Cinema Standing’s 10 Most Anticipated Movies of the Fall:
10. Downsizing, directed by Alexander Payne
Release date: Dec. 22
9. Suburbicon, directed by George Clooney
Release date: Oct. 27
8. Lady Bird, directed by Greta Gerwig
Release date: Nov. 10
7. Kings, directed by Deniz Gamze Ergüven
Release date: TBA (Toronto International Film Festival
Ergüven, the writer-director behind the brilliant coming-of-age protest film Mustang, would at first seem an odd choice for this material. A Turkish woman with a French education would not likely jump to the top of most people’s list to direct a film about the Rodney King riots, and indeed, there has been controversy around Ergüven taking on the project. However, she proved with her directorial debut Mustang she is capable of making an angry, powerful film about tearing down the structures that oppress and dehumanize. If that is not precisely what we want from a film about the L.A. Riots, then I don’t know for what it is we are looking.
6. Battle of the Sexes, directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
Release date: Sept. 22
5. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, directed by Martin McDonagh
Release date: Nov. 10
4. Mother!, directed by Darren Aronofsky
Release date: Sept. 15
3. The Killing of a Sacred Deer, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
Release date: Nov. 3
2. The Square, directed by Ruben Östlund
Release date: Oct. 27
1. Wonder Wheel, directed by Woody Allen
Release date: Dec. 1
My favorite filmmaker directing my favorite actress, there could be no film more anticipated for me. Allen’s late-career output at this point is famous for its unevenness. For every Match Point, there is a Whatever Works. For every Blue Jasmine, there is a To Rome with Love. I am a fan even of much of the director’s most slapdash work, while still admitting to some of its haphazard construction. The reason: Despite it all, Allen still has the potential to dazzle – Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Midnight in Paris being just two recent examples.
In Wonder Wheel, Kate Winslet is said to deliver a career-topping performance. The New York Film Festival has selected it as the closing-night film, not an honor bestowed lightly. It is scheduled at the height of awards season, whereas much of Allen’s work lately has been offered up as a summer trifle. For these reasons and more, there could be no other film at the top of this list.
*A quick note: Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film surely would have made this list if I could be reasonably certain it would come out this year. I cannot be. As of now, it has no official title and a tentative release date at the end of December. Anderson can work as long as he wants to make the best possible film, and when it finally does come out – with what is sure to be another brilliant Daniel Day-Lewis performance, I will be first in line.