If September was a precursor to the fall season, October delivers beyond imagination with a slate packed with some of the year’s best films (not just limited to arthouse and foreign fare). There’s big-budget sci-fi, jaunts through the French countryside, cinematic social experiments, explorations of cinematic icons, gruesome exploitation films, and much more. Check out our picks of what to see and let us know what you’re most looking forward to.
Matinees to See: Walking Out (10/5), Better Watch Out (10/6), The Mountain Between Us (10/6), Dina (10/6), Breathe (10/13) Man From Earth: Holocene (10/13), The Foreigner (10/13), Human Flow (10/13), Marshall (10/13), Professor Marston & the Wonder Women (10/13), The Killing of the Sacred Deer (10/20), The Strange Ones (10/20), One of Us (10/20), Félicité (10/27), and Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold (10/27)
Bonus: Spielberg (Susan Lacy; Oct. 7)
Synopsis: A documentary about the king of blockbusters.
Why You Should See It: What more could we want to know about one of the most popular directors of all-time? Evidently, a lot. While Steven Spielberg is hard at work in the editing bay finishing his drama The Post in time for a release in later this fall, a new documentary spanning a comprehensive 2.5 hours will premiere at the New York Film Festival, followed by a HBO debut. Aptly titled Spielberg, Susan Lacy’s documentary chronicles the life and career of the blockbuster king, featuring interviews with Francis Coppola, Brian De Palma, George Lucas, Martin Scorsese, Tom Hanks, John Williams, Janusz Kamiński, Leonardo DiCaprio, Spielberg himself, and even his parents. Although it’s not getting a theatrical release, we’ll make a special mention to kick off this list.
15. Suburbicon (George Clooney; Oct. 27)
Synopsis: A home invasion rattles a quiet family town.
Why You Should See It: Directed by George Clooney, written by Joel and Ethan Coen, and starring Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, and Oscar Isaac, this dark comedy was well-received upon its Venice premiere (including our review) before getting quite a beating when it hit TIFF. I’m quite curious to see what caused the divide, and at the very least, everyone seems to agree it’s worth seeking out for Isaac’s small role.
14. Abundant Acreage Available (Oct. 6)
Synopsis: After their father dies, a middle-aged brother and sister wrestle with legacy and ownership when three brothers, whose family farmed the land for generations, return after 50 years.
Why You Should See It: Having worked under the direction of Kenneth Lonergan, Steven Spielberg, Sidney Lumet, Ben Affleck, Bennett Miller, Lodge Kerrigan, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Greengrass, Joachim Trier, Tom McCarthy, and more, it’s astounding that Amy Ryan has never had a leading role — until now. Premiering at Tribeca Film Festival, where it won a Best Screenplay jury award, we said the actress gives her finest performance in our review from its premiere.
13. Una (Benedict Andrews; Oct. 13)
Synopsis: A woman confronts an older man, her former neighbour, to find out why he abandoned her after they had a sexual relationship when she was thirteen.
Why You Should See It: Una, starring Mara, Ben Mendelsohn, and Riz Ahmed, is a difficult sell, which is perhaps the reason it has taken over a year to come out. We said in our review, “The debut feature from theater veteran Benedict Andrews, Una is an astonishing success. Anchored by two exhilarating performances from Rooney Mara and Ben Mendelsohn, the film is also harsh, moving, and extraordinarily riveting, one of the more unsettling works to play the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival and undoubtedly among the most provocative.”
12. 78/52 (Alexandre Philippe; Oct. 13)
Synopsis: An unprecedented look at the iconic shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), the “man behind the curtain”, and the screen murder that profoundly changed the course of world cinema.
Why You Should See It: There’s been documentaries that analyze entire cinematic movements, directors, actors, writers, specific films, and more aspects of filmmaking, but it’s rare to see a feature film devoted to a single scene. With 78/52, if the clunky title addition didn’t tell you already, it explores the infamous shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho with exacting precision and depth. Featuring interviews with Jamie Lee Curtis, Guillermo del Toro, Elijah Wood, Peter Bogdanovich, Karyn Kusama, and more, it’s bound to be better than most horror films this fall.
11. Novitiate (Maggie Betts; Oct. 20)
Synopsis: Set in the early 1960s and during the era of Vatican II, a young woman in training to become a nun struggles with issues of faith, the changing church and sexuality.
Why You Should See It: Premiering at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year where writer-director Maggie Betts picked up the Breakthrough Director award, we said in our review, “the equally harrowing and frank Novitiate, like Martin Scorsese’s Silence, is about the dangerous consequences and ends in which those that have heard the calling are willing to go.”
10. God’s Own Country (Francis Lee; Oct. 25)
Synopsis: Young farmer Johnny Saxby numbs his daily frustrations with binge drinking and casual sex, until the arrival of a Romanian migrant worker for lambing season ignites an intense relationship that sets Johnny on a new path.
Why You Should See It: One of our favorite debuts of the year so far is Francis Lee’s God’s Own Country, a gay romance set in the harsh countryside in the Yorkshire Moors of northern England. “British filmmakers have a recent habit of bringing about canonical additions to UK queer cinema with their debuts. Andrew Haigh’s heartbreaking romance Weekend and Hong Khaou’s moving Lilting are now joined by Francis Lee’s gay romance God’s Own Country, a bold and brilliant drama rightfully garnering Brokeback Mountain comparisons out of its Sundance Film Festival berth,” we said in our review.
9. The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (Noah Baumbach; Oct. 13)
Synopsis: An estranged family gathers together in New York for an event celebrating the artistic work of their father.
Why You Should See It: With the perfect casting of Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller as brothers, not to mention Dustin Hoffman as their father, Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) is one of the director’s easiest-to-swallow concoctions. Feeling like a spiritual sequel to The Squid and the Whale mixed with the screwball fun of Mistress America, as well an ensemble of recognizable faces from previous Baumbach films, it feels like the director enters new territory here while still retaining his singular insight. Read our full review from Cannes.
8. The Snowman (Tomas Alfredson; Oct. 20)
Synopsis: Detective Harry Hole investigates the disappearance of a woman whose pink scarf is found wrapped around an ominous-looking snowman.
Why You Should See It: After Let the Right One In led to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Tomas Alfredson could have easily continued down a trajectory that saw him take on more prestigious awards season fare. Thankfully, he seems to be defiantly bypassing that entirely with The Snowman, which looks to be a shlocky, rancorous crime drama. Starring Michael Fassbender and Rebecca Ferguson as their characters uncover clues leading them to a serial killer, hopefully Alfredson’s distinctive formal style is on full display for this grim-looking procedural.
7. The Square (Ruben Östlund; Oct. 27)
Synopsis: A poignant satirical drama reflecting our times – about the sense of community, moral courage and the affluent person’s need for egocentricity in an increasingly uncertain world.
Why You Should See It: Following up the stellar Force Majeure, Ruben Östlund’s Palme d’Or-winning The Square doesn’t have the same cohesiveness, but on a scene-by-scene basis there’s a great amount to treasure, and get uncomfortable over. It’s “an acerbic, sphincter-tightening dark comedy that works as a sort of drawn-out spiritual castration for its über chic Stockholm art curator protagonist,” we said in our full review.
6. BPM (Beats Per Minute) (Robin Campillo; Oct. 20)
Synopsis: 120 BPM. The average heart rate. The protagonists of 120 battements par minute are passionate about fighting the indifference that exists towards AIDS.
Why You Should See It: One of the most heart-stirring, transportive cinematic experience you can find this year is in France’s Oscar entry. “Sometimes a movie doesn’t need much character development to make an impact. The ensemble cast that comprise Robin Campillo’s AIDS activists in (BPM) Beats Per Minute all work together to be the same voice. Through this group, the director captures a force that resonates more in message than in any of the conventional, dramatic sparks you might find in a Hollywood version of this story,” we said in our review.
5. Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve; Oct. 6)
Synopsis: A young blade runner’s discovery of a long-buried secret leads him to track down former blade runner Rick Deckard, who’s been missing for thirty years.
Why You Should See It: I’m still waiting for Denis Villeneuve to reach the heights of his formally-slick, intriguing enigma Enemy, but hopefully his Blade Runner sequel is the answer. “The makers of Blade Runner 2049 tricked a clutch of production companies into giving them nearly $200 million to make a languidly paced, ponderous, deliberately action-reticent blockbuster. That on its own would be impressive, but all the better, the result is the best cyberpunk film since the original Matrix, and the best big-budget American science fiction film in years,” we said in our review.
4. Brawl in Cell Block 99 (S. Craig Zahler; Oct. 6)
Synopsis: A former boxer-turned-drug runner lands in a prison battleground after a deal gets deadly.
Why You Should See It: A horror western that also found room to carve out characters with depth and personality, Bone Tomahak was among the best debuts of the past few years. Thankfully it took little time for director S. Craig Zahler to return for his follow-up. Led by Vince Vaughn as an inmate who must deal with the deadly arena of prison, Brawl in Cell Block 99 was one of our favorite films of TIFF.
3. The Florida Project (Sean Baker; Oct. 6)
Synopsis: Set over one summer, the film follows precocious 6-year-old Moonee as she courts mischief and adventure with her ragtag playmates and bonds with her rebellious but caring mother, all while living in the shadows of Disney World.
Why You Should See It: With its bat-out-of-hell cinematography and attractive DIY-style approach, not to mention stellar performances, Tangerine was one of the break-out features of 2015. While it attracted attention due to being shot entirely on an iPhone, its recognition went beyond its aesthetic to signal a strong directorial voice. Director Sean Baker is now back with The Florida Project, which is a vibrant ode to the unbridled energy of childhood and an ending that will surely be discussed all year.
2. Wonderstruck (Todd Haynes; Oct. 20)
Synopsis: The story of a young boy in the Midwest is told simultaneously with a tale about a young girl in New York from fifty years ago as they both seek the same mysterious connection.
Why You Should See It: Returning just two years after his masterpiece Carol, Todd Haynes’ latest is another period piece, as he is wont to do. In fact, it’s a double period piece, capturing both the 1920s and 1970s as he playfully — with a deep emotional punch — bounces between both in a narrative that’s both bold, but ultimately cheerful simplistic in its clear-eyed heart.
1. Faces Places (Agnès Varda and JR; Oct. 6)
Synopsis: Director Agnes Varda and photographer/muralist J.R. journey through rural France and form an unlikely friendship.
Why You Should See It: In a year of moral downfall in government and an overwhelming sense of despondency when looking at the dregs of humanity, leave it to Agnès Varda and JR to bring an abundance sense of free-wheeling freedom and joy to the world. Delightful in its quaint simplicity, Faces Places captures their journey through French villages and their community building experiments with photography. Come for this jubilation and stay for a tender reflection of a life’s journey. Check out our full review.
What are you watching this month?