Yesterday we gave a rundown of our most-anticipated films of the fall, but there’s still much more to look forward to in these last few months of the year. In our final 2012 fall preview rundown, we’ve got ten must-see films that we’ve already checked out on the festival circuit. In addition to that, we’ve rounded up 10 festival titles that we hope will see a release this year, some with distribution already in place and others that will surely get snatched up soon. With the Toronto International Film Festival kicking off today, check our our list below and continue to follow The Film Stage for reviews from the fest.

10 Best Films We’ve Seen

Note: Before we dive into the top ten, we’ve reviewed much more then just below, so check out our take on other fall titles like The Words (9/7), Bachelorette (9/7), The Cold Light of Day (9/7), Arbitrage (9/14), Liberal Arts (9/14), V/H/S (10/5), The Paperboy (10/5), The Details (11/2), This Must Be the Place (11/2), The Comedy (11/16) and On the Road (12/21) by clicking on the titles. There’s also many films such as The Hunt, Simon Killer, Wrong, Sightseers, Like Someone in Love, No and Reality that we loved, but unfortunately have yet to set official releases, so check back with more information on those and others.

10. Rust and Bone (Jacques Audiard; Nov. 16th)

Derived from a collection of short stories of the same name, Jacques Audiard (A Prophet, The Beat That My Heart Skipped) has created an intriguing love story, one that evolves out of a rather unusual friendship. With a cast including Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts, the performances are vivid and memorable, giving the viewer a lot to absorb. Like his previous films, Audiard masterfully creates internal struggle, as subjects try to grapple with life’s consequences, with the occasional glimmer of hope. Check out our Cannes review. – Kristen C.

9. Sinister (Scott Derrickson; Oct. 5th)

Scott Derrickson‘s previous film, the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, didn’t live up to the promise he showed with The Exorcism of Emily Rose, an effective tale of an exorcism gone wrong. Sinister, his newest film, serves as a reminder that the filmmaker has a talent for conjuring up a creepy and dread-ridden atmosphere. This isn’t the typical haunted house story; from the pacing to the structure, Derrickson and co-writer C. Robert Cargill deliver both the familiar and the new in a year sorely lacking in the scare department. Read our SXSW review. – Jack G.

8. Wuthering Heights (Andrea Arnold; Oct. 5th)

After Cary Fukunaga‘s Jane Eyre last year, Andrea Arnold’s take on Wuthering Heights has set another benchmark for adapting classic literature. The Fish Tank director paints this world with a deft touch, crafting tightly focused close-ups to convey emotion rather than words. Establishing shots only open wide a handful of times, instead opting for a beetle crawling through the grass or a spiderweb oscillating in the cold wind. These little touches build the world more than any sort of exposition could dream to do. Read our TIFF review. – Jordan R.

7. Holy Motors (Léos Carax; Oct. 17th)

Leo Carax’s contribution to the Cannes Film Festival this year was a masterful rollercoaster of a film. Denis Lavant stars as a man who travels between multiple parallel in a limo, making the streets of Paris seem as if they were from another world, with absolute blurring between the real and unreal. It’s strange and beautiful, captivating and challenging, playing with the boundaries of cinematic expression. For the cinephiles out there, this one is a wild ride I can’t recommend enough. Check out our our Cannes review. – Kristen C.

6. Smashed (James Ponsoldt; Oct. 12th)

Delivering my favorite performance of Sundance was Mary Elizabeth Winstead, with her heartbreaking turn as an alcoholic in Smashed. While there are some conveniences in the story’s structure, they do not detract from this powerful showing from a promising up-and-comer. A single scene where Winstead smiles, talking about her addiction, then sinks into sorrow just moments later epitomizes the talent on display here. Check out our Sundance review for the film also showing at TIFF before a limited release. – Jordan R.

10 Best Films We’ve Seen (cont.)

5. The Sessions (Ben Lewin; Oct. 26th)

After a few dark turns, John Hawkes returned to Sundance with a stirring, sympathetic lead role in The Sessions. The drama captures the sexual awakening breakthrough of the polio-stricken Mark O’Brien (Hawkes), in which writer/director Ben Lewin could have easily stepped into over-sentimental territory. Despite its TV-movie aesthetic, he ends up excelling in crafting a rich, moving story with fully fleshed-out characters, while striking an immaculate balance of comedy and drama. Check out our Sundance review for the film also popping up at TIFF. – Jordan R.

4. Room 237 (Rodney Ascher; TBD)

This painstakingly-detailed exploration of Stanley Kubrick‘s The Shining goes through nine different theories and themes, opening up new wonders I never saw, even after many, many viewings of the horror classic. It is thoroughly thought-provoking and often times hilarious, as director Rodney Ascher takes on everything from the inane to the plausible. While a release date hasn’t been set, IFC Midnight has a fall release in the cards so we can all look forward to this one. Check out our Sundance review. – Jordan R.

3. Killing Them Softly (Andrew Dominik; Oct. 19th)

This is a crime saga dripping with style, thanks to filmmaker Andrew Dominik, who is following up his modern masterpiece, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. And though it is structured as a standard gangster tale, the political message Dominik feeds throughout is eerily appropriate. Killing Them Softly is a long crescendo of American business ethnics, hitting its peak perfectly thanks to a spot-on speech from Brad Pitt. Check out our Cannes review. – Dan M. 

2. Amour (Michael Haneke; Dec. 19th)

In Michael Haneke’s Amour, a heart-wrenching story about love and loss, the Austrian-German director takes a step back from his normally manipulative sense of direction and allows the humane performances of Jean-Louis Trintingant and Emmanuelle Riva to reverberate. Taking a departure from his usually emotionally-detached narrative troupes, Haneke has offered his most humane film to date. Unflinching, unnerving and unforgettable, Amour is an incredible testament to the power of love we have for those closest to our hearts while forcing us to question the very essence of our own morality when confronted with the clocks of fate. Check out our Cannes review. – Raffi A.

1. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson; Sept. 14th)

Having had the generous opportunity to see Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood follow-up at the recent Chicago pop-up screening, it’s perhaps a bit counter-intuitive for me to say that I’m anticipating the theatrical release even more now — but that is indeed the case. For me, it is his toughest, most challenging film to date, though not necessarily his most satisfying, and it’s for those reasons that I want to get my hands on another viewing as soon as possible. Whether I end up liking it more or less upon a revisit isn’t as important as simply having the basic opportunity to peel back the layers of this cryptic narrative even further. And if it turns out to be just as confounding, well, I’ll still have Mihai Malaimare Jr.’s dreamy 70mm lensing — in addition to two of the year’s most volcanic lead performances — to fawn over. Check out our review here. – Danny K.

10 Festival Titles We Hope Will Get Released

10. The Company You Keep (Robert Redford)

For a film to have Robert Redford as director, producer and actor, I’m quickly intrigued. The film is being billed as a thriller, in which a former Weather Underground activist (Redford) must go on the run to clear his name after an eager young journalist (Shia LaBeouf) reveals his identity. Being an activist in his own life, I’m interested to see the role that plays into the way Redford’s character is shaped. Also, having loved Redford in 2001’s Spy Game, it will be good to see him in a smart, suspenseful role. If that wasn’t enough, the cast is rounded out by Terrence Howard, Richard Jenkins, Anna Kendrick, Brit Marling, Stanley Tucci and Susan Sarandon. Sony Pictures Classics have picked it up, but have not set a release date yet. – Kristen C.

9. Much Ado About Nothing (Joss Whedon)

In what looks to be the largest directorial jump in scope and budget, Joss Whedon has gone from the $1.5 billion grosser The Avengers to a black-and-white Shakespeare adaptation he shot in his backyard in just twelve days. While no one quite knows what he has up his sleeves for this one, we’re excited for the director to experiment with what could be a more engaging, classic story compared to his superhero blockbuster. Starring much of his usual gang including Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Nathan Fillion, Fran Kranz, Jillian Morgese, Sean Maher, Clark Gregg and Reed Diamond, this one premieres at TIFF and has no distribution yet. – Jordan R.

8. Foxfire (Laurent Cantet)

Returning after his Oscar-nominated drama The Class, French filmmaker Laurent Cantet headed to North America for the first time. Based on Joyce Carol Oates‘ novel, Foxfire follows a girl gang in 1950s upstate New York as they learn to stand up and hold their ground. We haven’t seen much from the film yet, but Cantet’s superb skill at crafting realistic, fleshed-out characters and putting them in a authentic situations has us greatly looking forward to it. It premieres at TIFF but has no distribution yet. – Jordan R.

7. Passion (Brian De Palma)

Years after he made a string of interesting, unique films none of you damn people were able to appreciate, Brian De Palma is back to show us how an adult thriller is done. The trailer shows the kind of steamy intrigue he built a name on, as his other trademarks — roving cameras, sharp objects, and, best of all, split diopters (!) — permeate, too. Even if the reviews end up being bad, this writer won’t care one bit; most people don’t even know how to react to De Palma, anyway. It has no US distribution yet. – Nick N.

6. Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine)

There’s no doubt that Harmony Korine‘s latest will be the wildest feature on the fall festival circuit. Following positive impressions from Venice, it’s still difficult to decipher just what’s in store for this film following a gangster James Franco and a group of young ladies (including Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens, clearly attempting to shed their teen star image). Full of violence, alcohol and other shenanigans, it looks to be a mainstream version of Korine’s Trash Humpers. Annapurna has picked it up for a US release, but no date has been set. – Jordan R.

10 Festival Titles We Hope Will Get Released (cont.)

5. Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach)

Early word out of Telluride for this surprise Noah Baumbach flick has been very positive, with many embracing its fat-free 86-minute runtime as well as the old-fashioned black-and-white aesthetic, which, in theory, does seem like an appropriate match for the relaxed appeal of star and co-writer Greta Gerwig. Many have compared it to Lena Dunham’s Girls, not only because of the reportedly scene-stealing presence of a supporting Adam Driver. I was excited when this out-of-nowhere project was included in the TIFF lineup, and that feeling has only escalated in the weeks since. It has no US distribution yet. – Danny K.

4. At Any Price (Ramin Bahrani)

Known for his neorealistic touches in his first two features especially (Chop Shop and Man Push Cart), Ramin Bahrani has returned for what is certainly his largest production yet. Led by Zac EfronDennis Quaid and Heather GrahamAt Any Price takes a looks inside both the professional racing and farming worlds. Already debuting at Venice and Telluride to strong reviews across the board, we are hoping Sony Pictures Classics releases this drama by year’s end. – Jordan R.

3. Something in the Air (Olivier Assayas)

One of the world’s more celebrated directors is tackling one of his own country’s more fractured periods. That, I like to think, is reason enough for such high placement, though that might also discount what incredible work is on display in our first looks at the film, or even the Godard-like notion of looking at France’s late ‘60s / early ‘70s strife from the underdog’s side of things. (Probably with less shots of a tape recorder featuring Assayas’ voice, to boot.) If Carlos showed us one thing it’s that this filmmaker can mix historical elements, political action and genuine thrills into one great package. The promise of more is really all I need. IFC Films has picked it up for a US release, but have not set a release yet.  – Nick N.

2. The Place Beyond the Pines (Derek Cianfrance)

Shaping up to be one of the most sought-after titles at TIFF is the next feature from Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance. Retreaming with Ryan Gosling, Pines almost comically seems like a Drive cousin at the outset, with the star acting as a motorcycle stunt driver, as well as a bank robber. Adding in a cast of Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Rose Byrne, Ben Mendelsohn and Ray Liotta, Cianfrance is expanding his scope as this one jumps generations, but hopefully retaining his intimate touch. There is no US distribution for the film yet. – Jordan R.

1. To the Wonder (Terrence Malick)

The most elusive festival film of the year is far and away our most-anticipated. After delivering what will likely take a few more years to be considered a cinematic classic with The Tree of Life, Terrence Malick is back just a short 16 months later with this romantic drama. Impressions from Venice indicate a feature just as initially divisive as his others, which has us all the more excited. No US distribution has been acquired yet. – Jordan R.

The Film Stage’s 2012 Fall Preview

10 Best Films We’ve Seen: [#10-6] [#5-1]
10 Festival Titles We Hope Will Get Released: [#10-6] [#5-1]
20 Most-Anticipated Films: [#20-#16] [#15-11] [#10-6] [#5-1]

What are you most-anticipating this fall? Have you seen any on the festival circuit?

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