As summer cools down, we’re entering perhaps the best time of year for cinephiles, with a variety of festivals — some of which will hold premieres of our most-anticipated 2017 features — gearing up. As we do each year, after highlighting the best films offered thus far, we’ve set out to provide a comprehensive preview of the fall titles that should be on your radar, and we’ll first take a look at selections whose quality we can attest to. These acclaimed 25 films from Sundance, Cannes, Berlinale and more will arrive between September and December (in the U.S.) and are all well worth seeking out.

Kill Me Please (Anita Rocha da Silveira; Sept. 1)

Kill Me Please 2

Following in a wave of cerebral psychological horror films such as The Witch, It Follows, and The Babadook, Anita Rocha da Silveira’s debut Kill Me Please is the latest art-horror film that’s concerned with the internal repercussions of trauma. But unlike that series of films, Kill Me Please may be more effectively identified as a film about the end of the world. – Michael S. (full review)

Trophy (Shaul Schwarz and Christina Clusiau; Sept. 8)


Somewhere in America, a man named Philip teaches his young son how to take down a trophy buck. Rifle in hand, eye peaking through the scope, the kid takes the shot. Direct hit. The father makes sure to get a couple of photos of his son, holding up the hunted, proud smile on his face. Moments later, we are in South Africa, where Rhino breeder John Hume and his team find a rhino, sedate it, and trim it’s horns as a means of protection, so poachers will ignore the lesser stumps and move along. It’s an interesting opening to Trophy, a complicated look at big-game hunting from director Shaul Schwarz. – Dan M. (full review)

The Challenge (Yuri Ancarani; Sept. 8)


Falconry is a proud tradition, millennia old, that is part of the common heritage of many cultures spanning multiple continents. The practice was originally developed for the hunt, but also lives as a sport. But that transition from the practical to the ceremonial often piles on arbitrary, sometimes random elements whose absurdity belies the utter seriousness with which the practitioners treat them. While The Challenge is about high-class falconry in Qatar, this holds true for any sport indulged primarily by the rich, like the British fox hunt. This is a sports documentary concerned not at all with the competition at hand, but instead with the series of idiosyncrasies and side moments that come along with the sport. – Dan S. (full review)

Rat Film (Theo Anthony; Sept. 15)


A horror movie. A nature documentary. An anthropological study. A history lesson. A social justice statement. All plus more. Rat Film is one of the most original films of the year, fiction or nonfiction, and it made me feel both as if I had learned a semester’s worth of knowledge and bereft of any idea as to how society’s problems can be mended. – Dan S. (full review)

The Force (Peter Nicks; Sept. 22)


In 2003, the Oakland Police Department found themselves placed under federal oversight for charges of misconduct and civil rights abuses. Oakland PD’s deplorable reputation spans the last thirty years, that of a department totally unwilling to treat its citizens with respect. The Force, an engrossing new documentary from director Peter Nicks, peeks behind the scenes of this controversial police department. Cameras followed on-duty officers for two years, 2014 to 2016, documenting not only their interactions with Oakland citizens, but also their private administrative meetings behind closed doors. – Tony H. (full review)

Super Dark Times (Kevin Phillips; Sept. 29)


Set in an familiar and ambiguous time and place (mid-90s in anytown USA), Super Dark Times functions as a kind of trojan house until its twist. Delivering horror thrills, the Kevin Phillips-directed feature first and foremost invests in character development as an effective and sympathetic coming-of-age story until it lives up to its title. We follow four friends Zach (Owen Campbell), Josh (Charlie Tahan), Daryl (Max Talisman), and Charlie (Sawyer Barth) as they have mild, seemingly innocent adventures: watching scrambled pay-per-view softcore porn, playing 8-bit video games, biking over an abandoned bridge, and ultimately stealing from Josh’s brother. The last part doesn’t end well and it is impossible to discuss the film without spoiling the twist. – John F. (full review)

Lucky (John Carroll Lynch; Sept. 29)


While they recently reunited for Twin Peaks: The Return, Harry Dean Stanton and David Lynch will be seen on screen together again this fall. The actor comes through with the culminating performance of a career in Lucky, directed by unforgettable character actor John Carroll Lynch (Zodiac, The Invitation), and it’s film that you won’t soon forget. The story follows a 90 year-old atheist on his journey to track down a 100 year-old tortoise, cutting through with humor, spirituality, and breathtaking imagery along the way. – Chelsey G.

The Florida Project (Sean Baker; Oct. 6)


There are surely few sweeter delights in this troubling world of ours than seeing Willem Dafoe politely escort a group of storks off a motel driveway. It is, perhaps, the best of a number of striking visual flourishes in Sean Baker’s The Florida Project, an aesthetically rich but narratively slight film that sees the writer-director (along with cinematographer Alexis Zabe) switch from the saturated and much-celebrated iPhone camerawork utilized for his last film Tangerine to the crackle and unmistakable warmth of celluloid. – Rory O. (full review)

Abundant Acreage Available (Oct. 6)


Faith-based cinema is as diverse a genre as there is, from the extreme, often violent portraits of devotion from established directors like Martin Scorsese and Mel Gibson, to the attacks on logic in the God’s Not Dead and Left Behind pictures. Angus MacLachlan, a great storyteller of the not-too-deep south, offers a nuanced example of what this genre can bring, returning with the moving Abundant Acreage Available. – John F. (full review)

Faces Places (Agnès Varda and JR; Oct. 6)


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. – Jordan R.

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (Noah Baumbach; Oct. 13)


Adam Sandler has acted in nearly 50 feature films, the majority of which he’s played the lead. It won’t come as any great surprise to learn that The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) is amongst the best works of his career, comfortably scaling the lower denominators to reach those sparse upper peaks. Director Noah Baumbach draws from the 51-year-old’s main talents as both comedic songwriter (as in his early standup and his time at SNL) and ticking time bomb (his signature switch from toddler-voiced timidity to raging lunatic that Paul Thomas Anderson harnessed so effectively in Punch Drunk Love). – Rory O. (full review)

Una (Benedict Andrews; Oct. 13)


“It’s a long story.” So says Una, a young woman with a going-nowhere office job and an emotionally devastated past, when asked about her relationship with Peter — the man she knew as Ray. Indeed it is a long story — a morally complex and cruelly realistic one, too. 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. – Christopher S. (full review)

78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene (Alexandre Philippe; Oct. 13)


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. – Jordan R.

Wonderstruck (Todd Haynes; Oct. 20)


Todd Haynes’ film is a stranger beast and perhaps a more experimental work in many ways than Hugo, one that skips somewhat cumbersomely between different time periods, sound and silence, imagination and reality, and color and black-and-white. In this way it’s probably a closer relative to Haynes’ I’m Not There, though lacking that oddity’s confidence and narrative élan. – Rory O. (full review)

(BPM) Beats Per Minute (Robin Campillo; Oct. 20)


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. This is one of the most politically-minded movies to come around in quite some time as Campillo stages heated strategy sessions between the activists of ACT UP like a Godard cinematic political essay post-La Chinoise. Through effective direction, the activism on display here is inspiring enough to rile one up to set aside preoccupations and try to make a difference in the world. – Jordan R. (full review)

Novitiate (Maggie Betts; Oct. 20)


Written and directed by Maggie Betts, Novitiate is a rare behind-the-scenes look in a pre-Vatican II (1962) convent in the 1950s and 60s at a time of extreme social change. 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. The drama traces the journey of Sister Cathleen, played in a star-making turn by Margaret Qualley (The Nice Guys), an America teen from a troubled family who attends Catholic school and becomes enchanted by the notion of an otherworldly love. – John F. (full review)

God’s Own Country (Francis Lee; Oct. 25)


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. Anchored by a quartet of heartfelt performances and tapping into zeitgeisty conflicts between working-class England and growing EU immigration, it’s hard to imagine a more bracingly open-hearted film coming out of Brexit Britain today. – Ed F. (full review)

The Square (Ruben Östlund; Oct. 27)


When it comes to satire there are few easier targets than the world of contemporary art. “My 5-year-old could do that,” so goes the saying. This is not to indicate that the art world is no longer fair game, but the self-seriousness of that scene and the conceptual nature of what it tends to put out have been battered with the same stick for so long by now that it’s become almost impervious to such jabs. Almost. One of the rare exceptions might be Ruben Östlund’s The Square, an acerbic, sphincter-tightening dark comedy that works as a sort of drawn-out spiritual castration for its über chic Stockholm art curator protagonist. – Rory O. (full review)

On the Beach at Night Alone (Hong Sang-soo; Nov. 17)


To quote Whitman’s great poem from which this fine film takes its name: “As I watch the bright stars shining, I think a thought of the clef of the universes, and of the future.” On the Beach at Night Alone, a bittersweet tone poem from South Korean writer-director Hong Sang-soo, thinks many a thought about the universe and the future, mostly expressed through nature and the characters’ anxieties about growing old. It’s the 18th feature from the prolific master filmmaker, and one that ponders in the macro while still following the archetypal blueprinted micro we’ve come to expect. – Rory O. (full review)

Mudbound (Dee Rees; Nov. 17)


Expanding her narrative scope but still retaining a level of aesthetic intimacy, Dee Rees’ Pariah follow-up Mudbound has the old-fashioned storytelling feel of a grand American novel. Based on Hillary Jordan’s 2008 book, the story takes place during World War II, and while it shows glimpses of the horrors of war, its larger aim is concerned with the racial divide of two families in the American south. Shifting point-of-views result in the drama taking a bit to find its footing, but after the groundwork is set, Rees is able to burrow deeper into the injustices — both piercingly subtle and horrifyingly grotesque — to create a powerful exploration of cyclical racism, with a touch of hope. – Jordan R. (full review)

Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino; Nov. 24)


“I have loved you for the last time,” Sufjan Stevens sings in his original song “Visions of Gideon” in Call Me By Your Name. It’s a moment of both bittersweet happiness and a farewell to a passion that won’t be replicated again for Elio (Timothée Chalamet) as, deep down, he knows his relationship with Olivier (Armie Hammer) is over after his six-week stay in their Italian villa. Luca Guadagnino’s disarmingly nice and intoxicatingly sexy film is an extraordinary queer romance, one that evocatively explores the body and mind’s surrender to lust and love. – Jordan R. (full review)

The Other Side of Hope (Aki Kaurismäki; Dec. 1)


What Kiarostami is to the front seats of a car and Bresson is to the prison, so Aki Kaurismäki is to the perennial mid-80s Helsinki; that dark pastel-colored nowhere where everyone smokes and drinks and wears cheap suits. One of the many interesting things about The Other Side of Hope — a poignantly contemporaneous deadpan comedy which is surely amongst the greatest of his 20-or-so features — is that the auteur plants a Syrian refugee named Khaled (Sherwan Haji) into the center of that backwards world, as if he were a walking anachronism. – Rory O. (full review)

Happy End (Michael Haneke; Dec. 22)


Happy End is a perplexing title for a movie by Michael Haneke, a filmmaker not exactly known for his irony whose endings have ranged from the death of all the central characters via murder and/or suicide (this has happened on four occasions) to the inception of Nazism. Lest anyone should suspect the redoubtable Austrian of growing soft, before the opening credits of Happy End have even finished rolling, a twelve-year-old has already killed her hamster and poisoned her mom, all of which she records and sarcastically comments on with a Snapchat-like app. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)

Félicité (Alain Gomis; TBD)


A wild and adventurous fourth feature from French-African director Alain Gomis, Félicité find ourselves in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, one of the world’s most dangerous places and a hard place in the best of times to make a living. Gomis, alongside cinematographer Céline Bozon, photograph the city as a wild, confused metropolis, unspooling over new-money concrete blocks, dirt tracks and a make-shift hazardous slums. It’s where Félicité, played with style and jazz by Congolese theatre actor Vero Tshanda Beya, works hand-to-mouth as a singer in raucous night clubs. The opening scene shows Félicité in full voice in a dive bar, where men drunkenly brawl and wads of notes are sent her way in reckless abandon, shot with an explosive energy. – Ed F. (full review)

In the Fade (Fatih Akin; TBD)


Fatih Akin sends a cumbersome bull into the socio-political china shop of present-day Germany, and all its racial and social divides, with In the Fade, a compelling (if somewhat ugly and hammy) contemporary revenge thriller wherein fear begets fear, hates begets hate, and thrills — however imprudent they might be — are easy to come by.Rory O. (full review)

Princess Cyd (Stephen Cone; TBD)


Is there a director more generous to his characters than Stephen Cone? Watching his films, one gets a sense that he doesn’t use the medium simply to tell stories but to exercise his curiosity and discover the things that make us human. In the hands of another filmmaker, Princess Cyd‘s two leads would’ve been pitted against each other and engaged in battle until a facile discovery in the denouement made them realize how much they had in common and led to a warm reconciliation. But not in Cone’s film, perhaps for the very notion that no one else is interested in telling the stories of characters such as these — perhaps because no one else can. – Jose S. (full review)

In terms of films that nearly made the cut or are notable releases we didn’t like a great deal, there’s The Limehouse Golem (9/8), The Unknown Girl (9/8), School Life (9/8), Woodpeckers (Carpinteros) (9/15), The Osiris Child (10/6) Dina (10/5), The Killing of the Sacred Deer (10/27), The New Radical (12/1). The respective distributors for You Were Never Really Here, The Rider, and A Fantastic Woman haven’t confirmed if they will get a release this year, but if so, put them on your radar.

Continue reading: Our 30 Most-Anticipated Fall 2017 Films


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