Two weeks ago I asked for reader assistance in assembling a speculative roster of 2017 releases that might wind up on the top-ten lists a year from now. It goes without saying that some of these may rank as 2017-18 award-season hotties by the blogaroos. Now we have at least the beginnings of a rundown — roughly 59 films.
Of these there are 35 that could be described as either highly promising or pick-of-the-litter, and nearly all from name-brand directors. At least five of these have the traditional earmarks of Best Picture contenders — Kathryn Bigelow‘s Untitled Detroit Riots Drama, Chris Nolan‘s Dunkirk, Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Charles James ’50s period drama, Alexander Payne‘s Downsizing and Joe Wright‘s Darkest Hour, a Winston Churchill vs. Nazi war machine drama.
Likeliest Best Picture Contenders (5):
Kathryn Bigelow‘s Untitled 1967 Detroit Riots Docudrama, written by Mark Boal, with John Boyega, Jack Reynor, Will Poulter, Ben O’Toole, Hannah Murray, Brandon Scales, Anthony Mackie, Jacob Latimore, Kaitlyn Dever, Jason Mitchell, Algee Smith, Joseph David-Jones and John Krasinski.
Alexander Payne‘s Downsizing (Paramount, 12.22), a sci-fi comedy about “a couple that has agreed to have themselves shrunk down, except the wife changes her mind after the husband submits to the process.” Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, Christoph Waltz, Alec Baldwin, Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Sudeikis.
Paul Thomas Anderson Anderson’s ‘s semi-fictionalized biopic about legendary egomaniacal fashion designer Charles James (1906-1978) with Daniel Day Lewis in the lead role. Deadline‘s Mike Fleming reported on 9.8.16 that the film will be set in the fashion world in London in the 1950s (even though James operated out of New York City during that decade). Fleming also said that Focus Features plans to release it in late 2017.
Chris Nolan‘s Dunkirk (Warner Bros., 7.19), a partially IMAX-shot, World War II-era epic. Step back — it’s the new Nolan! Aneurin Barnard, Kenneth Branagh, James D’Arcy, Tom Hardy, Jack Lowden, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance.
Joe Wright‘s Darkest Hour (Focus, 11.24), about Winston Churchill (played by Gary Oldman) facing the threat of Nazi Germany in the beginning of the second World War. Ben Mendelsohn as King George VI (aaarrggghhh!), John Hurt as Neville Chamberlain, Kristin Scott Thomas as Clementine Churchill and Lily James as Elizabeth Nel (i.e., Churchhill’s personal secretary).
Expensive Fantasy-Thriller-Galactic Smart Brands (3)
Denis Villeneuve‘s Blade Runner 2049 (Warner Bros., 10.6.17). Co-produced by Ridley Scott, written by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green. Harrison Ford back as Rick Deckard w/ Ryan Gosling, Robin Wright, Dave Bautista, Barkhad Abdi, Lennie James and Jared Leto.
Rian Johnson‘s Star Wars: Episode VIII (12.15.17) — Second installennt of the Star Wars trilogy, directed and written by Johnson, costarring Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Andy Serkis, Benicio del Toro, Laura Dern and Kelly Marie Tran.
Ridley Scott‘s Alien: Covenant (20th Century Fox, 5.19). Costarring Michael Fassbender (played two identical androids, David and Walter…please, no mandals!), Katherine Waterston, Danny McBride, Noomi Rapace, Guy Pearce, Demián Bichir, Billy Crudup and Amy Seimetz.
Pick of the Litter, Brand-Name Directors, Made For Intelligent, Review-Reading, Over-35 Types (14)
Steven Spielberg‘s The Kidnapping of Edgardo Montara, allegedly intended to be a 2017 release. Spielberg is apparently directing a Tony Kushner screenplay, based on David I. Kertzer’s 1998 novel with Oscar Isaac, Mark Rylance. But don’t quote me.
Darren Aronofsky‘s Mother, some kind of home-invader film (“A couple’s relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home”) with horror undertones. Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer, Domhnall Gleeson, Ed Harris.
Todd Haynes‘ Wonderstruck (Amazon), based on Brian Selzneck’s 2011 novel of the same name, starring Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams, Amy Hargreaves, Millicent Simmonds, Oakes Fegley and James Urbaniak.
Steven Soderbergh‘s Logan Lucky, some kind of dry comedy from a screenplay by Rebecca Blunt. The ensemble cast includes Adam Driver, Channing Tatum, Seth MacFarlane, Daniel Craig, Katherine Heigl, Hilary Swank, Katherine Waterston, Sebastian Stan.
John Curran‘s Chappaquiddick, the indie drama based on the July 1969 tragedy that stopped Ted Kennedy‘s Presidential ambitions cold when a young campaign worker, Mary Jo Kopechne, was drowned in an overturned car that Kennedy was driving. Based on a Blacklist script by Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan. Costarring Jason Clarke, Kate Mara, Ed Helms. Here’s an 8.8.16 HE piece about the script.
Richard Linklater‘s Last Flag Flying, a kind of long-throw, post-9/11 sequel to Hal Ashby‘s The Last Detail (’73). Based on Daryl Poniscsan’s 2005 novel, it focuses on a reunion between Badass Buddusky, Mule and Meadows, who were played in Ashby’s film by Jack Nicholson, Otis Young (who died in ’01) and Randy Quaid. It stars Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell, Laurence Fishburne and J. Quinton Johnson.
Martin McDonagh‘s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Fox Searchlight). Costarring Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Abbie Cornish, Caleb Landry Jones. Here’s an HE riff about a Los Angeles research screening, posted on 10.21.16.
David Gordon Green‘s Stronger (Summit), the “other” Boston marathon bombing film, this one about Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal), a guy who lost his legs due to the bombing and had to adjust to leg prosthetics along with other issues. Written by John Pollono, based on the book of the same name by Jeff Bauman and Bret Witter. Costarring Tatiana Maslany, Miranda Richardson and Clancy Brown.
David Michod‘s War Machine (Netflix). An alleged comedic tone. Brad Pitt as Gen. Dan McMahon, a character based on General Stanley McChrystal. Costarring Ben Kingsley, Emory Cohen, RJ Cyler and Topher Grace.
George Clooney‘s Suburbicon (Paramount), described as a “mystery criminal comedy,” directed by Clooney and written by Joel and Ethan Coen. Costarring Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Josh Brolin and Oscar Isaac.
Guillermo Del Toro‘s The Shape of Water. Boilerplate: “An other-worldly story, set against the backdrop of Cold War era America circa 1963.” Directed and co-written by GDT; co-written by Vanessa Taylor. Costarring Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg and Octavia Spencer.
Dan Gilroy‘s Inner City. Boilerplate: “Michael Clayton meets The Verdict. Denzel Washington plays a hard-nosed liberal Los Angeles lawyer. When the firm’s front man has a heart attack, Denzel assumes his responsibilities. He finds out some unsettling things about what the crusading law firm as done regarding the poor and dispossessed, and finds himself in existential crisis that leads to extreme action.”
Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris‘s Battle of the Sexes (Fox Searchlight), about the legendary mid ’70s tennis match between Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell). Here’s a Daily Mail piece about the production. Costarring Andrea Riseborough, Elisabeth Shue, Sarah Silverman and Alan Cumming.
Jason Reitman‘s Tully, a comedy-drama film directed by Reitman and written by Diablo Cody. Costarring Charlize Theron, Mackenzie Davis, Mark Duplass and Ron Livingston.
Other 2017 Films of Interest (14):
Roman Polanski‘s Based On A True Story, an adaptation of Delphine de Vigan’s novel of the same name with a screenplay adaptation by Olivier Assayas. About a writer (Emmanuelle Seigner) whose life and mind are endangered by an obsessive woman (Eva Green).
Woody Allen‘s latest, a period piece set in a 1950s amusement park and being shot by Vittorio Storaro. Costarring Kate Winslet, Justin Timberlake, Juno Temple, Jim Belushi, Steve Schirripa, Max Casella.
James Ponsoldt‘s The Circle (Europa, 4.28.17). Science-fiction drama, based on the 2013 novel of the same name by Dave Eggers. Costarring Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, John Boyega, Karen Gillan, Patton Oswalt and Bill Paxton.
Wim Wenders‘ Submergence (romantic thriller) costarring Alicia Vikander and James McAvoy.
Jason Hall‘s Thank You For Your Service, based on same-titled book by David Finkel. Costarring Miles Teller, Haley Bennett, Beulah Koale, Amy Schumer.
Alex Garland‘s Annihilation, a sci-fi thing based on Jeff VanderMeer‘s book of the same name. The husband of a biologist (Natalie Portman) disappears, and is sought after in an environmental disaster zone. Costarring Jennifer Jason Leigh and Gina Rodriguez.
Lucrecia Martel‘s Zama, costarring Daniel Giménez Cacho, Lola Dueñas, Juan Minujín.
Greta Gerwig‘s Lady Bird, a dialogue-ish, Sacramento-based drama about a young girl preparing to leave home and embark on her own life. Saoirse Ronan stars along with Laurie Metcalf, Lucas Hedges, Tracy Letts, Laura Marano, Beanie Feldstein, Daniel Zovatto.
Brady Corbet‘s Vox Lux, which follows the important cultural changes of the last 15 years through the eyes of pop star Celeste (Rooney Mara). Pic will be shot in 65mm and shown in 70mm, which, due respect, means nothing these days with 6K and 8K formats increasingly available.
Dominic Cooke‘s On Chesil Beach, also with Saoirse Ronan plus Billy Howle, Emily Watson, Anne-Marie Duff, Adrian Scarborough.
Micheal Mayer and Anton Chekhov‘s The Seagull, w/ Saoirse Ronan, Annette Bening, Corey Stoll, Elisabeth Moss.
Michael Haneke‘s Happy Ending, a darkish family drama that touches on the European immigrant crisis, or so I’ve read. Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Mathieu Kassovitz, Loubna Abidar.
Plus: Aaron Sorkin‘s Molly’s Game, Noah Baumbach‘s Yen Din Ka Kissa, Edgar Wright‘s Baby Driver, Danny Boyle‘s T2 Trainspotting, Xavier Dolan‘s The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, Sofia Coppola‘s The Beguiled, Doug Liman‘s American Made. (7)
Not To Mention: Tomas Alfredson‘s The Snowman, Jonn Ho Bong‘s Okja, David Robert Mitchell‘s Under The Silver Lake, Lynn Ramsay‘s You Were Never Really Here, Andrew Niccol‘s Anon, Lars Von Trier‘s The House that Jack Built, Armando Ianucci‘s The Death Of Stalin, Mark Romanek‘s Septillion to One, Noah Hawley‘s Man Alive, Dan Fogelman‘s Life Itself, David Ayer‘s Bright, Garth Davis‘s Mary Magdelene, Taylor Sheridan‘s Wind River, Duncan Jones‘ Mute. (14)
And Let’s Not Forget: Terrence Malick‘s Weightless (a.k.a. Wait List). Costarring Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett, Val Kilmer, Clifton Collins Jr., Benicio del Toro and Michael Fassbender. (1)
Special Longform Excitement Factor: David Lynch‘s Twin Peaks Showtime series. (1)
Please suggest other titles that might fit in — (a) possible standouts at Sundance 2017, (b) Berlinale picks, (c) outliers from the winter, spring and summer seasons, (c) potential Cannes headliners, (d) the Toronto, Venice, Telluride poppers and (e) the Thanksgiving-Xmas films.