For the third time I’m re-compiling HE’s Best of 2015 rundown, most of which will be permanently posted in the Oscar Balloon box right after the Oscars conclude on Sunday night. By my calculations there are at least 20 films opening within the next 10 and 1/2 months that look highly nutritional and aspirational, and there are surely a few others I’m not seeing on the radar. Of the Hot 20, I’m guessing that the likeliest Best Picture contenders of 2015, if “serious” subjects and intentions are any kind of yardstick, will be the following ten:
Danny Boyle and Scott Rudin‘s Steve Jobs, Martin Scorsese‘s Silence (unless it opens in ’16), James Vanderbilt‘s Truth, Oliver Stone‘s Snowden, Steven Spielberg‘s St. James Place, Alejandro G. Inarritu‘s The Revenant, Jean Marc Vallee‘s Demolition, Jodie Foster‘s Money Monster, Warren Beatty‘s Hughes (unless Beatty decides to embrace Terrence Malick‘s approach to editing) and Robert Zemeckis‘ The Walk.
I’v also listed another 23 films that look half-formidable or semi-promising at the very least. 23 + 20 = a grand total of 43 interesting, real-deal, adult-angled films opening between now and 12.31.15. Even if 25% crap out we’ll still be left with around 30 high-grade entertainments. Even if 50% of them fall through the floor the must-see count will be around 20. Any way you slice it 2015 is looking way above average.
X-Factor, Ambitious, Semi-Fresh, Social Undercurrent, Something More(19) — in alphabetical order:
A Bigger Splash — Luca Guadagnino (director); Matthias Schoenaerts, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Dakota Johnson. Boilerplate: “The lives of a high profile couple, a famous rock star and a filmmaker (Schoenaerts, Swinton), vacationing and recovering on the Italian island of Pantelleria, are disrupted by the unexpected visit of an old friend and his daughter (Ralph Fiennes, Dakota Johnson). Shit happens. Fox Searchlight, presumably sometime in the fall.
Black Mass (Warner Bros.) — Scott Cooper (director/screenplay); Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sienna Miller, Dakota Johnson. (9.18)
By The Sea (Universal) — Angelina Jolie (director, screenwriter). Cast: Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Niels Arestrup, Mélanie Laurent.
Carol (Weinstein Co.) — Todd Haynes (director); Pyllis Nagy (screenplay, based on Patricia Highsmith novel); Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, Kyle Chandler.
Demolition (Fox Searchlight) — Jean-Marc Vallee (director); Bryan Sipe (screenplay); Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts, Chris Cooper. Fox Searchlight.
Everest (Universal) — Baltasar Kormákur (director); Justin Isbell, William Nicholson (screenplay); Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, Jason Clarke, John Hawkes, Sam Worthington, Keira Knightley, Robin Wright.
Hail Caesar (Universal — listed as a February 2016 release but if the film turns out to be half as good as the crackling script, it’ll be criminal to relegate it to a dump month); Joel and Ethan Coen (directors, screenplay); Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Channing Tatum, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill.
Hughes (no distributor) — Warren Beatty (director, writer); Warren Beatty, Alden Ehrenreich, Lily Collins, Matthew Broderick, Annette Bening, Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen, Taissa Farmiga, Chace Crawford, Candice Bergen.
Joy (20th Century Fox) — David O. Russell (director/screenplay). Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, Édgar Ramirez. 20th Century Fox, 12.25.
Our Brand Is Crisis (Warner Bros.); David Gordon Green (director); Peter Straughan (screenplay); Sandra Bullock, Scoot McNairy, Billy Bob Thornton, Anthony Mackie, Ann Dowd. WARNING — possible 2016 release.
The Revenant (20th Century Fox) — Alejandro González Inarritu (director/screenplay); Mark “nobody can remember my middle initial” Smith (screenplay); Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter, Domhnall Gleeson.
St. James Place (Touchstone / DreamWorks / 20th Century Fox) — Steven Spielberg (director); Matt Charman, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen (screenplay); Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan, Alan Alda, Billy Magnussen, Eve Hewson.
Sea of Trees (no distributor) — Gus Van Sant (director); Chris Sparling (screenplay); Matthew McConaughey, Ken Watanabe, Naomi Watts, Katie Aselton, Jordan Gavaris.
Silence (Paramount) — Martin Scorsese (director); Jay Cocks (screenplay); Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield, Issei Ogata, Adam Driver, Tadanobu Asano. WARNING — could be 2016 release.
Snowden == Oliver Stone (director, co-writer). Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Tom Wilkinson, Rhys Ifans, Joely Richardson, Timothy Olyphant. Open Road, 12.25.
Steve Jobs (Universal — shooting begins filming next month or January 2015, which indicates an intention to bring it out by late ’15) — Danny Boyle (director), Aaron Sorkin (screenplay), Scott Rudin (producer); Cast: Michael Fassbender, Seth Rogen, Michael Stuhlbarg, Katherine Waterston.
Richard Linklater‘s That’s What I’m Talking About (his “spiritual sequel” to Dazed & Confused) is opening sometime in the fall. Annapurna/Paramount.
Truth (no distributor) — James Vanderbilt (director, writer — based on the 2005 memoir “Truth and Duty” by Mary Mapes); Cast: Robert Redford, Cate Blanchett, Elisabeth Moss, Topher Grace, Dennis Quaid, Bruce Greenwood.
The Walk (TriStar / ImageMovers) — Robert Zemeckis (director/screenplay); Christopher Browne (screenplay); Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, James Badge Dale, Charlotte Le Bon. Sony/TriStar, 10.2.
Seen in Sundance and Berlin, Decently Reviewed, Not Universally Praised (3):
True Story (Fox Searchlight) — Rupert Goold (director); David Kajganich (screenplay, based on the memoir by Michael Finkel); James Franco, Jonah Hill, Felicity Jones, Gretchen Mol, Betty Gilpin, John Sharian.
Knight of Cups (no distributor) — Terrence Malick (director); Hanan Townshend screenplay); Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Brian Dennehy, Antonio Banderas, Freida Pinto, Wes Bentley, Isabel Lucas, Teresa Palmer.
Life (no distributor) — Anton Corbijn (director); Luke Davies (screenplay); Robert Pattinson, Dane DeHaan, Ben Kingsley, Joel Edgerton.
Qualty-Grade Commercial At The Very Least (11):
Legend (Universal); Brian Helgeland (director, screenwriter); Tom Hardy (playing both Kray twins), Emily Browning.
In the Heart of the Sea (Warner Bros.) Ron Howard (director); Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, Tom Holland, Ben Whishaw, Brendan Gleeson.
Midnight Special (Warner Bros.) — Jeff Nichols (director/screenplay); Cast: Michael Shannon, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, Joel Edgerton.
Tomorrowland (Disney) — Brad Bird (director, cowriter); Damon Lindelof (co-writer); George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Hugh Laurie, Raffey Cassidy, Thomas Robinson, Kathryn Hahn, Tim McGraw, Keegan-Michael Key, Judy Greer.
The Hateful Eight (Weinstein Co.) — Quentin Tarantino (director-writer); Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Dern, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Demián Bichir, Kurt Russell.
Ricki and the Flash (TriStar) — Jonathan Demme (director); Diablo Cody (screenplay); Meryl Streep, Mamie Gummer, Kevin Kline, Sebastian Stan, Rick Springfield, Ben Platt.
The Last Face (distributor) — Sean Penn (director); Erin Dignam (screenplay); Charlize Theron, Javier Bardem, Adèle Exarchopoulos.
Untitled Woody Allen (Sony Classics) — Woody Allen (director, screenplay); Jamie Blackley, Joaquin Phoenix, Parker Posey, Emma Stone.
Masterminds (Relativity Media) — Jared Hess (director); John Goldwyn, Lorne Michaels (screenplay); Zach Galifianakis, Owen Wilson, Kristen Wiig, Jason Sudeikis.
Regression (The Weinstein Company) — Alejandro Amenábar (director/screenplay); Ethan Hawke, Emma Watson, David Dencik.
Trainwreck (Universal) — Judd Apatow (director/screenplay); Amy Schumer (screenplay); Cast: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson, Colin Quinn, Tilda Swinton, Vanessa Bayer, Ezra Miller, John Cena, Barkhad Abdi, Norman Lloyd.
Pleasingly, Vigorously, Assuredly Mainstream (or something in that realm) (12):
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Disney / Lucasfilm / Bad Robot) — J.J. Abrams (director/screenplay); Lawrence Kasdan (screenplay); John Boyega, Harrison Ford, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Max von Sydow, Lupita Nyong’o, Gwendoline Christie, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker.
Mad Max: Fury Road (Warner Bros.) George Miller (director/screenplay); Nick Lathouris, Brendan McCarthy (screenplay); Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Zoë Kravitz, Abbey Lee, Richard Norton, Riley Keough, Courtney Eaton, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Nathan Jones, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.
The Martian (20th Century Fox) — Ridley Scott (director); Drew Goddard (screenplay); Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara, Michael Pena, Mackenzie Davis, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, Donald Glover, Aksel Hennie, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sebastian Stan.
Spectre (MGM / Columbia) — Sam Mendes (director); John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade (screenplay); Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Monica Bellucci, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Rory Kinnear, Jesper Christensen.
Magic Mike XXL (Warner Bros.) Gregory Jacobs (director); Channing Tatum (screenplay); Cast: Channing Tatum, Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, Gabriel Iglesias, Andie MacDowell, Amber Heard, Jada Pinkett Smith, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Glover, Michael Strahan.
Aloha (Sony/Columbia) a.k.a. Son of Deep Tiki — Cameron Crowe (director, writer); Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, Alec Baldwin, Bill Murray, John Krasinski, Danny McBride, Jay Baruchel.
Mississippi Grind (no distributor) — Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck (directors, writers). Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Sienna Miller, Ben Mendelsohn, Analeigh Tipton.
Triple Nine (Open Road) — John Hillcoat (director); Matt Cook (screenplay); Woody Harrelson, Kate Winslet, Aaron Paul, Norman Reedus, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Casey Affleck, Chris Allen, Anthony Mackie.
Criminal (Summit Entertainment) — Ariel Vromen (director); Douglas Cook, David Weisberg (screenplay); Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Oldman.
Grimsby (Columbia) — Louis Leterrier (director); Sacha Baron Cohen, Phil Johnston (screenplay); Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Strong, Isla Fisher, Rebel Wilson, Annabelle Wallis, Ian McShane, Gabourey Sidibe, David Harewood, Johnny Vegas, Penélope Cruz, Scott Adkins.
Crimson Peak (Universal / Legendary) — Guillermo del Toro (director/screenplay); Matthew Robbins, Lucinda Coxon (screenplay); Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Hunnam, Jessica Chastain, Jim Beaver.
Southpaw (Weinstein Co.) — Antoine Fuqua; Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Naomie Harris, Forest Whitaker, Victor Ortiz.
Haven’t Sussed ‘Em Out, Film Festival Faves, Under The Radar (10):
Alex Garland‘s Ex Machina
La Blessure (no distributor) — Abdellatif Kechiche (director); based on “La Blessure, la vraie” by François Bégaudeau.
Werner Herzog‘s Queen of the Desert — problem movie.
Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth
Andrew Niccol‘s Good Kill
Gilles Paquet-Brenner‘s Dark Places
Ben Wheatley‘s High Rise
S. Craig Zahler’s Bone Tomahawk
Dan Fogelman‘s Danny Collins
Liza Johnson‘s Elvis & Nixon (Kevin Spacey, Michael Shannon).