Updated on 1.1.17: The following is an update of a piece I originally posted on 12.9: With the addition of Alfonso Cuaron‘s Roma and a few others, Hollywood Elsewhere’s grand tally of high-end 2017 releases now comes to 80.
Of these I’ve listed 6 likely Best Picture contenders, a trio of high-end galactic thrillers, 23 pick-of-the-litter films from brand-name directors, 26 films of alternate interest plus 22 others of somewhat lesser distinction for a total of 79.
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.
I would add Cuaron’s film, a Spanish-language Mexican family drama set in the ’70s, for a total of six, but the Academy will most likely consign it to the Best Foreign Language category.
Alfonso Cuaron during the Mexico City-shooting of Roma.
Likeliest Best Picture Contenders (6):
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.
Alfonso Cuaron‘s Roma, a Spanish-language drama which began filming a few weeks ago. Boilerplate: “A year in the life of a middle-class family in Mexico City in the early 1970s.” Will probably be consigned to Foreign Language Feature competition, but it’s a Cuaron film with Emmanuel Lubezki handling the cinematography, but I’m including in the likely Best Picture category because of Cuaron’s stellar reputation.
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 installment 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 (23)
Olivier Assayas‘ Personal Shopper w/ Kristen Stewart (IFC Films, 3.10.17). After stirring the pot and lighting the match at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and then playing at the Toronto and New York film festivals, Assayas’ brilliant ghost film was put on the shelf by U.S. distributor IFC Films with a plan of opening it on 3.10, along the path of Clouds of Sils Maria.
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.
Matt Reeves‘ War For The Planet of the Apes (20th Century Fox, 7.14.17) — The completion of the the trilogy. Costarring Andy Serkis, Steve Zahn, Judy Greer, Karin Konoval, Terry Notary (apes) and Woody Harrelson, Gabriel Chavarria and Chad Rook (humans).
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.”
Jacques Audiard‘s The Sisters Brothers. Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, John C. Reilly. Boilerplate: “Based on Patrick DeWitt‘s novel, The Sisters Brothers revolves around the colorfully named gold prospector Hermann Kermit Warm (Phoenix), who’s being pursued across 1000 miles of 1850s Oregon desert to San Francisco by the notorious assassins Eli and Charlie Sisters. Except Eli is having a personal crisis and beginning to doubt the longevity of his chosen career, and Hermann might have a better offer.”
Abdellatif Kechiche‘s Mektoub Is Mektoub. Boilerplate: “Amin, a young screenwriter goes to his Mediterranean home town for a summer vacation where he falls in love with Jasmine, and meets a producer who agrees to finance his first film. But when the producers wife shows interest in Amin, leaving him to decide between her, Jasmine and his career.” (Everyone remembers, of course, that Kechiche directed Blue Is The Warmest Color.)
Yorgos Lanthimos‘ The Killing of A Sacred Deer. Boilerplate: A teenager’s attempts to bring a brilliant surgeon into his dysfunctional family takes an unexpected turn. Screenwriters: Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou. Costarring: Colin Farrell, Alicia Silverstone, Nicole Kidman.
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.
Doug Liman‘s American Made (Universal, 9.29.17) — Tom Cruise as the real-life Barry Seal, a former TWA pilot who became a drug smuggler in the 1980s and was recruited later on by the DEA to provide intelligence.
Adam McKay‘s Untitled Dick Cheney Drama (Paramount). Deadline‘s Mike Fleming has reported that McKay hopes to be filming by the spring spring for a late 2017 release. Plan B producers Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner producing with McKay, Will Ferrell and Kevin Messick.
Hany Abu Assad‘s The Mountain Between Us (20th Century Fox, 10.20.17) — Survivalist drama with romantic undercurrent, based on Charles Martin’s same titled novel with a screenplay by Chris Weitz (who reportedly rewrote drafts by J. Mills Goodloe and Scott Frank. A surgeon (Idris Elba) and a writer (Kate Winslet) stranded in sub-zero weather in the mountains of northeastern Utah after a plane crash.
Other 2017 Films of Interest (25):
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.
Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky‘s The Polka King, a true-life dramedy starring Jack Black as Pennsylvania polka king and ponzi-schemer Jan Lewan. Directed and written by Forbes and Wolodarsky; costarring Jenny Slate, Jason Schwartzman, Jacki Weaver and SNL‘s Vanessa Bayer.
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.
Kenneth Branagh‘s Murder on the Orient Express (20th Century Fox, 11.22.17). Costarring Branagh as Hercule Poirot + Tom Bateman, Penelope Cruz, Daisy Ridley, Lucy Boynton, Johny Depp, Judi Dench, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi.
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.
Edgar Wright‘s Baby Driver (TriStar, 8.11) — An alleged “crime comedy” about a getaway driver (Ansel Elgort) in dutch when a bank heist goes wrong. Costarring Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Eiza González.
Oren Moverman‘s The Dinner (The Orchard, 5.5.17) — In September 2013 it was annnounced that Cate Blanchett would direct this adaptation of Herman Koch‘s “The Dinner” — it was announced in January ’16 that Moverman would take over. Richard Gere and Steve Coogan playing brothers whose children have committed a serious crime. Costarring Laura Linney, Rebecca Hall and Chloë Sevigny. Premiering at the 2017 Berlinale.
Alfonso Gomez-Rejon‘s The Current War (Weinstein Co.) — Benedict Cumberbatch as Thomas Edison and Michael Shannon as George Westinghouse. Costarring Nicholas Hoult as Nikola Tesla w/ Katherine Waterston, Tom Holland, Tuppence Middleton, Matthew Macfadyen, Sienna Miller.
Andrew Haigh‘s Lean on Pete (A24) — A drama based on Willy Vlatin’s same-titled novel, directed and written by Haigh. Costarring Charlie Plummer, Travis Fimmel, Chloë Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Steve Zahn, Thomas Mann and Amy Seimetz.
Arnaud Desplechin‘s Ismael’s Ghosts (Magnolia) — Drama costarring Mathieu Amalric, Marion Cotillard, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Louis Garrel. About “a filmmaker whose life is sent into a tailspin by the return of a former lover just as he is about to star shooting a new film,” etc.
Luca Guadagnino‘s Call Me By Your Name, a gay relationship drama, based on same-titled 2007 novel by Andre Aciman. Pic was allegedly inspired in part by Maurice Pialat‘s A Nos Amours. Costarring Timothee Chalamet, Armie Hammer and Michael Stuhlbarg. One of the big attractions of Sundance 2017.
Andrew Dosunmu‘s Where Is Kyra? — Costarring Michelle Pfeiffer and Keifer Suitherland. Directed by Dosunmu; co-written by Dosunmu and Darci Picoult. Set to premiere at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival on 1.23.17.
Scott Cooper‘s Hostiles — In 1892 an Army captain (Christian Bale) agrees to escort a dying Cheyenne war chief (Wes Studi) back to his tribal lands in the year 1892. Cosarring Rosamund Pike, Jesse Plemons, Adam Beach, Ben Foster, Q’orianka Kilcher (The New World).
Doug Liman‘s The Wall (Amazon/Roadside, 3.10) — Two American soldiers (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, John Cena) pinned down by a lethal Iraqi sniper with only a smallish wall for protection.
Plus: Aaron Sorkin‘s Molly’s Game, Noah Baumbach‘s Yen Din Ka Kissa, Danny Boyle‘s T2 Trainspotting, Xavier Dolan‘s The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, Sofia Coppola‘s The Beguiled. (5)
Not To Mention: Tomas Alfredson‘s The Snowman, Jonn Ho Bong‘s Okja, 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. (13)
Possibly interesting genre thrillers: (a) Gore Verbinski‘s A Cure for Wellness (20th Century Fox, 2.17.17) — Boilerplate: “A young exec is sent to retrieve his company’s CEO from an idyllic but mysterious ‘wellness center’ at a remote location in the Swiss Alps. He soon learns that the spa’s miraculous treatments are not what they seem. Costarring Dane DeHaan, Mia Goth, Jason Isaacs, Adrian Schiller; (b) David Leitch‘s The Coldest City (Focus Features, 7.28.17) — Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Sofia Boutella, Toby Jones, Eddie Marsan. Set in late ’80s Berlin, about an MI6 spy (Theron) teaming with Berlin station chief (McAvoy) on a hunt for double agents. Based on Antony Johnston’s 2012 graphic novel of the same name…whoops!; (c) David Robert Mitchell‘s Under The Silver Lake (A24) — Neo-noir crime thriller costarring Andrew Garfield, Zosia Mamet, Jimmi Simpson, Riley Keough. (3)
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)