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22 Awards Contenders to See This Season, From ‘Wonderstruck’ to ‘Mudbound’

From "Wonderstruck" to "Mudbound," a new Linklater and Anderson, all the way to the wilds of "mother!" and more.

All this week, IndieWire will be rolling out our annual Fall Preview, including the very best indie cinema has to offer, all the awards contenders you need to know about, and even blockbuster fare that seems poised to please the most discerning tastes, all with an eye towards introducing you to all the new movies you need to get through a jam-packed fall movie-going season. Check back every day for a new look at the best the season has to offer, and clear your schedule, because we’re going to fill it right up. Next up: contenders who will rule the awards season, well into next year.

“mother!” (September 15)

"mother!"

“mother!”

The return of Darren Aronofsky should be enough to get any cinephile back to the theater, but the fact that “mother!” has remained so secretive with just under a month to go has only made anticipation higher. Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem play a couple whose lives are upended by the arrival of unexpected guests to their home. Michelle Pfeiffer and Ed Harris are two of unwelcome visitors, and additional cast members include Domhnall Gleeson and Kristen Wiig. Aronofsky’s last effort, the Biblical epic “Noah,” was released in March and didn’t have enough critical support to make an impact on the fall awards season, but that shouldn’t be the case for “mother!” The film is set to bring Aronofsky back to the psychological horror he perfected in “Black Swan,” which earned five Oscar nominations. If lightening strikes twice, “mother!” could be a series contender. -Zack Sharf

“Battle of the Sexes” (September 22)

“Battle of the Sexes”

Fresh off her Oscar win, Emma Stone returns to awards season opposite Steve Carell in a based-on-fact movie that has the Golden Globe for Best Picture — Musical or Comedy written all over it. Whether that’s a good thing or not remains to be seen, but one imagines that “Little Miss Sunshine” directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris will make the literal and verbal back-and-forth between their leads as entertaining as the tennis match that “Battle of Sexes” is based on. Said contest, which took place between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in 1973, was watched by some 90 million people and was a watershed moment for women’s tennis; the ending may be spoiled by the premise, but that doesn’t mean that watching it reach game, set, match won’t be worthwhile. -Michael Nordine

“Victoria and Abdul” (September 22)

“Victoria and Abdul”

Stephen Frears is no stranger to historical dramas, having recently made films about ruling-class aspiring opera singers and the forgotten stories of women forced into the most impossible of situations. This fall, the director is heading back to the realm of royalty with a story of the relationship between Queen Victoria and Abdul Karim, a royal servant who worked for the crown in the latter part of the 19th century. “Billy Elliot” and “War Horse” screenwriter Lee Hall adapted the script from Shrabani Basu’s 2010 book of the same name, which follows the friendship up until and through Victoria’s death in 1901. Judi Dench and Ali Fazal star as the title characters, alongside Olivia Williams, Eddie Izzard, and the late Tim-Pigott Smith. -Steve Greene

“The Florida Project” (October 6)

“The Florida Project”

Sean Baker’s much anticipated follow-up to iPhone movie “Tangerine” was the hot acquisition at Cannes, scooped up by “Moonlight” distributor A24, which will build awareness for it on the fall festival circuit. This time, Baker shot his naturalistic portrait of outsiders living on the margins of society in 35 days on 35mm. The film is set on a strip of Orlando’s budget motels on Route 92, just a mile away from Disney World. These relics of the ’50s and ’60s were once designed to lure tourists, but now teem with families on the edge. Instead of E-rides, the kids find their fun spitting on cars, peeking at topless bathers, stalking grazing cows, and panhandling for soft-serve ice cream to slurp before it melts in the blazing heat. Six-year-old Monee (Brooklynn Prince) is the focus of this slice-of-life movie, which relies on local casting and Instagram discovery Bria Vinaite as her loving but volatile ex-stripper mother Halley, who scrapes together her rent money every week, selling wholesale perfume at a nearby tourist hotel. Baker, working closely with kids’ coach Samantha Quan, encouraged both the adults and the children to improvise, using the Hal Roach “Our Gang” shorts as a model of what he wanted to achieve, along with considerable profanity. The movie builds dread, concern, and anxiety for the kids, while navigating between joyful fun and obnoxiousness. Baker asked Vinaite to stand up to two-time-Oscar nominee Willem Dafoe, whose frustrated but humane motel manager is the glue that holds together this poverty-row drama. He’s the closest thing to a father figure and civilizing force these marginal characters will ever know, and could earn his third Oscar nomination. -Anne Thompson

“Breathe” (October 13)

Breathe_170816_Day37_ 1428.jpg

“Breathe”

Is this Andrew Garfield’s year? The one-time Oscar nominee stars in Andy Serkis’ fact-based directorial debut, which follows the incredible true story of Robin and Diana Cavendish, a loving couple who refuse to give up when the odds — and Robin’s deteriorating health — are stacked against them. Garfield stars alongside “The Crown” favorite Claire Foy in what looks to be a stirring love story that also packs a wallop of an important story, focusing not just on their own troubles but their intense advocacy for other disabled people. It’s the kind of stand-up-and-cheer (and then maybe sit-down-and-cry) drama that awards season was made for, and when it screens at both TIFF and London, audience reaction could help propel it to a slew of accolades. -Kate Erbland

“The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)” (October 13)

The Meyerowitz Stories Noah Baumbach

“The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)”

Noah Baumbach’s acerbic New York comedy “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected),” which debuted at the Cannes Film Festival, makes an odd Oscar contender. That’s because it will open day and date in a few theaters at the same time that Netflix makes it available online. Shot on super 16, Baumbach had hoped that movie fans would watch this slice of a New York Jewish family in theaters. But during post-production, the IAC Films and Scott Rudin production went to Netflix, the home of Adam Sandler’s deal to make movies for online streaming. Baumbauch delivers another trademark exploration of a dysfunctional family dominated by a narcissistic artist. The movie boasts sly comedic actors who deliver emotion as well as laughs. This time, Dustin Hoffman is the narcissistic painter and family patriarch and gobbles up most of the juicy dialogue. He could earn his eighth Oscar nomination. Baumbach wrote the film’s two brothers, one confidently successful, the other a would-be musician and Mr. Mom, with Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler in mind. Netflix is also pushing in-house star Sandler for the Oscar. He returns to dramatic form for the first time since Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2002 “Punch Drunk Love.” As usual, women play supporting roles to the movie’s three leading men, as wives, mothers, sisters and daughters. Elizabeth Marvel (“House of Cards”) is the quiet sister; Emma Thompson is wasted as the artist’s third wife; and Candice Bergen has a delicious cameo as Wife Number Two. -Anne Thompson

“Wonderstruck” (October 20)

Millicent Simonds Wonderstruck

“Wonderstruck”

Don’t be fooled that his latest feature is a hyper-faithful adaptation of a half-illustrated children’s novel by “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” author Brian Selznick — “Wonderstruck” is nothing if not a Todd Haynes movie. And it’s an exquisite one, at that. Fresh off the greatest triumph of his career, the “Carol” director is still operating near the peak of his powers, returning to cinemas with an immaculately crafted fable about the ways in which people of all ages learn to break out of their bodies and connect with the world. Split between two time periods and shot to perfection by Haynes’ usual cinematographer Edward Lachman, this mesmerizing and open-hearted drama charts the parallel journeys of two deaf pre-teens — one in 1927, the other in 1977 — as they follow the treasure maps of their personal histories in search of a place where they might belong, a gap that they were born to close. Julianne Moore eventually factors into it somehow, but we’d hate to reveal how. Trust us, you’re going to want to find out for yourself. -David Ehrlich

“Suburbicon” (October 27)

“Suburbicon”

Paramount Pictures

Stupid Matt Damon returns in “Oceans”/“The Informant!” mode in George Clooney’s ’50s bloody suburban dramedy “Suburbicon.” Clooney wrote the script with the Coen Bros. (his collaborators on “Hail, Caesar!,” “Intolerable Cruelty” and “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”) and his producing partner Grant Heslov. Shades of “Double Indemnity,” Damon and Julianne Moore play a hapless husband and wife who are suspected of having offed her sister for the insurance money and are harassed by a suspicious insurance agent (Oscar Isaac). Launching in Venice and Toronto, Paramount is banking that the movie is more accessibly successful than Clooney’s last effort “Monuments Men” and promises a full awards push.  According to the official synopsis: “This is a tale of very flawed people making very bad choices.” -AT

On the next page, the best awards offerings of November and December. 

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