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Fall Preview: The 33 Must See Films

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire August 31, 2010 at 3:59AM

Summer is essentially over. Maybe not by the calendar, but certainly when it comes to Hollywood. The "Iron Man 2"s and the "Shrek 4"'s have come and gone, and for anyone who likes a medicore $200 million budgeted film probably aimed at teenaged boys, you're probably out of luck for at least a few months. Not to say this summer didn't give cinema-goers plenty of nice alternatives, from rare summer studio fare that pleased teenagers and critics ("Inception," "Toy Story 3") to a good dozen art house films. But fall is a whole other monster. And more often than not, a monster that's a good friend to any cinephile.
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Summer is essentially over. Maybe not by the calendar, but certainly when it comes to Hollywood. The "Iron Man 2"s and the "Shrek 4"'s have come and gone, and for anyone who likes a medicore $200 million budgeted film probably aimed at teenaged boys, you're probably out of luck for at least a few months. Not to say this summer didn't give cinema-goers plenty of nice alternatives, from rare summer studio fare that pleased teenagers and critics ("Inception," "Toy Story 3") to a good dozen art house films. But fall is a whole other monster. And more often than not, a monster that's a good friend to any cinephile.

Essentially kicking off while the Toronto International Film Festival winds down (Mark Romanek's "Never Let Me Go" opens the Wednesday during TIFF, with Sundance fave "Catfish" following two days later), the final months of 2010's specialty release schedule should easily fulfill the needs of any film lover. There's works from auteurs both international and domestic, a considerable documentary presence, buzzy comedies, and the annual plethora of Oscar-bait. And indieWIRE has decided to offer the following list of 33 notable titles to watch for. In addition, iW sorted those 33 and a few dozen extra via the calendar, listing the releases by date and giving each its own page complete with a plethora of information (cast, distributor, synopsis, trailer, etc.).

It's more than likely said calendar will find a few notable additions once the Venice and Toronto dust settles. Films like John Cameron Mitchell's "Rabbit Hole," Dustin Lance Black's "What's Wrong With Virginia," David Schwimmer's "Trust," Mike Mills' "Beginners," and scores of others, remain distributor free. A number of them could find themselves in theaters by year's end, but for now no films without release dates or distributors are included in this list.

indieWIRE's list veers away from studio efforts that very well could be high on one's fall to-see list. Defining what is and is not a "specialty film" is murky at best, making this rule problematic on numerous occasions. Five "studio films" specifically that would have surely been on and perhaps even near the top of this list include David Fincher's "The Social Network" (released by Sony/Columbia), Joel & Ethan Coen's "True Grit" (released by Paramount), David O. Russell's "The Fighter" (released by Paramount), Ben Affleck's "The Town" (released by Warner Brothers) and Edward Zwick's "Love and Other Drugs" (released by 20th Century Fox).

All five films do in fact still have film pages, which can be found amidst full listings for September, October, November and December.

But before treading through that lineup, consider the following 33 films first. From bisexual ballerinas and self-amputated limbs to Joaquin Phoenix and Allen Ginsberg, a fall indie preview:


1. The Tree of Life (Release Date: ??; Distributor: ??)

What's The Deal? Alright, so there was a bit of cheating here on the release date and distributor rule. But it would be just as much untrue to say it doesn't have a release date or distributor. No one really seems to know. Some say it's headed to Cannes 2011. Some say it's out by Christmas. Either way, Terrance Malick's latest - which stars Brad Pitt and Sean Penn and may or may not have something to do with dinosaurs, the cosmos and the meaning of life (all against the backdrop of a 1950s family drama) - is having one of the most fascinatingly mysterious release lead-ups of all time.

Who's Already Seen It? Terrence Malick. A few very lucky insiders. Some students at the University of Texas at Austin. Maybe Brad Pitt. Though we don't even know any of that for sure. Check out "Tree"'s film page for updates as criticWIRE grades come in, whenever that might be.

Why is it a "Must See"? If it does indeed come out by year's end, this could be quite the cinematic event. Malick has only made five films in his near 40 year career, and the four that came before "Life" have all been heralded by critics and often end up on best-film-ever type lists. "The Tree of Life" may be a mystery, but chances are it's going to be one that delivers.

A scene from Darren Aronofsky’s "Black Swan"

2. Black Swan (December 1; Fox Searchlight)

What's The Deal? Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis square off in this psychological thriller about two ballerinas competing for the lead role of the White Swan in "Swan Lake." The fifth film by Darren Aronofsky, think of it as a violent, sexual, ballet world update of "All About Eve."

Who's Already Seen It? Opens Venice on September 1st. Check out "Swan"'s film page for updates as grades come in.

Why is it a "Must See"? From the second this film's potential existence was announced, people have been excited. And why shouldn't they be? From its mouth-watering (and lip-locking, in Kunis and Portman's case) cast, which also includes Vincent Cassel, Winona Ryder and Barbara Hershey, to its always-interesting director (c'mon, "The Fountain" was at least "interesting"), "Swan" has a lot going for it. The trailer alone had the whole internet in a tizzy, suggesting a return to a darker, "Requiem For a Dream"-y form for Aronofsky.


3. Inside Job (October 8; Sony Pictures Classics)

What's The Deal? Documentarian Charles Ferguson takes on the 2008 global economic meltdown through research and interviews with major financial insiders, politicians and journalists. "You were robbed," the film states, according to indieWIRE's coverage of its world premiere in Cannes. "There was a bank robbery. And the bank robbery wasn’t done by someone who came in with a gun, it was the bank president.”

Who's Already Seen It? 12 critics gave it an average of A- on the film's criticWIRE page.

Why is it a "Must See"? One of - if not the - most anticipated docs of the year, "Inside Job" is the first film to really dig into a rather shocking truth behind the economic crisis. And according to the reaction at its world premiere in Cannes, it does a frighteningly good job. "A masterpiece," wrote The Boston Globe's Wesley Morris. "Scarier than anything Wes Craven and John Carptenter ever made." "Saw XXXVI" be damned, this is the movie you should run to - and from - come Halloween.


4. Blue Valentine (December 31; The Weinstein Company)

What's The Deal? Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams play a married couple whose relationship is severely deteriorating in Derek Cianfrance's time-shifting drama. The Weinstein Company picked it up out of Sundance, and is giving it a limited New Year's Eve release date followed by an expansion through January (which stretches the idea of a "fall" preview, we realize).

Who's Already Seen It? 29 critics gave it an average of B+ on the film's criticWIRE page.

Why is it a "Must See"? Showcasing perhaps career performances for both Gosling and Williams (which is saying quite a bit), "Valentine" is an intensely emotional anti-romance that already has passionate critical support out of Sundance and Cannes and is certain to find some Oscar buzz. Though taking your New Year's Eve date to "Valentine" might not exactly result in fun times afterwards.


5. Carlos (October 15; IFC Films)

What's The Deal? IFC teamed up with the Sundance Channel for a multi-platform release of Olivier Assayas's 5 1/2 hour miniseries. A portrait of the renowned international terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal, IFC will release both the extended, three-part version of the film as well as a shortened versions following Sundance Channel's debut of the full version on television.

Who's Already Seen It? 12 critics gave it an average of B+ on the film's criticWIRE page.

Why is it a "Must See"? Five and a half hours in a movie theatre might seem like a bit much, but anyone who saw the film in Cannes seemed to argue the opposite. “'Carlos’ is everything ‘Che’ wanted to be and much, much more—a dynamic, convincing and revelatory account of a notorious revolutionary terrorist’s career that rivets the attention during every one of its 321 minutes," Todd McCarthy wrote on his blog.


6. Another Year (December 31; Sony Pictures Classics)

What's The Deal? Mike Leigh follows up 2008's lauded "Happy-Go-Lucky" with this character study of a group of aging people trying to make sense of their lives. "Vera Drake" cast members Jim Broadbent, Lesley Manville and Imelda Staunton all return for "Another" collaboration with Leigh.

Who's Already Seen It? 20 critics gave it an average of B+ on the film's criticWIRE page.

Why is it a "Must See"? The virtually unstoppable Leigh found many critics proclaiming "Year" among his best work when it premiered in Cannes. "Leigh magnifies the existential reflections of his middle-aged subjects, eschewing plot for mere observation and stuffing emotional realism into near-theatrical constraints," indieWIRE's Eric Kohn wrote at the time.


7. Somewhere (December 24; Focus Features)

What's The Deal? Sofia Coppola returns four years after "Marie Antoinette" with this drama about a hard-living Hollywood actor (Stephen Dorff) who lives at the Chateau Marmot. An unexpected visit from his 11-year-old daughter (Elle Fanning) shakes everything up, and various life lessons likely ensue.

Who's Already Seen It? Debuts in Venice. Check out "Somewhere"'s film page for updates as grades come in.

Why is it a "Must See"? Reportedly inspired by Coppola's own childhood with her famous director father, it looks more "Lost In Translation" than "Marie Antoinette," which for anyone turned off by the latter, could be a very good thing. And, seriously, when has Stephen Dorff ever made a bad movie?

A scene from Mark Romanek's "Never Let Me Go."

8. The Illusionist (December 25; Sony Pictures Classics)

What's The Deal? Based on an unproduced script that the legendary French actor and director Jacques Tati had written in 1956, "The Illusionist" is director Sylvain Chomet's follow-up to the acclaimed "The Triplets of Belleville." Revolving around a struggling illusionist who visits an isolated community, the animated film debuted at the Berlin International Film Festival earlier this year.

Who's Already Seen It? 1 critic gave it an average of A- on the film's criticWIRE page.

Why is it a "Must See"? Shall we simply repeat this sentence? Based on an unproduced script that the legendary French actor and director Jacques Tati had written in 1956, "The Illusionist" is director Sylvain Chomet's follow-up to the acclaimed "The Triplets of Belleville." If you need more that that, read this review.


9. & 10. 127 Hours (November 5; Fox Searchlight) and Never Let Me Go (September 15; Fox Searchlight)

What's The Deal? Fox Searchlight - which last fall suffered from a bit of a post-"Slumdog Millionaire" draught when the likes of "Amelia" crashed and burned - looks like it has quite the comeback up its sleeve. Beyond previously listed "Black Swan" (and unlisted Hilary Swank legal drama "Conviction"), the distributor is releasing both "Slumdog" director Danny Boyle's "127 Hours" and Mark Romanek's "Never Let Me Go." The former (written by Simon Beaufoy, who also wrote "Slumdog") finds James Franco playing a mountain climber becomes trapped under a boulder and is forced to amputate his own arm, while the latter - based on Kazuo Ishiguro's award-winning novel - has Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield playing three childhood friends coming to terms with some serious hidden truths. Beyond their shared distributor, a fun fact that binds the two films: Danny Boyle's frequent collaborator Alex Garland ("28 Days Later") wrote "Never Let Me Go"'s screenplay.

Who's Already Seen Them? Both films are premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival (and likely screening in Telluride a few days before). Check out "Hours"'s film page and "Never Let"'s film page for updates as grades come in.

Why Are They "Must Sees"? Danny Boyle+Simon Beaufoy+James Franco+self-amputated arm? Mark Romanek+Alex Garland+that cast+that source material? These are equations that deserve your curiosity.

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An image from Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden's "It's Kind of a Funny Story." Image courtesy of Focus Features.

11. Miral (December 3; The Weinstein Company)

What's The Deal? Artist and filmmaker Julian Schnabel brings us his fourth narrative feature with "Miral," a chronicle of Hind Husseini's effort to establish an orphanage in Jerusalem after the 1948 partition of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel. Starring Hiam Abbass and Freida Pinto, the film is written by Rula Jebreal and based on her novel of the same name.

Who's Already Seen It? Debuts in Venice. Check out "Miral"'s film page for updates as grades come in.

Why is it a "Must See"? In Schnabel's hands, this powerful story could translate into quite the cinematic experience. So far, his takes on the real-life stories of Jean-Michel Basquiat ("Basquiat"), Reinaldo Arenas ("Before Night Falls") and Jean-Dominique Bauby ("The Diving Bell and the Butterfly") haven't exactly failed to impress.


12. Last Train Home (September 3; Zeitgeist Films)

What's The Deal? Lixin Fan's documentary explores one fractured family in hopes of shedding light on the human cost of China's ascendence as an economic superpower.

Who's Already Seen It? 9 critics gave it an average of A- on the film's criticWIRE page.

Why is it a "Must See"? One of the most acclaimed docs on the festival circuit this past year, "Home" has many a fan on the indieWIRE team. “Stunningly photographed and expertly constructed, ‘Last Train Home’ features the work of a filmmaker who has immersed himself in the lives of his subjects - the Zhangs - to explore the story of their fractured family," Eugene Hernandez wrote when the film premiered at the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam. "Many moments in this intimate movie are incredibly striking and ultimately so symbolic of a much broader situation."


13. It's Kind of a Funny Story (October 8; Focus Features)

What's The Deal? Directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck stray from the tones of their acclaimed "Half Nelson" and "Sugar" with this comedic drama about a 16-year old who, after a bout of depression, checks himself into a mental health clinic. Keir Gilchrist, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Roberts and Viola Davis star.

Who's Already Seen It? Debuts in Toronto. Check out "Funny"'s film page for updates as grades come in.

Why is it a "Must See"? Boden and Fleck are among the most interesting new indie directors in the U.S., as Oscar-nominated "Half Nelson" and underrated "Sugar" can attest. This foray into a more mainstream type of filmmaking could give wider audiences a chance to experience their work, and show those already familiar a new side of it.


14. & 15. Tiny Furniture (November 12; IFC Films) and Marwencol (October 8; The Cinema Guild)

What's The Deal? This year's SXSW Film Festival brought us many discoveries, as perhaps best exemplified in these two films. The former is director Lena Dunham's self-portrait, in which the director plays a version of herself wandering around New York City in post-graduate limbo, while the latter is a doc from Jeff Malmberg that follows an upstate New York resident left with brain damage who copes by creating a world of dolls.

Who's Already Seen Them? 8 critics gave "Tiny Furniture" an average of B+ on the film's criticWIRE page while 2 critics gave "Marwencol" an average of A- on the film's criticWIRE page.

Why Are They Must Sees? In addition to both screening at SXSW, both films also won the festival's top juried prizes for narrative and documentary filmmaking. Both remarkably unique entries into both sides of low-budget indie filmmaking, let's hope these films get chances to be seen amidst the Oscar-hungry powers of much of the fall schedule.


16. Enter The Void (September 24; IFC Films)

What's The Deal? "To make a good melodrama you need sperm, blood and tears," director Gasper Noe said when his "Enter The Void" when it premiered at least year's Cannes Film Festival. "These are in this film."

Who's Already Seen It? 16 critics gave it an average of C+ on the film's criticWIRE page.

Why is it a "Must See"? For more than two hours, Noe gives us an intense hallucination, following the spirit of recently deceased drug dealer. It severely divided audiences in Cannes, with some critics arguing that perhaps it belongs more in a museum than a movie theater. Either way, it was hard for anyone to suggest it was like anything they'd ever seen before, as its trailer alone suggests. If after those 2 minutes, you think "Enter The Void" is for you, it's probably worth seeing.

A scene from Tom Hooper's "The King's Speech."

17. The King's Speech (November 26; The Weinstein Company)

What's The Deal? Director Tom Hooper takes on King George VI in this Oscar-baiting film starring Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter. Firth plays King George, who is plagued by a horrible stutter that makes him unfit to be king. Enter an unorthodox speech therapist named Lionel Logue (Rush).

Who's Already Seen It? Debuts in Venice. Check out "Speech"'s film page for updates as grades come in.

Why is it a "Must See"? Hooper's been slowly building a considerable rep with films like "The Damned United" and HBO projects "John Adams" and "Longford." "The King's Speech" could be his chance to really break out, and having the Weinsteins behind him shouldn't hurt his chances at the Oscars helping him do so.


18. & 19. I'm Still Here (September 10; Magnolia Pictures) and Catfish (September 17; Rogue)

What's The Deal? Are these films documentaries? That's going to be a question on many a mind this fall. "Catfish" already raised it when it premiered at Sundance and had many wondering how real Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost's documentation of Ariel's brother Nev's quest to figure out the mystery behind a woman he me on his Facebook really was. And ever since news that Casey Affleck was directing a film about actor Joaquin Phoenix's retirement from acting and transition into a career as a hip hop artist, the Internet's been all over whether or not the whole ordeal is a hoax or not (particularly after Phoenix's bizarre appearance on David Letterman).

Who's Already Seen Them?17 critics gave "Catfish" an average of B+ on the film's criticWIRE page. "I'm Still Here" will debut in Venice. Check out its film page for updates as grades come in.

Why Are They "Must Sees"? If you don't see the films, you can't participate in the debates...


20. The Tempest (December 10; Miramax)

What's The Deal? Julie Taymor's long-awaited adaptation of the Shakespeare play, "The Tempest" follows Prospera, a woman who finds herself stranded on society-less island after her brother banishes her and her daughter.

Who's Already Seen It? Debuts in Venice. Check out "Tempest"'s film page for updates as grades come in.

Why is it a "Must See"? With an impressive cast in Helen Mirren, David Strathairn, Djimon Hounsou, Russell Brand, Alfred Molina and Ben Whishaw, and a visually engrossing director in Taymor, "The Tempest" might have a lot to offer. It's also of the last films that will ever be released through now-defunct Miramax Films, so it's also an opportunity to pay your last respects.


21. Nowhere Boy (October 8; The Weinstein Company)

What's The Deal? A biopic pic about John Lennon's adolescence, Sam Taylor-Wood's "Nowhere Boy" follows the creation of Lennon's first band The Quarrymen and its evolution into The Beatles. It also delves into the relationship he had with the two dominant women of his youth: his mother Julia Lennon and his aunt Mimi Smith (played by Anne-Marie Duff and Kristin Scott Thomas).

Who's Already Seen It? 11 critics gave it an average of B- on the film's criticWIRE page.

Why is it a "Must See"? Out in the UK last winter, it was actually a bit of a player in last year's awards season, garnering a best British film and two best supporting actress nominations (for Duff and Scott-Thomas) at the BAFTAs. The latter two could end up on Stateside awards lists come the end of the year.


22. Waiting For Superman (September ; Paramount Vantage)

What's The Deal? Analyzing the failures of American public education by following several students through the educational system, "Waiting For Superman" is the latest doc from director Davis Guggenheim ("An Inconvenient Truth," "It Might Get Loud").

Who's Already Seen It? 11 critics gave it an average of B+ on the film's criticWIRE page.

Why is it a "Must See"? Winner of the doc audience award at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, "Superman" is an insightful and honest window into how the American educational system is failing our children. A bit depressing? Sure. But Guggenheim infuses enough inspiration amidst the horrors that you shouldn't wait to see "Superman."

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A scene from "Heartbreaker." Image courtesy of IFC Films.


23. Heartbreaker (September 10; IFC Films)

What's The Deal? A French romantic comedy movie starring Romain Duris, Vanessa Paradis, Julie Ferrier and Andrew Lincoln, "Heartbreaker" follows a trio of con-artists who are hired to infiltrate relationships and break the couple up. A huge hit overseas, its already grossed $40 million in France alone.

Who's Already Seen It? 4 critics gave it an average of B on the film's criticWIRE page.

Why is it a "Must See"? The film is already heading for Americanized remake-dom, and it's not hard to see why: Hilarious, smart and a whole lot of fun, "Heartbreaker" succeeds in ways almost every U.S. rom com seems to fail these days.


24. & 25. Fair Game (November 5; Summit) & You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (September 19; Sony Pictures Classics)

What's The Deal? Naomi Watts double feature! Both premieres from Cannes earlier this year, "Game" and "Stranger" will meet Stateside audiences this fall. The former is Doug Liman's fictionalized account of the 2003 outing of former CIA agent Valerie Plame (Watts), while the latter is Woody Allen's annual addition to his filmography, a London-set ensemble piece that features Watts alonsgide Anthony Hopkins, Josh Brolin, Antonio Banderas, Freida Pinto and Lucy Punch.

Who's Already Seen Them? 13 critics gave "Fair Game" an average of B- on the film's criticWIRE page while 15 critics gave "You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger" an average of B- on the film's criticWIRE page.

Why Are They "Must Sees"? Neither found overwhelming critical acclaim in Cannes, but both are sure to spark curiosity from filmgoers. "Game"'s supporters praised Watts and co-star Sean Penn's work, a decent throwback to 1970s political thrillers, while "Stranger," sub-par Woody Allen it may be, is still Woody Allen...


26. Welcome To The Rileys (November 5; Samuel Goldwyn)

What's The Deal? Directed by Jake Scott (Ridley's son), "Rileys" follows a couple (James Gandolfini and Melissa Leo) whose relationship has been deteriorating ever since their daughter's untimely death. Enter a scrappy underage prostitute played by Kristen Stewart.

Who's Already Seen It? 9 critics gave it an average of B on the film's criticWIRE page.

Why is it a "Must See"? The film debuted to very warm notices at the Sundance Film Festival, particularly for Stewart's performance. Audiences haven't recently given her a chance outside the "Twilight" series (see "Adventureland" and "The Runaways"), but perhaps this film can change that. If Samuel Goldwyn (who picked up the film from Apparition after they all-but-folded) plays their cards right, it could even give her some Oscar buzz.


27. HOWL (September 24; Oscilloscope)

What's The Deal? "HOWL" finds James Franco portraying Beat Generation poet Allen Ginsberg in doc directors Jeffrey Friedman and Rob Epstein’s narrative feature debut. Blending trippy animation, dramatizations of Ginsberg’s life and his trial on obscenity charges, Epstein and Friedman ("The Celluloid Closet," "The Times of Harvey Milk") take a step away from their roots with the film, which opened the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.

Who's Already Seen It? 21 critics gave it an average of B- on the film's criticWIRE page.

Why is it a "Must See"? While the film has so far been met with a generally mixed response, Franco’s performance has received unanimous praise and is worth the price of admission alone.


28. Buried (September 24; Lionsgate)

What's The Deal? Ryan Reynolds plays a man wakes up buried alive six feet underground with nothing but a lighter, a knife and a cell phone (and, unfortunately, clothing).

Who's Already Seen It? 10 critics gave it an average of B on the film's criticWIRE page.

Why is it a "Must See"? The film got great reviews at Sundance, and even though he's fully dressed, watching Reynolds squirm around inside a box for 90 minutes can't be unpleasant.


29. Made In Dagenham (November 19; Sony Pictures Classics)

What's The Deal? "Dagenham" is a dramatized account of the 1968 strike at the Ford Dagenham assembly plant, where female workers walked out in protest against sexual discrimination. Directed by Nigel Cole ("Calendar Girls"), it has quite the cast in Sally Hawkins, Miranda Richardson, Rosamund Pike and Bob Hoskins.

Who's Already Seen It? The film premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival. Check out "Dagenham"'s criticWIRE page for updates as grades come in.

Why is it a "Must See"? If you like inspirational, issue-oriented British films, then "Dagenham" was probably made for you. And even if you don't, that cast is a reason to see the film no matter what the plot is.

A scene from "Let Me In." Image courtesy of Overture Films.


30. Let Me In (October 1; Overture Films)

What's The Deal? Based on Swedish writer John Ajvide Lindqvist's book "Let The Right One In," which was already adapted into the popular 2008 film of the same name, "Let Me In" has fans of both frightened Americanization has come to ruin everything.

Who's Already Seen It? The film premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival. Check out "Let Me In"'s criticWIRE page for updates as grades come in.

Why is it a "Must See"? Yes, American remakes of awesome foreign-language horror films usually don't work out, but the fact that its playing some major fall festivals suggests "Me" might be an exception to the rule. It's also got considerable pedigree in director Matt Reeves ("Cloverfield") and stars Chloe Moretz ("Kick Ass"), Kodi Smit-McPhee ("The Road") and Richard Jenkins ("The Visitor").


31. The Freebie (September 17; Phase 4)

What's The Deal? Katie Aselton (wife and frequent collaborator of Mark Duplass) writes, directs and stars in this film that a follows a young married couple (Aselton and Dax Shepard) who decide to give each other one night with someone else.

Who's Already Seen It? 11 critics gave "The Freebie" an average of B- on the film's criticWIRE page for updates as grades come in.

Why is it a "Must See"? Most agree it was the best film of the Sundance Film Festival's new "Next" program, which showcases ultra low budget filmmaking. Writing for The Los Angeles Times, Mark Olsen, for example, said the film had "an eye toward quiet, keen observation."


32.& 33. I Love You Phillip Morris (December 3; Roadside Attractions) and Biutiful (December; Roadside Attractions)

What's The Deal? Besides their shared distributor, the two films have little in common. "Morris" Glenn Ficarra and John Requa's long-delayed adaptation of Steve McVicker's non-fiction book that follows a con man (Jim Carrey) who'll stop at nothing (including impersonating a doctor, a lawyer, and most astonishingly, a dying AIDS patient to escape from jail) to spend the rest of his life with his lover (Ewan McGregor). "Biutiful," on the other hand, is Alejandro González Iñárritu's follow-up to 2006's "Babel." It follows a depressed single dad (Javier Bardem) dealing with his personal demons.

Who's Already Seen Them? 13 critics gave "I Love You Phillip Morris" an average of B- on the film's criticWIRE page while 18 critics gave "Biutiful" an average of C+ on the film's criticWIRE page

Why Are They "Must Sees"? Out of simple gratitude for the fact that they were almost "no sees." Roadside Attractions picked up these distributor-challenged films within days of each other last week. Mind you, suggesting the two's challenges have been on par is unfair. "Biutiful" came out of this year's Cannes with a mixed response but was ultimately picked up a few months later (and has legitimate Oscar chances, particularly for Bardem's performance, which won best actor at the festival), while "Morris" has suffered one of the most bumpy roads to release in recent memory, shuffling distributors and release dates constantly. Let's here for it for Roadside for loving "Phillip Morris" enough to save it from the direct to DVD bin. Don't make them regret it!

Check out dozens of other films in indieWIRE's listings for September, October, November and December, including the likes of: "The American" (September 1), "A Woman, A Gun and a Noodle Shop" (September 1); "Prince of Broadway" (September 3); "Bran Nue Dae" (September 10); "Le Refuge" (September 10); "My Suicide" (September 10); "Jack Goes Boating" (September 17); "A Mother's Courage: Talking Back To Autism" (September 24); "Barry Munday" (October 1); "Freakonomics" (October 1); "Down Terrace" (October 8); "Tamara Drewe" (October 8); "The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest" (October 15); "Conviction" (October 15); "Samson and Delilah" (October 15); "The Company Men" (October 22); "Waste Land" (October 22); "Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields" (October 29); "Monsters" (October 29); "Helena From The Wedding" (November 7); "Night Catches Us" (December 3); "Country Strong" (December 22); and "The Debt" (December 31).

Peter Knegt is indieWIRE's Associate Editor. Follow him on Twitter and on his blog.