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Fall Movie Preview: The 30 Indies You Must See

Fall Movie Preview: The 30 Indies You Must See

Summer is essentially over. Maybe not by the calendar, but certainly when it comes to Hollywood. The “Men In Black 3″s and “The Expendables 2″s have come and gone, and for anyone who likes a mediocre $200 million-budgeted film aimed at teenaged boys, you’re out of luck for at least a few months. (Editor’s note: Yay.)

Not to say this summer didn’t give cinema-goers plenty of nice alternatives, from rare summer studio fare that pleased audiences and (most) critics (“The Dark Knight Rises,” “Prometheus,” “Magic Mike”) to a good dozen arthouse films (“Beasts of the Southern Wild” and “Moonrise Kingdom” perhaps the MVPs in that regard). But fall is a whole other monster. And more often than not, it’s a monster that’s a good friend to any cinephile.

The final months of 2012’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, many biopics and the annual plethora of Oscar-bait. And Indiewire has decided to offer the following list of 30 notable titles to watch for.

In addition, IW sorted those 30 and a few dozen extra via the calendar, listing the releases by date and giving each its own page complete with a ton 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 Terrence Malick’s “To The Wonder,” Brian DePalma’s “Passion,” Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini “Imogene,” 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.

Of note: 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 so we are simply sticking to including any film released from a independent distrubutor or an indie division of a studio.  But this rule remains problematic on numerous occasions. Many “studio films” specifically that would have surely been on and perhaps even near the top of this list include Ben Affleck’s “Argo,” Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski’s “Cloud Atlas,” Rian Johnson’s “Looper,” Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi,” Robert Zemeckis’s “Flight,” Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty,” and Tom Hooper’s “Les Miserables.”

All of those films have film pages, which can be found amidst full listings for September, October, November and December.

But before treading through those listings, consider the following 30 films first. From Michael Haneke, Quentin Tarantino and Gus Van Sant to L. Ron Hubbard, Leo Tolstoy and FDR, a fall indie preview begins on the next page.

1. The Master (September 14) &  2. Django Unchained (December 25)

Directors: Paul Thomas Anderson (“Master”) and Quentin Tarnatino (“Django”)
Casts: Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Laura Dern (“Master”); Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington and Samuel L. Jackson (“Django”)
Distributors: The Weinstein Company (both)

Why Are They “Must Sees”? Harvey Weinstein and his Weinstein Company are clearly looking to outdo themselves (something of a feat after two consecutive best picture winners) this fall with a mighty, mighty duo: Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” and Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master.”

Arguably the year’s two most anticipated films, they’ll essentially bookend the season with September 14th and December 25th release dates, respectively. The former — as one is surely aware of by now — is suggestively a veiled take on Scientology starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman as a L. Ron Hubbard-esque cult leader and Joaquin Phoenix as a drifter who becomes his right hand man. The latter follows a pre-Civil War era slave (Jamie Foxx) who teams up with a German bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) to take down a brutal plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio). Footage at Cannes from both films wowed pretty much everyone, while “The Master” is already earning raves from advance screenings ahead of its Venice premiere.

Check out the films’ trailers below:

3. The Sessions (October 26)

Director: Ben Lewin
Cast: John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, William H. Macy
Distributor: Fox Searchlight

Why is it a “Must See”? The film formerly known as “The Surrogate” is the second half of Fox Searchlight’s impressive duo of Sundance pick-ups (the first being summer release “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” which has clearly worked out for them).

READ MORE: ‘The Surrogate’ Turns Sex Therapy Into a Bittersweet Showcase for Helen Hunt and John Hawkes

The newly named “Sessions” comes out in late October, offering audiences the real life story of Mark O’Brien (John Hawkes), a poet and journalist with an iron lung who contacts a professional sex surrogate (Helen Hunt) to help him lose his virginity. Remarkably heartfelt and built to please crowds (it won the audience award at Sundance), Oscar noms for Hawkes, Hunt and William H. Macy (as O’Brien’s priest) are surely — and reasonably — on Fox Searchlight’s mind.

Check out the trailer below:

4. Hyde Park on Hudson (December 7)

Director: Roger Michell
Cast: Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Olivia Williams, Olivia Colman, Samuel West
Distributor: Focus Features

Why is it a “Must See”? While the Spielbergian take on Abraham Lincoln might be the Presidential biopic on more people’s minds this fall, Roger Michell’s take on FDR is an indie alternative with quite a bit going for itself. 

“Hyde Park on Hudson” finds Bill Murray playing Franklin Roosevelt over a June 1939 weekend when the King and Queen of England (Samuel West and Olivia Colman) visit his home in upstate New York. The story is told through FDR’s friend and neighbor Daisy (Laura Linney), and reads like “The King’s Speech” meets “My Week With Marilyn,” which as far as a second Oscar nomination for Murray is concerned, bodes well.

Check out the trailer below:

5. How To Survive a Plague (September 21)

Director: David France
Distributor: Sundance Selects

Why is it a “Must See”? A chronicle of AIDS activism in New York, David France’s acclaimed doc — which premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival — shows how a group of men and women fought against a homophobic establishment to help bring life-saving drugs to America.

READ MORE: How To Make a Powerful AIDS Doc: Talking to the Team Behind ‘How To Survive a Plague’

A powerful piece of American history that too few are aware, “How To Survive a Plague” deserves just as much of an audience as all the Oscar baity fall fare that fills most of this list (not to say this doesn’t deserve a slot in the best doc race).

Check out the trailer below:

6. The Impossible (December 21)

Director: Juan Antonio Bayona
Cast: Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland, Oaklee Pendergast
Distributor: Summit Entertainment

Why is it a “Must See”? Speaking of Oscar baity fare, Juan Antonio Bayona’s “The Impossible” definitely fits that bill.  Based on a true story, the film is an account of a family caught in the mayhem of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.  Early word on the film — which premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival next month — has been very strong. And the just-released trailer certainly suggests a powerful experience:

Check out the trailer below:

7. Amour (December 19) &  8. Rust and Bone (November 16)

Directors: Michael Haneke (“Amour”) and Jacques Audiard (“Rust and Bone”)
Casts: Isabelle Huppert, Emmanuelle Riva, Jean-Louis Trintignant, William Shimell (“Amour”); Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts (“Rust and Bone”)
Distributors: Sony Pictures Classics (both)

Why Are They “Must Sees”? An un-deux punch of acclaimed French imports care of Sony Pictures Classics comes with Michael Haneke’s “Amour” and Jacques Audiard’s “Rust and Bone.”

The former focuses on an elderly couple, Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) and Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) who are coping with a stroke that paralyses Anne’s body, while the latter follows an unemployed man (Matthias Schoenaerts) who falls in love with a killer whale trainer (Marion Cotillard) who loses her legs in an accident.

READ MORE: CANNES REVIEW: A Restrained Michael Haneke Delivers With Gripping Death Drama ‘Amour’

Both love stories are alums of the Cannes Film Festival (where “Amour” earned Haneke his second Palme d’Or), and together the films are something of a redux to 2009.  That year saw Haneke’s “The White Ribbon” (which also won the Palme d’Or) and Audiard’s “A Prophet” come out via Sony Classics, and both receive Oscar noms for best foreign language films.

Check out the trailers below:

9. Promised Land (December 28)

Director: Gus Van Sant
Cast: Matt Damon, John Krasinski, Frances McDormand, Rosemarie DeWitt, Hal Holbrook
Distributor: Focus Features

Why is it a “Must See”? A last minute addition to the fall schedule (though there will surely be more to come), Focus Features is releasing Gus Van Sant’s “Promised Land” at the tail end of 2012. 

The film — scripted by and starring Matt Damon and John Krasinski — takes on the hot topic of fracking (hydraulic fracturing) through a story of a corporate salesman (Damon), who seeks drilling rights in distressed communities, and a local man (Krasinski), who looks to oppose the sale. The film could put Damon head-to-head with BFF and “Argo” director-star Ben Affleck (who, as we know, co-wrote “Good Will Hunting” with Damon, a film also directed by Van Sant) this award season.

The film has yet to release a trailer.

10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (September 21)

Director: Stephen Chbosky
Cast: Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Logan Lerman, Dylan McDermott, Paul Rudd
Distributor: Summit Entertainment

Why is it a “Must See”? Stephen Chobsky’s novel “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” became something of a “Catcher In The Rye” for the Millennial generation when it was published back in 1999.  Over a decade later, Chobsky has written and directed the book’s cinematic adaptation himself, which is premiering in Toronto followed shortly by a September release.  Following teenagers Charlie (Logan Lerman), Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller), “Perks” is sure be on top of many a twentysomething’s fall to-see list. And early word suggests with good reason.

Check out the trailer below.

11. Silver Linings Playbook (November 21)

Director: David O. Russell
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker, Julia Stiles
Distributor: The Weinstein Company

Why is it a “Must See”? The Weinstein Company’s other big film this fall has been overshadowed a bit by “Django” and “The Master” but definitely deserves some anticipation itself. 

READ MORE: Cannes Report: Chris Tucker Dials It Back, Jennifer Lawrence Impresses In First Footage From ‘Silver Linings Playbook’

Based on Matthew Quick’s darkly comedic novel, the David O. Russell-directed film stars Bradley Cooper in a juicy role as a man who moves back in with his parents (Robert DeNiro and Jacki Weaver) after being released from a mental institution. Co-starring Jennifer Lawrence as a love interest with some mental problems of her own, “Silver Linings Playbook” also debuted footage at Cannes at the same time as “Django” and “Master,” and the response was similarly positive.

Check out the trailer below:

12. Seven Psychopaths (October 12)

Director: Martin McDonagh
Cast: Woody Harrelson, Colin Farrell, Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell, Abbie Cornish, Olga Kurylenko, Gabourey Sidibe, Tom Waits, Kevin Corrigan
Distributor: CBS Films

Why is it a “Must See”? “One Shih Tzu.. Seven Psychopaths.” That’s the tagline for Martin McDonagh’s follow-up to “In Bruges,” a black comedy featuring a truly killer cast. McDonagh’s “Bruges” star Colin Farrell headlines as a struggling screenwriter who inadvertently becomes entangled in the Los Angeles criminal underworld after his oddball friends (Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken) kidnap a beloved Shih Tzu belonging to an insane gangster (Woody Harrelson).

Check out the trailer below:


13. Anna Karenina (November 16) &  14. Wuthering Heights (October 5)

Directors: Joe Wright (“Anna”) and Andrea Arnold (“Heights”)
Casts: Keira Knightley, Aaron Johnson, Jude Law, Matthew Macfadyen, Kelly Macdonald, Emily Watson, Olivia Williams, Holliday Grainger (“Anna”); Kaya Scodelario, Oliver Milburn, Nicola Burley, James Howson, Paul Hilton (“Heights”)
Distributors: Focus Features (“Anna”) and Oscilloscope Laboratories (“Heights”)

Why Are They “Must Sees”? Two literary classics from the mid-1800s are getting brand new cinematic takes (each have been adapted for film a good dozen or so times already) with Joe Wright’s “Anna Karenina” and Andrea Arnold’s “Wuthering Heights.” Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna” (last adapted in 1997 by Bernard Rose) comes to life again via a re-teaming of Wright and Keira Knightley (their third film together). Charlotte Bronte’s 1847 novel, meanwhile, gets a new take via Arnold and a cast of mostly unknowns (it most recently adapted prior as a miniseries starring Tom Hardy and Charlotte Riley in 2009).

Check out the trailers below:

15. V/H/S (October 5)

Directors: Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, Radio Silence
Cast: Joe Swanberg, Calvin Reeder, Adam Wingard, Sophia Takal, Kate Lyn Sheil
Distributor: Magnolia Films

Why is it a “Must See”? Forget “Paranormal Activity 4.” The season’s most worthwhile horror film is this POV, found footage flick from the perspective of some of America’s top genre filmmakers.

READ MORE: SUNDANCE REVIEW: “V/H/S” Breathes New Life (And Death) Into Found-Footage Horror

Collectively directed by David Bruckner, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, Ti West and the online filmmaking collective known as Radio Silence, the anthology film follows a group of misfits hired by an unknown third party to burglarize a desolate house and acquire a rare VHS tape, until, of course, they discover more found footage than they bargained for.

Check out the red band trailer below:

16. Keep The Lights On (September 7)

Director: Ira Sachs
Cast: Thure Lindhardt, Zachary Booth, Julianne Nicholson, Souléymane Sy Savané, Paprika Steen
Distributor: Music Box Films

Why is it a “Must See”? Director Ira Sachs (“Forty Shades of Blue”) paints a painfully realistic portrait of an epic relationship in “Keep The Lights On.” Set in 1990s New York, the loosely autobiographical film follows a documentarian (Thure Lindhardt) who falls for a closeted lawyer (Zachary Booth). Sachs charts what follows over a volatile ten year time frame, with each man struggling with their own private compulsions and addictions – often at the expense of their relationship.  With strong performances and a thoughtful screenplay that defies convention, “Keep The Lights On” captures a poignant, raw love story sure to resonate strongly with audiences gay and straight.

Check out the trailer below:

17. Bachelorette (September 7)

Director: Leslye Headland
Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan, Rebel Wilson, James Marsden, Adam Scott
Distributor: RADiUS-The Weinstein Company

Why is it a “Must See”? Already out on VOD since early August (where its been doing very well), Leslye Headland’s directorial debut “Bachelorette” most definitely deserves a theatrical reception when its released this September.

READ MORE: ‘Bachelorette’ Funny Lady Rebel Wilson: “I pick up the roles other actresses don’t want”

A sort of “Bridesmaids” by way of “Heathers,” the dark comedy finds Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher and Lizzy Caplan at the top of their respective games as a trio of questionable personalities who end up being asked to play bridesmaids to their high school frenemy (a fantastic Rebel Wilson). 

Check out the trailer below:

18. The House I Live In (October 5)

Director: Eugene Jarecki
Distributor: Abramorama/SnagFilms

Why is it a “Must See”? A strong possibility for the best feature documentary Oscar, Eugene Jarecki’s doc (which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance) takes on the remarkable failure that is the American war on drugs. In the past 40 years, the War on Drugs has accounted for 45 million arrests, made America the world’s largest jailer, and destroyed impoverished communities. Yet drugs are cheaper, purer, and more available today than ever. Jarecki tries to figure out where it went wrong, and what can still be done.

The film does not yet have a trailer.

19. Not Fade Away (December 21) &  20. Killing Them Softly (October 19)

Directors: David Chase (“Fade”) and Andrew Dominik (“Killing”)
Casts: John Magaro, Will Brill, Jack Huston, Brad Garrett, James Gandolfini (“Fade”); Brad Pitt, Ben Mendelsohn, James Gandolfini, Scoot McNairy, Richard Jenkins, Ray Liotta, Sam Shepard (“Killing”)
Distributors: Paramount Vantage (“Fade”) and The Weinstein Company (“Killing”)

Why Are They “Must Sees”? Both the creator and the star of “The Sopranos” will have a known presence this fall, with David Chase making his directorial debut with “Not Fade Away” and James Gandolfini having both a small role in “Fade” and a scene-stealing supporting turn in “Killing Them Softly.” The former — which centers on the lead singer of a teenage rock band in 1960s New Jersey — isn’t exactly “Sopranos” territory, though the latter most definitely is. Directed by Andrew Dominik, it follows a hitman (Brad Pitt) who investigates a heist that occurs during a high stakes, mob-protected poker game.

Check out the “Softly” trailer below (“Not Fade Away” has yet to release one):

21. Holy Motors (October 17)

Director: Leos Carax
Cast: Denis Lavant, Edith Scob, Eva Mendes, Kylie Minogue
Distributor: Indomina

Why is it a “Must See”? One of if not the most discussed films of the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, Leos Carax’s “Holy Motors” was deemed “balls-to-the-wall crazy” in an Indiewire review that also called it “beautiful and unbelievably strange.” Following a man (Denis Lavant) who travels between multiple parallel lives, it’s definitely the fall’s trippiest option.

Check out the trailer below:

22. Smashed (October 12)

Director: James Ponsoldt
Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aaron Paul, Octavia Spencer, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

Why is it a “Must See”? Earning raves out of the Sundance Film Festival for Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s performance as half of an alcoholic couple who decides to get sober (“Breaking Bad” star Aaron Paul plays the other half), this is a dark horse contender for a best actress Oscar nomination.

Check out a featurette below:

23. Detropia (September 7)

Director: Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady
Distributor: Self-distributed

Why is it a “Must See”? Oscar-nominated “Jesus Camp” directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady are going the self-distribution route with their latest, “Detropia.”

READ MORE: ‘Jesus Camp’ Filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady Go DIY With ‘Detropia’

Natives of Detroit, Ewing and Grady take four-year look at the city’s recessionary struggles. Beautiful and affecting, it’s yet another doc alum of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival (which clearly had quite the slate) hitting theaters this Fall.

Check out the film’s trailer below:

24. Liberal Arts (September 14)

Director: Josh Radnor
Cast: Josh Radnor, Elizabeth Olsen, Richard Jenkins, Allison Janney, Elizabeth Reaser
Distributor: IFC Films

Why is it a “Must See”? “How I Met Your Mother” follows up his directorial debut “Happythankyoumoreplease” with this story of a thirtysomething guy (Radnor) who falls for a 19 year old college student (Elizabeth Olsen) when he returns to his alma matter. The film got warm notices when it premiered at, yes, Sundance earlier this year.

Check out the trailer below:

25. A Royal Affair (November 9), 26. Sister (October 5) &  27. Tabu (December 26)

Directors: Nikolaj Arcel (“Affair”), Ursula Meier (“Sister”), and Miguel Gomes (“Tabu”)
Casts: Mads Mikkelsen, Alicia Vikander, Trine Dyrholm, David Dencik, Mikkel Boe Følsgaard (“Affair”); Léa Seydoux, Kacey Mottet Klein, Martin Compston, Gillian Anderson (“Sister”); Teresa Madruga, Laura Soveral, Ana Moreira, Carloto Cotta (“Tabu”)
Distributors: Magnolia Films (“Affair); Adopt Films (“Sister” and “Tabu”)

Why Are They “Must Sees”? While much of this list boasts of acclaimed premieres at Cannes and Sundance, a trio of foreign language films came out of the Berlin International Film Festival to rave reviews and U.S. acqusitions. This fall, after all three have their North American premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival, Nikolaj Arcel’s Danish “A Royal Affair,” Ursula Meier’s French-Swiss “Sister,” and Miguel Gomes Portuguese’s “Tabu” will all make their way to theaters, with foreign language Oscar noms the hope beyond that (last year’s winner, “A Separation,” premiered in Berlin).

Check out the films’ trailers below:

28. Middle of Nowhere (October 12)

Director: Ava DuVernay
Cast: Emayatzy Corinealdi, David Oyelowo, Omari Hardwick, Lorraine Touissant, Edwina Findley
Distributor: AFFRM/Participant

Why is it a “Must See”?  Winner of the best director prize at Sundance, Ava DuVernay’s film follows a woman (Emayatzy Corinealdi) who struggles to maintain her marriage and her identity when her husband is incarcerated. Being released theatrically by African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement, it marks a sadly rare fall option starring and directed by African-Americans.

Check out the film’s trailer below.

29. Francine (September 12)

Director: Brian M. Cassidy and Melanie Shatzky
Cast: Melissa Leo
Distributor: Factory 25

Why is it a “Must See”?  Melissa Leo offers her first lead performance since winning an Oscar in a striking, bizarre little film that gives Leo quite a bit to work with.

READ MORE: Melissa Leo On Life After Oscar and Portraying the Craziest Cat Lady in “Francine”

As a troubled, unbalanced woman recently released from prison, her titular Francine copes with her demons through forming unhealthy bonds with a group of cats and dogs she starts collecting.

The film has yet to release a trailer.

30. The Paperboy (October 5)

Director: Lee Daniels
Cast: Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman, John Cusack, Matthew McConaughey
Distributor: Millennium Films

Why is it a “Must See”? For his first film since 2009’s “Precious,”  Lee Daniels is taking on “The Paperboy,” a fiercely campy crime drama set in the late 1960s. Starring Matthew McConaughey, Nicole Kidman and Zac Efron, the film had a drastically divisive response when it debuted at Cannes earlier this year. But whatever end of the “Paperboy” spectrum you end up on (though most so far are on the negative end), if a film devoting a sizeable amount of screentime to Zac Efron in only white (often rain soaked) briefs, you won’t be disappointed either way.

Check out the film’s trailer (which gives you a preview of the noted screentime):

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