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The Fall Festival 50: Our Wishlist For The Venice, Telluride And Toronto Film Festivals

The Fall Festival 50: Our Wishlist For The Venice, Telluride And Toronto Film Festivals

So while the rest of the world, (pretty much literally, it seems) goes to see “Transformers: Abandon Hope” our choice is either to kvetch and moan and rend our clothes about the Death of Culture and People These Days, or to retreat into our nice comfy wheelhouse/padded cell, humming gently to ourselves, catching the odd fly and pretending the moviegoing public has not just awarded $300 million in 3 days to the worst tentpole of the year. And right now, the cowardly but sanity-protecting latter path is the one we’re going to pursue (though we reserve the right to kvetch etc. elsewhere). With June at its end and the days getting shorter, we’re looking down the road, beyond the unstoppable, all-devouring toy franchise behemoth that’s probably about to blot out the sun, toward the fall festival season, and the films that we expect, hope or surmise we might see at the big trio of Venice, Telluride and Toronto, or the lower-profile NYFF or AFI Fest in the unlikely event of us surviving the Summer.

The 50-odd titles below range from pretty much dead certs to much dicier prospects, and internally of course the intrepid reporters assigned to these various beats are pulling for their own festival to make the biggest showing (come on Venice!) but taken as a whole, this list serves as a pretty good rundown of some of the films we’re most anxiously awaiting for the rest of the year. At this early stage, we do naturally skew toward the English-language films we’ve heard the most about, though quite a few foreign titles/directors have made their way onto our radars too. Not so promising is the ratio of female to male directors–women, as ever, represent a depressingly small proportion of the overall number of directors and a fair few of those who are on the list are on the dicier end of the spectrum for whether they’re going to show up in the fall at all. Though with the narrative about female director representation ongoing, we’d hope programmers will be anxious to be seen to be championing women in film any chance they get, which may result in a few titles getting the extra boost of encouragement to finish up in time.

As ever, glamorous Venice is the first curtain to rise, starting August 27th and running to September 6th, while little gem Telluride runs the weekend of August 29th-Sept 1st, the vast Toronto starts September 4th and continues till the 14th and the sprawling New York Film Festival brings up the rear in terms of timing and profile, running from September 27th to October 13th, followed by AFI Fest in early November. Fingers crossed for the below…..

Inherent Vice” (Paul Thomas Anderson)
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio Del Toro

Synopsis: An adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s sprawling, stoner-noir classic about a pot-addled private detective investigating the case of his kidnapped ex-girlfriend.

Last We Heard: If you’re not aware of how much we’re looking forward to this film you’re new around here, so welcome! PTA’s riff on Pynchon, our No. 1 Most Anticipated Film of 2014, is hotly tipped for a festival bow, most likely Venice, which was where “The Master” played, and seems to be the kind of timing that the considered post-production phase was aiming for. A December 12th date for limited release is slated, with a January 2015 expansion planned, so expect it also to figure in the Oscar race.

A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence (Roy Andersson)

Cast: Holger Andersson, Nisse Vestblom

Synopsis: Two men, one of whom has a minor mental disability, confront the absurdity of existence.

Last We Heard: Maybe the single most shocking omission of the Cannes line-up came in the absence of the latest from Swedish helmer Roy Andersson: “A Pigeon Sat…” closes the trilogy begun with 2000’s “Songs From The Second Floor” and 2007’s “You, The Living,” and had long been tipped for the festival. But it was nowhere to be found, despite those previous two pictures having bowed on the Croisette. Word is that the film simply wasn’t ready, but should be comfortably good to go in time for Venice, with TIFF at least likely to follow from there. Unless Andersson decides to hold for Cannes next year, we should be seeing this on the Lido.

Carol” (Todd Haynes)

Cast: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Kyle Chandler, Sarah Paulson

Synopsis: An adaptation of the Patricia Highsmith novel in which a department store clerk with aspirations of social advancement falls for an older married woman.

Last We Heard: Filming only wrapped at the end of April, so timing is tight for a fall bow, but we’re mad eager to see Haynes reunite with “Blue Jasmine”-hot Blanchett after “I’m Not There,” especially in a film that promises such juicy leading female performances, from such a stellar director of same. It will mark his first theatrical film since the Bob Dylan-inspired “I’m Not There” (the excellent “Mildred Pierce” was a HBO miniseries) and as such, should the film be ready, we can’t imagine there’s a festival in the world that wouldn’t kill for this one.

“Unbroken” (Angelina Jolie)

Cast: Jack O’Connell, Domhnall Glesson, Garret Hedlund, Jai Courtney

Synopsis: The true story of Louis Zamperini, who went from Olympic star athlete to WWII soldier to castaway to prisoner of war.

Last We Heard: Given the success of solo survival stories like “Life Of Pi” and “Gravity,” Universal would have had high Oscar hopes for this one anyway, even without a prestigious behind-the-camera team (Angelina Jolie directing, Roger Deakins shooting, the Coens co-writing). They’ve been pushing it for a while, debuting footage during the Winter Olympics, but it’s possible it could skip the festival circuit entirely (it’s not set for release until Christmas). But with a relatively little-known cast, it would certainly benefit from getting some early buzz, though our guess is Telluride, or an opening/closing slot at NYFF or AFI, could be more likely than Venice or Toronto.

Big Eyes” (Tim Burton)

Cast: Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Terence Stamp, Jason Schwartzman, Krysten Ritter, Danny Huston

Synopsis: Biopic of painter Margaret Keane and her huckster husband Walter who exploited her work, passing it off as his own.

Last We Heard: Slated for a Christmas Day release, Tim Burton’s next film is a welcome turn away form his recent Johnny Depp-in-wacky-makeup vehicles, and stars overdue-for-an-Oscar Adams alongside already-got-two-of-’em Waltz, with a prime Oscar-friendly release date to boot. So this smaller, more intimate, but still quirky story has the potential to be the first Burton film to get a festival berth since “Corpse Bride” (which went to Venice, FYI).

Trash” (Stephen Daldry)

Cast: Rooney Mara, Martin Sheen, Wagner Moura

Synopsis: Based on the Andy Mulligan novel of the same name, the story follows three poverty-stricken Brazilian street kids who find a mysterious leather bag containing a map and a key while scavenging, which leads them on a mystery/adventure that brings them into conflict with the authorities.

Last We Heard: Slated for a Halloween release in the UK, this Richard Curtis-scripted films feels more like classic Oscar bait, perhaps, than true festival fare, but its timing suggests a Toronto bow might be possible. Daldry is one of those odd directors who’s been incredibly successful with the Academy while sort of bypassing the kind of auteurist cred many other directors here have earned, and this film, which seems exactly a meeting of “Slumdog Millionaire” and his last film “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” doesn’t really look like it’s going to change that. ‘Slumdog,’ of course, premiered in Toronto, so producers might want to push this one that way too.

“The Cut” (Fatih Akin)

Cast: Tahar Rahim, George Georgiou, Akin Gazi

Synopsis: Unknown, but Akin has suggested that Rahim’s character is influenced equally by Charlie Chaplin and Sergio Leone, and is mostly silent.

Last We Heard: The latest from German filmmaker Akin, completing the trilogy begun with “Head-On” and “The Edge Of Heaven,” and his first film since 2009’s “Soul Kitchen,” was a source of some controversy ahead of Cannes last year, with the director publicly pulling the film from consideration from the festival, reportedly because he felt slighted by only being offered an Un Certain Regard slot. Whether or not that was true (Thierry Fremaux said that it was because the film wasn’t done in time), it didn’t appear, and reports suggest that it’s essentially locked in for Venice at this point. Expect it to head to Toronto or New York from there.

Gone Girl” (David Fincher)

Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Kim Dickens, Patrick Fugit, Casey Wilson, Missi Pyle

Synopsis: Nick and Amy Dunne are a surface-perfect couple until
Amy goes missing and Nick is suspected of killing her, though our ideas
of quite who is the victim of whom are constantly switched up in this
adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s huge bestseller.

Last We Heard: Planned for an October 3rd release, the adaptation
of a blockbuster thriller novel might not seem like a festival fit,
were it not for its director. With Fincher at the helm, an ending that
deviates from the book (which, having read it, we’re quite pleased
about) and composer Trent Reznor recently describing the finished
movie as darker than even he’d expected, a fest berth seems a
strong possibility, though probably for the less artily minded end of
Toronto, or an opening/closing/centerpiece date at NYFF a la “The Social Network.”

“While We’re Young” (Noah Baumbach)

Cast: Ben Stiller, Naom Watts, Amanda Seyfried, Adam Driver

Synopsis: An uptight middle-aged couple have their life upturned by a bohemian younger pair.
Last We Heard: Two years on from “Frances Ha,” Noah Baumbach has two movies in the can: another low-budget collaboration with Greta Gerwig, along the lines of ‘Frances,’ and a higher-profile project produced by Scott Rudin, that sees him reunite with “Greenberg” star Ben Stiller. Given the grade of the cast, we’re probably more likely to see the latter popping up at festivals (although the former shot first) if we only get one, and Telluride (where Baumbach’s last film screened) is the most likely, though TIFF and NYFF are very plausible as well. And if we’re really lucky, we’ll get both together…

“Men, Women & Children” (Jason Reitman)

Cast: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Garner, Emma Thompson, Kaitlyn Dever, Ansel Elgort

Synopsis: A look at the sexual mores and frustrations of a group of suburban parents and teens in the Internet era.

Last We Heard: Jason Reitman’s last film “Labor Day” went down like a lead peach cobbler, but the “Juno” helmer isn’t hanging around licking his wounds, going straight into production on a new film that seems much more up his street, an adaptation of Chad Kultgen’s novel that seems to mix comedy and drama in the way that he’s been so effective at in the past. It sounds like more of an ensemble piece than he’s tackled before. Adam Sandler, in one of a double-header of more challenging fare, will bring the star power too. Reitman has skipped the festival circuit before (“Young Adult” didn’t go that route), but he’s a TIFF hometown hero, and “Juno,” “Up In The Air” and “Labor Day” all appeared at Telluride, so an appearance at one or both with this film seems very likely.

Birdman” (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu)

Cast: Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Amy Ryan, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough and Naomi Watts

Synopsis: An actor best known for playing a superhero in movies tries to mount a Broadway adaptation of a Raymond Carver short story.

Last We Heard: With that cast, a terrific trailer, and with further slightly contradictory rumors about a) a 40-minute tracking shot and b) the whole film, shot by seamless-extended-take master Emmanuel Lubezki (“Gravity”), is being edited to seem like a continuous shot, yes, we have to say anticipation for this one is at fever pitch. Inarritu is a director who has somewhat divided the Playlist staff in the past, but we are all aboard the “Birdman” train, and the festival circuit has never had such qualms anyway. And with an October 17th release date, really the chief question is which fest will snag it. Early money’s on Venice (it was rumored for Cannes so should be well and truly ready; “21 Grams” bowed there before “Babel” and “Biutiful” both went to Cannes, so it seems favored) though TIFF is also possible.

“Rosewater” (Jon Stewart)

Cast: Gael Garcia Bernal, Dimitri Leonidas, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Jason Jones

Synopsis: An Iranian journalist is arrested and tortured in prison for more than a hundred days.

Last We Heard: For a relatively low-budget drama, there’s no
better way to get publicity than by having your filmmaker take months
off his day job presenting “The Daily Show” to direct. As a result, “Rosewater,” the directorial debut of Jon Stewart,
is already on the lips of many, and that’s before it starts to make the
festival rounds that it’s certain to do. We hear that the film is
already locked in for TIFF: given the new regulations the festival has
set in about Telluride premieres, it’s probably unlikely to make a trip
to the mountains too, but it’s not totally unfeasible either.

Suite Francaise” (Saul Dibb)

Cast: Michelle Williams, Kristin Scott Thomas, Matthias Schoenaerts, Sam Riley, Margot Robbie and Ruth Wilson

Synopsis: Based on a novel that took sixty years to be published after the author Irène Némirovsky’s death in Auschwitz, the story is an epic romance between a French woman and a German soldier, set against the backdrop of Nazi-occupied France.

Last We Heard: Reportedly test screened already back in April, this Weinstein film, that positively drips with prestige appeal, should be ready for Venice, with the only real question mark being its relatively untested writer/director Saul Dibb, whose “The Duchess” was also a lavish period spectacle starring an established young actress in Keira Knightley, alongside Ralph Fiennes, no less, and went nowhere. He’ll be a fall fest first-timer therefore, but we’d wager the Weinsteins will want to get this one’s Oscar chances rolling, having teased it at their Cannes presentation already.

Far from the Madding Crowd” (Thomas Vinterberg)

Cast: Carey Mulligan, Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge, Matthias Schoenarts, Juno Temple

Synopsis: Based on the Thomas Hardy classic previously memorably filmed by John Schlesinger and starring Julie Christie, the story is of a willful young woman who inherits a large farm and has three very different men vie for her affections.

Last We Heard: Another of the anticipated films we’d hoped to see at Cannes, Thomas Vinterberg’s follow-up to his tremendous “The Hunt” is surely now a lock for a fall festival bow. Venice would seem most likely to fit this project’s Euro-arthouse appeal; could it do for Carey Mulligan there what “The Hunt” did for Mikkelsen in Cannes? Strong support, particularly from “Rust and Bone” star Schoenarts who may just be the romantic lead of the season (he’s also in “Suite Francaise”) can only help. It isn’t due to hit theaters until early next May, but Fox Searchlight premiered “Belle” at TIFF before holding it to the same date, so that doesn’t necessarily mean much.

The Imitation Game” (Morten Tyldum,)

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Allen Leech, Mark Strong and Charles Dance

Synopsis: The true story of Alan Turing, the mathematics genius who helped invent the computer and crack the Enigma code during World War II, only to be hounded for his homosexuality, later committing suicide.

Last We Heard: The tragic story of the brilliant Turing alone would have us agog for this film, but this huge British cast, the director of “Headhunters” stepping up to the big leagues, and a November 21st release date (prime Oscar season) suggests the Weinsteins are pretty high on it too–enough to justify the cool $7 miller price tag. With Cumberbatch so far a star without a lead movie role commensurate to his buzz (“The Fifth Estate” was horrible), this is a good proving ground for him too–we’re almost sure we’ll see this one turn up at TIFF.

Wild” (Jean-Marc Vallee)

Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Thomas Sadoski, Gaby Hoffmann, Kevin Rankin and Michiel Huisman

Synopsis: Based on the memoir by Cheryl Strayed, the film follows a woman who experiences the death of her mother and the dissolution of her marriage and decides to embark on a solo 1000-mile trek of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Last We Heard: Fox Searchlight slotted this in a very awards-friendly December 2nd release date, and Jean-Marc Vallee, of course, coached his last film’s stars, Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto of “Dallas Buyers Club” to Oscar glory, so expect producers to follow that film’s template as closely as possible, with one eye to getting Witherspoon her second Oscar. And yes, “Dallas Buyers Club” bowed at TIFF 2013, so we expect “Wild” to show up there this year.

“Miss Julie” (Liv Ullman)

Cast: Jessica Chastain, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton

Synopsis: A wealthy young woman begins an affair with a servant in her father’s employ in Ireland in the 1890s.

Last We Heard: Scandinavian actress and Bergman collaborator Liv Ullman steps behind the camera for the first time in fourteen years with this adaptation of August Strindberg’s legendary play, and she couldn’t have asked for a better, or festival-friendlier, cast for the occasion, thanks to Chastain, Farrell and Morton. The film’s set for an early September release in Ullman’s native Norway, which would seem to make a bow at Venice and/or TIFF all but a certainty.

A Most Violent Year” (JC Chandor)

Cast: Jessica Chastain, Oscar Isaac, Albert Brooks, Alessandro Nivola, David Oyelowo and Catalina Sandino Moreno

Synopsis: Set in New York in 1981, the most violent year in the
city’s history, it’s the story of a Latino immigrant businessman trying
to find success in the gasoline business who runs into underworld
dealings and his wife Anna, whose connections may be of some help.

Last We Heard: Promised for an awards season run, Chandor’s follow-up to the terrific, bruising “All is Lost
is one to watch. And with Chastain and Isaac (widely
felt to have been snubbed last year for an Oscar nomination for “Inside Llewyn Davis”) heading up this intriguing-sounding story, the question isn’t whether A24 will
pursue an Oscar campaign, but what type. Any of the three fall fests
would very gladly take this and its attendant stars and buzz, and
Chandor has previously only bowed in Sundance and Cannes, so no fall
precedent set yet.

The Theory of Everything” (James Marsh)

Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Emily Watson, David Thewlis Charlie Cox, Harry Lloyd, Tom Prior, Charlotte Hope, Maxine Peake and Adam Godley

Synopsis: The story of how famous physicist Stephen Hawking found something to live for, in the shape of Jane Wilde, his future wife following his diagnosis with Motor Neurone Disease and a prognosis of just a few years to live.

Last We Heard: Primed for a November 7th release and coming from British powerhouse stable Working Title, the new film from James Marsh (“Man on Wire,” “Shadow Dancer”) is a likelihood for a fall festival bow. Its biopic structure and potential crowdpleaser appeal hints at Toronto rather than Venice, but that’s a pretty unreliable rule of thumb, and changing all the time, so we won’t call it just yet.

Child 44” (Daniel Espinosa)

Cast: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke, Joel Kinnaman, Paddy Considine, Fares Fares and Vincent Cassel

Synopsis: Based on Tom Rob Smith’s bestseller (and the first in a trilogy) and set in 1950s Soviet Russia, it’s the story of an MGB agent who investigates a child murder and finds himself, and his frosty relationship with his wife, changing as a result.

Last We Heard: Rumored for an October release in some parts of Europe, rising star Espinosa’s film, based on a script by crime writer Richard Price, has the pedigree on all levels to be something pretty special, and a potential mainstream hit. We’ve heard little about it recently, and if it were immediately going wide in an early fall slot we’d have expected a few more promotional pieces perhaps, so it’s possible this is being treated as an awards contender, in which case a festival berth is a distinct possibility.

“Life” (Anton Corbijn)

Cast: Robert Pattinson, Dane DeHaan, Joel Edgerton, Ben Kingsley

Synopsis: A story of the relationship between Life Magazine photographer Dennis Stock and movie star James Dean.

Last We Heard: Photographer-turned-director Anton Corbijn (“Control,’ “The American”) has already had one festival premiere in 2014 with “A Most Wanted Man,”
which hits theaters in a few weeks, but that doesn’t rule out a second:
he went into production on his fourth film, with a
so-hot-right-now cast and intriguing subject, earlier in the year, and
it was wrapped by February. Corbijn premiered “The American” in
Venice back in 2010, so a return appearance there might be feasible, but
TIFF could be more likely, unless the film’s held back for Sundance

“Get a Job” (Dylan Kidd)
Cast: Miles Teller, Bryan Cranston, Anna Kendrick, Alison Brie, Marcia Gay Harden
Synopsis: A young man and his friends struggle to find work during the recession, just as his father is simultaneously made redundant.
Last We Heard: It’s been too long since “Roger Dodger” director Dylan Kidd made a film (his follow-up, “P.S.,” fell flat ten years ago), but he’s finally back, with a youth-skewing comedy-drama with a very promising cast. The film’s been in the can for a while now, shooting back in 2012, but the likes of Miles Teller and Anna Kendrick have only become better known since then, so the time seems to be perfect for it to arrive. It seems pretty much tailor-made for TIFF, though we suppose there’s a possibility it might be held back for January 2015 and a Sundance bow if it doesn’t appear there.

“The End Of The Tour” (James Ponsoldt)
Cast: Jason Segel, Jesse Eisenberg, Ron Livingston, Mickey Sumner
Synopsis: Journalist David Lipsky accompanies novelist David Foster Wallace on a cross-country tour as he promotes his book “Infinite Jest.”
Last We Heard: One of the most curious films of the year, this sees the seminal post-modern novelist reach the screen, and in the unlikely guise of comedy star Jason Segel. Already disowned by the author’s estate, we’re certainly intrigued to see how things turn out, especially as the film’s in the hands of “Smashed” and “The Spectacular Now” author James Ponsoldt, and this feels like a natural fit for TIFF if the film’s ready in time (if not, Sundance would be the better bet).

3 Hearts” (Benoit Jacquot)
Cast: Chiara Mastroianni, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Catherine Deneuve
Synopsis: Rather “Before Sunrise”-style, Marc and Sylvie meet in Paris and wander around falling for each other. But after a subsequent missed connection, Marc meets Sophie instead, and they become close with Marc unaware she is Sylvie’s sister.
Last We Heard: Already apparently more or less a done deal for Venice, Benoit Jacquot’s film has such distinct French pedigree that we were surprised a push wasn’t made to get it ready for Cannes. Still, the mother/daughter team of Deneuve and Mastroianni, and Gainsbourg too means this is a Euro cinema royalty cast (even without Lea Seydoux who was originally slated for the Mastroianni role), and Jacquot’s last film “Farewell My Queen” was a modest international festival hit, even if we were cooler about it than some.

Queen of the Desert” (Werner Herzog)
Cast: Nicole Kidman, James Franco, Robert Pattinson, Damian Lewis
Synopsis: The
true-story biopic of famous traveler, writer, archaeologist, explorer,
cartographer, and political attaché Gertrude Bell who played a crucial
role in the development of the Middle East at the turn of the Twentieth
Last We Heard: This latest, uncharacteristically starry project from batshit genius legend Werner Herzog was
one we weren’t too sure we’d be seeing before the year was out. But
news that filming wrapped in March perked us up a bit, and now just last
week producer Cassian Elwes (@cassianelwes) tweeted “Queen of
the desert is a total winner. It’s so beautiful and works on so many
levels. Herzog outdid himself.” It’s hardly unexpected that a producer
would be publicly enraptured, but it does suggest that the film’s in a
fairly finished state and that it might well be ready for a fall
festival slot. If so, hitting big-league Hollywood with Kidman, arthouse
cred with Herzog and rabid fanbases with Franco and Pattinson, we can
only imagine some sort of cage fight going on between programmers to
decide who gets this one.

Untitled Lance Armstrong Project (Stephen Frears)

Cast: Ben Foster, Chris O’Dowd, Dustin Hoffman, Lee Pace, Jesse Plemons

Synopsis: Journalist David Walsh starts to suspect that legendary cyclist Lance Armstrong has been doping, and sets out to expose him.

Last We Heard: The first of the many Lance Armstrong-related biopics to make it into production, this still-untitled version is penned by “Trainspotting” screenwriter John Hodge, and directed by Stephen Frears, who had a major return to form last year with “Philomena,” with Ben Foster in the lead role, and Chris O’Dowd in support. Backed by Working Title, this could return to Venice, where “Philomena” was a big hit last year, but with Foster playing Stanley in “A Streetcar Named Desire” on stage in London until September 6th, TIFF is probably a better bet for this one.

“The Price Of Glory” (Xavier Beauvois)

Cast: Benoit Poelvoorde, Chiara Mastroianni, Peter Coyote, Nadine Labaki

Synopsis: In Switzerland in 1977, two convicts team up to steal Charlie Chaplin’s coffin.

Last We Heard: After the success of 2010’s “Of Gods And Men,” which won the Grand Prix at Cannes, most had tipped the new film from Xavier Beauvois for a return to the Croisette. But it wasn’t to be, allegedly because the new picture (a change of pace, in that it’s a dark comedy) wasn’t done in time. That means that a Venice bow is very likely, especially as the director’s 2000 film “To Matthieu” and 2005 follow-up “The Young Lieutenant” both premiered there.

Ex Machina” (Alex Garland)

Cast: Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander

Synopsis: A young coder at a global internet company wins a contest to spend a week at the remote retreat belonging to the company’s CEO/guru, but discovers once there that he must participate in a strange experiment involving interaction with a sentient artificial intelligence, in the person of a beautiful woman.

Last We Heard: We got a first look at this back in April, prompting us to wonder if it was going to sneak into a Cannes sidebar, but the “intimate psychological thriller” which was, according to star Vikander, “one of the best scripts I’ve ever read” didn’t show there, so must surely be primed for a big fall festival slot, especially as it’s already set for a January release in the UK. Our gut says TIFF would be the best fit, but writer Garland’s directorial debut, with a cast this hot, would be a feather in the cap of whichever fest got it.

“Phoenix” (Christian Petzold)

Cast: Nina Hoss, Ronald Zehrfeld, Nina Kunzendorf, Uwe Preuss

Synopsis: A Holocaust survivor returns home under an assumed identity to attempt to discover if her husband betrayed her.

Last We Heard: His reputation had been growing for a while, but 2012’s “Barbara” marked German director Christian Petzold as a major filmmaker. His latest sees him reteam with muse Nina Hoss for a 1940s-set period piece, and was widely touted for Cannes, but ultimately failed to appear at the festival. But this wrapped last fall, so unless he’s holding the film for Berlin (where his previous pictures screened), this should appear at Venice and/or TIFF.

The New Girlfriend” (Francois Ozon)

Cast: Romain Duris, Anais Demoustier, Raphael Personnaz

Synopsis: Based on an award-winning short story by British mystery novelist Ruth Rendell, the story is reportedly about a young woman who discovers a secret about her recently deceased best friend’s husband.

Last We Heard: We’ve found Ozon a little hit and miss in the past, and his last film “Young and Beautiful” fell a little more on the “miss” side for us, but he’s a festival presence to be reckoned with, and source material for this sounds promisingly spiky, so we’d be hopeful for something more in the “In the House” register. Venice or Toronto seem likely, as Ozon usually premieres at one of those, with “Young and Beautiful”’s Cannes slot being the anomaly.

“The Drop” (Michael Roskam)

Cast: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, James Gandolfini, Matthias Schoenaerts, John Ortiz

Synopsis: An ex-con turned bartender is drawn back into the
criminal life after a robbery at his workplace, which serves as a money
drop for local mobsters, and after finding an abandoned puppy.

Last We Heard: This tough-looking crime-thriller, the English-language debut of “Bullhead” helmer Michael Roskam,
has been in the can for a while, but is finally heading to U.S.
theaters on September 12th. That would seem to give it a pretty decent
chance for a bow early in TIFF (perhaps even as the opening gala?),
which seems like a more natural home for it than Venice. Unless Fox Searchlight think
that the movie is a purely commercial play (and we’ve heard that it’s
really strong), this should pop up in Toronto somewhere.

“The Duke Of Burgundy” (Peter Strickland)
Cast: Sidse Babbett Knudsen, Chiara D’Anna, Eugenia Caruso, Monica Swinn

Synopsis: An amateur butterfly expert’s relationship with her lover begins to suffer due to her obsession with the insects.

Last We Heard: Peter Strickland had a major festival hit with arty giallo homage “Berberian Sound Studio,” and two years on, he’s pretty much done with his new film, a quieter tale that’s drawn comparisons, in advance, with “Persona.” Backed by the BFI and Film4, with Ben Wheatley producing and “Borgen” star Sidse Babbett Knudsen in the lead, this is likely a dead cert for TIFF, but don’t rule out a Venice appearance, even if it would be Strickland’s first appearance there.

Manglehorn” (David Gordon Green)

Cast: Al Pacino, Holly Hunter, Chris Messina and Harmony Korine

Synopsis: An ex-con trying to start over as a locksmith in a small town, finds that despite attempts to lie low, his dark past is constantly in danger of being exposed.

Last We Heard: Getting a first glimpse back in February at a very Edward James Olmos-ian Pacino, we are wondering if Green might do for the great man what he recently did for Nicolas Cage with “Joe,” i.e. given him a decent, low key character role in which he can remind us all how great he is. “Joe” premiered in Venice last year, and with “Manglehorn” wrapped by last December, it’s not a big leap to suggest that it might be ready and primed to pop up on the Lido this year too.

“99 Homes” (Ramin Bahrani)

Cast: Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon, Laura Dern, Tim Guinee

Synopsis: After losing his home, a young father seeks revenge on the real estate broker who caused his ruin.

Last We Heard: Clearly not put off by the (unfairly) tepid reaction to “At Any Price,” Ramin Bahrani is back, and working with bigger names than ever: “99 Homes” marks Andrew Garfield’s first appearance on screen as anyone other than Peter Parker since “The Social Network” in 2010. That alone should make it a hot festival ticket, but given Bahrani’s record at Venice, where almost all of his films premiered, they’ll likely grab the premiere, though it should pop up at Telluride and TIFF as well.

The Cobbler” (Tom McCarthy)

Cast: Adam Sandler, Dustin Hoffman, Method Man, Melonie Diaz, Ellen Barkin, Dan Stevens and Steve Buscemi

Synopsis: A fourth-generation shoemaker discovers a magical
sewing machine in his father’s basement which allows him to transform
into other people by wearing their shoes.

Last We Heard: Honestly, that logline with Sandler as star would ordinarily have us running for the hills, so “Click”-like does it sound, so it just goes to show you how highly we think of director Tom McCarthy (“The Station Agent,” “The Visitor,” “Win/Win”) that we’re anticipating this at all. But along with a “serious” role in Jason Reitman’s “Men Women and Children,”
perhaps this is the Adam Sandler season of redemption, and “The
Cobbler” could well put in an appearance at one of the North American
festivals to boot (yes, we went there).

“Eden” (Mia Hansen-Love)

Cast: Felix De Givry, Brady Corbet, Greta Gerwig, Golshifteh Farahani

Synopsis: The rise and fall of a DJ in the French electronic dance scene of the 1990s.

Last We Heard: Mia Hansen-Love proved herself one of the most exciting young filmmakers around with “Goodbye First Love” and “The Father Of My Children,” and the news that she has a new film on her way is promising on its own. That it sees her delve into the dance music scene that spawned the likes of Daft Punk, subject matter that’s relatively untouched on screen, makes it doubly so. The film wasn’t ready for Cannes, but it should comfortably be done in time for Venice and TIFF, unless she returns to Locarno, where “Goodbye First Love” had its first screening.

“True Story” (Rupert Goold)

Cast: James Franco, Jonah Hill, Felicity Jones, Gretchen Mol

Synopsis: A journalist discovers his identity has been stolen, by a suspected murderer

Last We Heard: This true-life drama has been somewhat under the radar by now, but with a cast like this, and the New Regency/Plan B alliance behind “12 Years A Slave” producing, don’t expect it to stay that way for long. The directorial debut of theater director Rupert Goold, who’s hoping to pull a Sam Mendes, it’s dark but star-driven stuff, which makes it perfect for a bow at Telluride or TIFF, ahead of a potential awards run.

“Slow West” (John Maclean)

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Ben Mendelsohn, Caren Pistorius

Synopsis: A 17-year-old kid travels from Scotland to the American
West looking for his lost love, paying a mysterious stranger to protect

Last We Heard: Last time Michael Fassbender and director John Maclean (a former member of the Beta Band) teamed up, they won a BAFTA, for short film “Pitch Black Heist.
This Western, Fassbender’s feature debut as a producer, shot down under
late last year, and the arrival of the first image of the film earlier
today suggests that this is done and ready to be unveiled. TIFF again
should be a good bet.

Serena” (Susanne Bier)

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Toby Jones, Rhys Ifans, David Dencik and Sam Reid

Synopsis: Based on the novel by Ron Rash, the film details the travails of a young couple in North Carolina during the great depression, as they attempt to set up a timber empire at any cost, only to discover that the wife, Serena cannot have children.

Last We Heard: Bier’s film wrapped forever ago, before “American Hustle” even began, and that film has since shot, released and netted four hundred acting Oscar nominations, including two for the lead pair here. We’re told all is well, and it’s simply Bier’s exacting editing process which is the cause for the delays, but if this doesn’t rock up at Venice, we’ll start to get very worried for it indeed.

“Nightcrawler” (Dan Gilroy)

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Bill Paxton, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed

Synopsis: A young man enters the dark underground world of the freelance crime journalists in Los Angeles.

Last We Heard: After “Michael Clayton,” we’re very interested in the directorial debuts of anyone in the Gilroy family, and Tony’s younger brother Dan becomes a helmer with this dark thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal. The film elicited a bidding war in Cannes, with Open Road beating out Focus, The Weinstein Company and others for the project, so this seems like a hot prospect. Maybe it’s mainly a commercial project, but we reckon it’ll turn up at TIFF regardless.

“Black Sea” (Kevin Macdonald)

Cast: Jude Law, Scoot McNairy, Jodie Whittaker, Konstantin Khabensky

Synopsis: A submarine captain is hired to find a sunken Russian boat said to be loaded with gold.

Last We Heard: It feels like a while since we had a good submarine movie, but with “Utopia” writer Dennis Kelly and Kevin Macdonald involved in this one, this could be a good prospect. Jude Law and Scoot McNairy topline the project, which Focus are backing, and with a UK release set for December, we’ll likely see this at the London Film Festival, with Toronto very likely before that.

“Kill The Messenger” (Michael Cuesta)

Cast: Jeremy Renner, Michael Sheen, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Oliver Platt

Synopsis: The true story of journalist Gary Webb, who exposed the CIA’s involvement in drug smuggling, only to be made a pariah in the cover-up.

Last We Heard: One of Focus’s big awards hopes for the coming season, this Jeremy Renner-starring drama has already landed a promising October release date, and given the subject matter and the very strong trailer, this is a good bet for Toronto, and if the studio are really bullish about it, maybe Telluride as well. That won’t entirely give us confidence (“The Fifth Estate” isn’t so long ago), but we’ve got our fingers crossed that this could be something worth paying attention to.

Retour a l’Ithaque” (Laurent Cantet)

Cast: Jorge Perugorria, Pedro Julio Diaz Ferran, Isabel Santos, Fernando Hechavarria

Synopsis: Five friends gather on a terrace overlooking Havana to celebrate the return of Amadeo who had been exiled for 16 years, talking of the idealism of their youth and the disillusionment of their maturity.

Last We Heard: Palme D’Or-winner Cantet’s last film saw him work in a foreign language–English–for an adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’ “Foxfire,” which, while better than the Angelina Jolie version, failed to catch, um, fire, and to date never secured a proper US release. His follow-up seems even lower key, a Spanish-language Cuba-set talky drama, but Cantet’s name still has enough cachet, after “The Class” and 2001’s great “Time Out” to get him a festival slot, most probably at TIFF where “Foxfire” showed in 2012.

Not Quite As Likely, But Still Possible:

On the Milky Road” (Emir Kusturica)

Cast: Emir Kusturica, Monical Bellucci, Natasa Ninkovic

Synopsis: Three interlocking stories, ostensibly about “kindness,” based on Kusturica’s own short film “Our Life” about a soldier who comes to a village to get milk for his army unit, the woman who gives him the milk and a monk who lives nearby who used to be a soldier.

Last We Heard: It’s a slim possibility that we might see Kusturica’s next in the fall as timing suggests it should be well ready by now, but two-time Palme D’or winner Kusturica would be a shoo-in for Cannes if he wants that instead. It really just depends on if, having missed Cannes 2014, he wants to hang on till next year–and if not, perhaps Venice is an outside bet.

“Knight Of Cups” (Terrence Malick)

Cast: Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchett, Teresa Palmer

Synopsis: Under wraps, but said to involve ‘celebrity and excess’

Last We Heard: As ever, Terrence Malick is working to his own schedule, and while most are assuming that this Christian Bale-starring effort will be done before the untitled Ryan Gosling-style picture formerly known as “Lawless” (or indeed IMAX doc “Voyage Of Time”),
there are no guarantees as to exactly when. Cannes boss Thierry Fremaux
confirmed at a press conference that Malick wasn’t ready for the French
festival, but footage was screened at the market there, which suggests
that it is getting closer. If Malick is done (and that’s a big if),
Venice, where “To The Wonder” premiered, is the most likely venue for the film’s bow.

Jane Got a Gun” (Gavin O’Connor)

Cast: Natalie Portman, Noah Emmerich, Ewan McGregor and Joel Edgerton

Synopsis: In the old West, a woman must protect her crooked husband from the gang he betrayed with the help of an old flame.

Last We Heard: A film it’s impossible to write about without using the phrase “troubled production,” the troubled production of Natalie Portman’s passion-project Western experienced another setback recently when its August release date was shunted back to February 20, 2015. The reasons for the shift have not been made clear, but if it was for any reason other than not being ready in time, there’s a slim chance we’ll see the film at a festival, but unlike the incarnation that would’ve been helmed by Lynne Ramsay and starred Michael Fassbender, we’d wager that O’Connor’s version might get an out of competition-type deal if it does show up at all.

“Selma” (Ava DuVernay)

Cast: David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tom Wilkinson, Cuba Gooding Jr.

Synopsis: The true story of the civil rights marches in the titular Alabama town, and Martin Luther King’s leadership during them.

Last We Heard: To be honest, with this long-gestating film now in the very capable hands of “Middle Of Nowhere” director Ava DuVernay, and getting underway a month or so ago, we’d sort of assumed that this was heading for a 2015 release. But Paramount dated it for Christmas Day a week or two back, suggesting that they have major awards season hopes for it. With the tight timeframe, it’s almost certainly too early for it to appear at Telluride, TIFF or Venice, but it could theoretically be ready to bow in time for AFI Fest in early November if they wanted to give it a big launch.

Macbeth” (Justin Kurzel)

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Paddy Considine, Sean Harris, Jack Reynor

Synopsis: In medieval Scotland, an ambitious warrior plots the murder of his king with the help of his wife after a group of witches predict that power is coming to him.

Last We Heard:Snowtown Murders” director Justin Kurzel got underway on this epic and blood-soaked take on Shakespeare’s classic tale at the start of this year, so it shouldn’t be too tricky to make the fall festival dates, especially with The Weinstein Company already unveiling footage at Cannes this year. That said, whether they believe it’ll be an Oscar player might make the difference as to when we see it: if they do, Venice or TIFF are fairly likely (and London might be possible too), if not, this might end up being held till next Cannes, or even Sundance.

Suffragette” (Sarah Gavron)

Cast: Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne-Marie Duff, Meryl Streep, Brendan Gleeson and Ben Whishaw

Synopsis: The inspirational tale of a group of largely working-class women, led by feminist icon Emmeline Pankhurst, on the front line of the increasingly bitter and brutal campaign to extend the vote to British women in the early years of the 20th Century.

Last We Heard: We can’t be sure if this film is being prepped for a fall bow or if it will be held for next year, but with that cast of ringers, and a period story that smacks of thematic weightiness and importance, there’s no doubt the Abi Morgan-scripted movie will be an awards hopeful. And it’s slated for a January release in the U.K., so it’s possible we could see it get festival play before the year is out, most likely at TIFF, we’d think.

“Cyber” or “Black Hat” (Michael Mann)

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Viola Davis, Wei Tang, Holt McCallany

Synopsis: A computer hacker is released from prison to help a joint American and Chinese task force prevent computer crime.

Last We Heard: After five years away, Michael Mann is back with this new thriller, and any time you can put ‘Michael Mann’ and ‘thriller’ in the same sentence is a cause for celebration. With any other filmmaker, this wouldn’t be in festival consideration, but even though Mann doesn’t actually have much festival form, this might be an outside bet to appear at AFI or NYFF, though anything earlier than that is unlikely. Still probably a long shot (it seems to be a principally commercial consideration), but don’t count it out.

Also Possible; There’s a few other big pictures that are landing in the fall, that don’t necessarily seem like festival fare, but could end up as big starry galas or similar if they’re done in time. “This Is Where I Leave You” or “Boxtrolls” could end up at TIFF, as could Robert Downey Jr. vehicle “The Judge” or Bill Murray starrer “St. Vincent.” In terms of the classier side of the studio spectrum, “Fury” or “Into The Woods” might crop up somewhere, while “Interstellar” is a longer shot still, but could, we suppose, end up premiering at AFI Fest.

Elsewhere, keep an eye out for Peter Bogdanovich‘s long-gestating “Squirrel To The Nuts,Ed Zwick‘s “Pawn Sacrifice,Lone Scherfig‘s “The Riot Club,” Brian Wilson biopic “Love & Mercy” with Paul Dano and John Cusack, the Alan Rickman-directed “A Little Chaos” starring Kate Winslet, Kevin Kline and Maggie Smith in “My Old Lady,Nanni Moretti‘s “Mia Madre,” and Takashi Miike‘s “Over Your Dead Body” (though that seems to have an August 23rd Japanese release date slated). As for stuff that likely won’t be done yet, our guess is that Yorgos Lanthimos’ hotly-anticipated “The Lobster” will be held for Cannes, as will Christi Puiu‘s “Sierra-Nevada.” And while Jeff Nichols’Midnight Special” could technically be ready in time, it isn’t due for release until November 2015, so look for it on next year’s festival circuit instead.

Have we whetted your appetite for the fall season? There’s certainly enough here to get us excited. Tell us which titles you’re most anxious for in the comments below. 

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