Every week, the CriticWire Survey asks a select handful of film and TV critics two questions and publishes the results on Monday morning. (The answer to the second, “What is the best film in theaters right now?” can be found at the end of this post.)
This week’s question: Fall movie season is right around the corner, and we can’t wait for the onslaught of good films to begin. What is the one movie coming out between now and December 31st that people should be sure to keep on their radar?
Christopher Campbell (@thefilmcynic) Nonfics/Film School Rejects
There are a number of great documentaries on their way to theaters this fall, but if I have to choose one to promote I pick Kirsten Johnson’s “Cameraperson.” It’s a hard sell if only because it’s so unique that it’s difficult to explain just how fresh and significant it is. I admit, the Sundance catalog entry didn’t really grab my interest initially, either. Basically, Johnson has created a new kind of first-person film memoir by compiling material she’s shot over the years as a director of photography for other documentarians. It’s beautiful and brilliant and everyone I know who has seen it, many of them also skeptical, is really glad they did.
David Ehrlich (@davidehrlich), IndieWire
There is no more pleasant sensation of whiplash for a movie critic than the sudden transition from famine to feast that happens around this time every year. The fall is a true embarrassment of riches, as the best festival films from the last 12 months finally begin to trickle into theaters, and titles that we’ve all been anticipating for years (or even decades) finally receive their grand unveiling. In other words, it’s not easy to single out just one film for people to keep on their radar. But in other, other words: Holy shit, “Toni Erdmann.” Coming out around Christmas, Maren Ade’s Cannes stunner is the shortest 160 minutes you’ll ever spend in a movie theater. An unflinching and uproarious comedy about a working woman whose widower father keeps pranking her at work, the film builds to some of the funniest scenes in recent memory, each of which stings with a sensitive and beautifully nuanced honesty. People will be talking about this one for a long time to come.
Kate Erbland (@katerbland), IndieWire
Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight.” The film has a strong pedigree — A24’s first financed feature, produced by Brad Pitt, Jenkins’ first film since his delightful and unique “Medicine for Melancholy” — but might get lost in the crush of other, “bigger” fall films. Just based on early buzz and the film’s fierce first trailer, that seems like a mistake. The film will soon kick off a hearty festival run (TIFF and NYFF, and perhaps also Telluride), where it will (hopefully) only gin up more big love, but it seems like the exact kind of project that needs to be tracked early and often. I am already sold.
Additionally, I am looking forward to more audiences catching up with festival favorites like “Toni Erdmann” and “Manchester By the Sea” when they finally hit release — both are hugely hyped and very ambitious films that totally earn all the big chatter that came out of their Cannes and Sundance premieres, respectively.
Jordan Hoffman @JHoffman, The Guardian
There’s lots of potentially strong meat headed our way, but I wanna stick with something I’ve already seen and can personally vouch for. As I was absent at Cannes this year (the pastry chefs on Rue D’Antibes weep, their margins much smaller than in years past) I’m going to stump for Matt Johnson’s deliciously fun “Operation Avalanche.”
I was dragged kicking and screaming to see Johnson’s last film, the Slamdance winner “The Dirties.” I had no interest in seeing a “found footage” picture about a school shooting. But it was crafty and clever and quite engaging. “Operation Avalanche” is also “found footage,” but with a delightful spin. It tells the true story that we’ve long suspected – how a group of impish filmmakers, inspired by Stanley Kubrick, faked the moon landing.
It lovingly mixes paranoia with a slavish devotion to NASA kitsch. It’s also got the biggest hard-on for analogue filmmaking tricks since “Blow-Out.”
Tomris Laffly (@TomiLaffly), Film Journal International, Film School Rejects
I saw Kenneth’s Lonergan’s “Manchester by the Sea” at Sundance back in January and it is still the best film I’ve seen in 2016 so far. It deals with grief in a way that basically wrecked me. I don’t want to say too much — but note that it’s one to look forward to. Opens on November 18 – bring tissues.
Among the unscreened films, I can’t wait to see Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land” — looks gorgeous and dreamy.
“Manchester By the Sea”
Kristy Puchko (@KristyPuchko) Pajiba, Comic Book Resources
Park Chan-Wook’s “The Handmaiden.” The South Korean filmmaker is destined to save us from the blah of banal summer spectacle with his sure-to-be-twisted take on Sarah Waters’ novel of forbidden love and fierce deception. After all, this is the visionary auteur behind such beautiful but brutal movies as “Oldboy” and “Stoker.” The buzz out of Cannes suggests he’ll once more have us in awe for better and WTF, and I for one can’t wait. The trailer–laced with sensuality, subversion, and threat–was enough to put this pic at the top of my most anticipateds.
Joe Reid (@joereid), Decider.com
Though I am deeply tempted to say “A Madea Halloween,” if only for the transcendent brilliance of that “HELLURWEEN” poster, I’m instead going to urge people in the strongest language possible to see “American Honey” when it opens in September. Andrea Arnold brings her “Fish Tank” working-class humanity and vitality to the no-shirt, no-shoes middle of America, following a traveling band magazine-supscription huckster kids across the breadth of the American economic wasteland. Come for the Shia LaBeouf supporting performance that had better draw the kind of raves that James Franco’s showy “Spring Breakers” turn did; stay for the gorgeous visual style and non-cloying sense of family.
Tasha Robinson (@TashaRobinson), The Verge
I’m really looking forward to “The Handmaiden,” a Korean adaptation of Sarah Waters’ lush historical drama Fingersmith, directed by “Oldboy’s” Park Chan-wook. It made a bit of a splash at Cannes — it was nominated for the Palme d’Or — but even if it wasn’t already turning heads, I’d be excited for this one. The novel is a terrific, twisty story about a low-level pickpocket hired as a maid as part of a scheme to defraud a rich young woman, but it expands into Park Chan-wook’s favorite thing: a drama about betrayal, revenge, misunderstandings, and illicit love. Park always gives us beautiful imagery and powerful, barely stifled emotions, and this film looks like his Stoker in terms of passion and power, but with a better and more complete storyline. A Korean director tackling an English costume drama feels a little odd, like Hayao Miyazaki adapting Diana Wynne Jones’ British children’s book “Howl’s Moving Castle.” But just like that film, Handmaiden has two creators I love joining forces to make something that looks radically new and different.
WHAT IS THE BEST MOVIE CURRENTLY PLAYING IN THEATERS?
Most Popular Answer: “Pete’s Dragon”