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

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

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

“Last Flag Flying” (November 3)

“Last Flag Flying”

Amazon Studios / Wilson Webb

In “Last Flag Flying,” director’s Richard Linklater’s adaptation of Darryl Ponicsan’s 2005 sequel to “The Last Detail,” Bryan Cranston plays an older version of Jack Nicholson’s character, which could well yield his second Oscar nomination after “Trumbo.” Nicholson earned an Oscar nomination for his colorful performance in Hal Ashby’s 1973 film as a Navy sailor whose escorts (Oscar nominee Randy Quaid and Otis Young) show him a good time en route to prison. Road trip drama “Last Flag Flying” picks up with the characters of “The Last Detail” decades later as three Vietnam Navy veterans who reunite to bury one of their sons, an Iraq soldier. Carell takes the role originally played by Quaid, with Fishburne picking up for Young. -AT

“Lady Bird” (November 10)

"Lady Bird"

“Lady Bird”

A24

With “Lady Bird,” brainy actress and screenwriter Greta Gerwig is finally making her solo directorial debut after her collaborations with Noah Baumbach on “Frances Ha” and “Mistress America” and co-directing “Nights and Weekends” with Joe Swanberg. The semi-autobiographical relationship comedy stars twice-nominated Saoirse Ronan (“Atonement,” “Brooklyn”) as Christine McPherson (a.k.a. Lady Bird, no relationship with the wife of LBJ), a rebellious student at a conservative Catholic Sacramento high school who wants to escape her family and small town constraints to go to college in New York. Laurie Metcalf costars as her complicated mother, along with Lucas Hedges, Tracy Letts, Timothée Chalamet, and Beanie Feldstein. Scott Rudin produced, and A24 is taking the film to fall festivals. -AT

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (November 10)

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Fox Searchlight

Martin McDonagh has only made two features, but “In Bruges” and “Seven Psychopaths” are so ingeniously written and performed that he’s become something of a fan favorite for indie cinephiles. After a five-year hiatus, McDonagh returns with a fiery Frances McDormand in this story of a woman who takes matter into her own hands after the local police refuse to close the case involving her murdered child. The all-star cast includes Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, and Peter Dinklage. McDonagh’s work on “In Bruges” earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay, and he’ll be certainly back in the race this year. McDormand is also a major contender for what looks to be one of her most memorable characters to date. The “Fargo” Oscar winner was last nominated in the supporting race for 2006’s “North Country.” If she lands a nomination for “Three Billboards,” McDormand will have five total career nominations. -ZS

“Mudbound” (November 17)

“Mudbound”

Photo Courtesy of MACRO

Sundance darling Dee Rees returned to the festival that gave her — and her revelatory “Pariah” — a home earlier this year with the starry premiere of her historical drama “Mudbound.” Based on Hillary Jordan’s novel of the same name, the film follows a relocated Mississippi family trying to find their way after the tragic upheavals of World War II, and pains that have struck both at home and aboard. Packing a wallop of a final act and a sterling ensemble that includes Jason Mitchell, Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Clarke, and Mary J. Blige, the film could rocket Rees right where she should be: squarely in the awards conversation. Netflix paid a pretty penny for the feature at Sundance, now lets hope they can line up a suitable awards campaign to get the film in front of both voters and audiences alike. It’s a movie that doesn’t just deserve to be seen, it must be seen. -KE

“Molly’s Game” (November 22)

Love him or hate him, you’d be hard-pressed to find a writer in Hollywood with a more recognizable voice than Aaron Sorkin. His facility with whipsmart, fast-paced dialogue earned him an Academy Award for “The Social Network,” and for his eighth feature screenplay, he will step into the director’s chair for the first time. Based on the bestselling memoir of the same name, “Molly’s Game” tells the story of former Olympic skiing hopeful Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), who finds herself running a high-stakes poker game that involves Hollywood elites, business moguls, and Russian mobsters. After she is arrested by the FBI for her mob connections, Molly hires a criminal defense attorney (Idris Elba), who discovers there is more to her than meets the eye. Given an awards-friendly November release date by STX Entertainment, “Molly’s Game” has all the elements in place to generate Oscar buzz. The combined star power of Chastain and Elba will be a sight to behold, and the true crime story with a heart of gold is exactly the kind of yarn Sorkin loves to weave. The only mystery is whether his directing skills are any match for his writing. -Jude Dry

“Darkest Hour” (November 22)

“Darkest Hour”

Joe Wright flopped with his blockbuster “Pan,” but he’s heading back to his historical period piece sweet spot with Winston Churchill biopic “Darkest Hour.” The movie is one of Focus Features’ big Oscar players this fall, and it features Gary Oldman in the kind of transformative performance that Oscar voters often love to honor with a nomination. The story takes a look at one of Churchill’s earliest crises as Prime Minister, as just days into his term he’s forced between negotiating a peace treaty with Nazi Germany or standing firm to fight Hitler and preserve British liberty. When it comes to on paper contenders, “Darkest Hour” is a slam dunk. -ZS

“Call Me By Your Name” (November 24)

Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer in Call Me By Your Name

“Call Me By Your Name”

Sundance

A feverish love story that premiered during one of the fiercest blizzards in Sundance history, “Call Me By Your Name” started 2017 on a deliriously high note, and it still ranks among the very, very (very) best films of the year. Directed by Luca Guadagnino (“A Bigger Splash”) with all of his usual cool and adapted from André Aciman’s beloved 2007 novel of the same name, this heart-wrenchingly beautiful romance takes place on an idyllic Italian island during the summer of 1983. Timothée Chalamet stars as Elio, a 17-year-old American virgin who’s scrawny enough to be mistaken for a child but sophisticated enough to be mistaken for a man. Elio starts to mature real fast when he meets Oliver (Armie Hammer), an older man whose body is as big as any one of the ancient statues that have been dredged up from the local seas. It’s thrilling to watch Elio and Oliver grow closer as the season sinks toward its dog days, but the film is at its most sensitive (and most soulful) when they start to move apart. Shot with immeasurable sensuality by Thai cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom (“Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” and “Arabian Nights”), “Call Me By Your Name” is a life-changing film that submits all of its beauties to the service of one simple truth: The more we change, the more we become who we are. -DE

“Mary Magdalene” (November 24)

Garth Davis was one of the breakout directors of the 2016-17 awards season thanks to the success of “Lion,” which earned six Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture. Davis missed out on a Best Director nomination, but he was recognized by the Directors Guild of America with a nomination and a win for Best First Feature. Expect to see Davis’ name back in the running this year with the Biblical drama “Mary Magdalene,” starring the formidable pairing of Rooney Mara in the title role and Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus. With The Weinstein Company and cinematographer Greig Fraser re-teaming with “Davis” after “Lion,” the new movie has all the makings on paper of a fall season hit. -ZS

“Wonder Wheel” (December 1)

“Wonder Wheel”

Scheduled for release on his 82nd birthday, Woody Allen’s latest is a rare Brooklyn tale from the former Flatbush boy. “Wonder Wheel” takes place in Coney Island during the 1950s, when Allen would have been a teenager who undoubtedly spent time at the borough’s most famous attraction. Amazon has yet to release an official synopsis, but the film stars Kate Winslet as a waitress in a clam house, who is married to a carousel operator (Jim Belushi), and falls in love with a handsome lifeguard (Justin Timberlake). Juno Temple, Debi Mazar, and Max Casella also star. Early photos show Winslet and Timberlake in charming period costumes strolling along the iconic boardwalk. Allen films can be a grab bag these days, but hopefully “Wonder Wheel” will give Winslet her “Blue Jasmine” moment. “Wonder Wheel” will premiere at the New York Film Festival on October 14 before its December release. -JD

“The Shape of Water” (December 8)

“The Shape of Water”

Jaw-dropping might be a word employed too often when it comes to trailers, but the first images from Guillermo del Toro’s next feature, “The Shape of Water,” are truly stunning. Set in Cold War-era America, Elisa (Sally Hawkins), a lonely janitorial worker, uncovers a government secret: a fish-human hybrid being kept for experimentation. Elisa forges a connection with the creature, which sets her at odds with everyone around her. “The Shape of Water” will certainly draw comparisons to “Pan’s Labyrinth,” but the trailer also calls to mind the films of Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro. And while fans of the “BioShock” video game series may not have gotten a Gore Verbinski film, hints of Rapture can be seen in the cold tile laboratory setting. Most of all, the creature, played by long-time del Toro collaborator Doug Jones, is stunning and another testament to del Toro’s uncanny ability to bring fairy tales to life, and still make them believable and breathtaking enough for adults. December really can’t come soon enough. -Jamie Righetti

“Downsizing” (December 22)

Alexander Payne’s latest social satire skewers consumption in perhaps the most amusing way possible: by shrinking it way, way down. On the surface, the big concept that drives the narrative is pretty smart: set in a world where a new technology has been invented that lets people shrink themselves down (supposedly without much in the way of physical discomfort or consequences), allowing them to live it up in a tiny little world because life is a lot cheaper when you’re like six inches tall, but early looks hint that not everything is better when you’re bitty. Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig star in the feature as a couple looking to live bigger lives by sizing down, but with Payne behind it, we’re expecting some twists (and laughs) along the way. –Kate Erbland

“The Current War” (December 22)

“The Current War”

TWC

“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” helmer Alfonso Gomez-Rejon tries his hand at another – and very different – tale of conflicting desires, brainy creationism, and a race against time with this buzzy biopic. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Thomas Edison and Michael Shannon as George Westinghouse, the film follows the pair as they battle it out to become the true godfather of electricity and bring literal power to the people. The film has been bouncing around Hollywood for some time (at various points, it’s had such attached talent as Timur Bekmambetov, Ben Stiller, and Jake Gyllenhaal), and it sounds like the kind of splashy, awards-friendly historic fare that this season is so far lacking. But the real draw has to be Shannon – who always manages to be the best part of whatever project he’s in – going totally bananas as the brilliant Westinghouse during one of the most literally charged portions of his wide-ranging career. -KE

“The Papers” (December 22)

It is never a good idea to write off a new Steven Spielberg movie. The 70-year-old director continues to operate in several modes at once: Even as he continues to tinker with his sci-fi epic “Ready Player One,” he’s got an old-school period piece ready to go, and he’s one of the only living directors for whom that can be a very good thing. After all, “Bridge of Spies” was an exemplary display of the filmmaker’s ability to tap into an era of American anxieties with a blend of good-natured humanism and thrilling confrontations. With this latest project, he’s back in business with Tom Hanks, pairing the actor with Meryl Streep in this account of the Washington Post’s coverage of the Pentagon Papers. At a time when journalism is facing constant bombardment and “fake news” is a daily talking point, this may be exactly the throwback we need to put our current media landscape in a necessary context — and if anyone’s well-equipped to tackle such a weighty topic without scaring off audiences wary of getting lectured, Spielberg’s the guy. -Eric Kohn

Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson Film (December 25)

Every time Paul Thomas Anderson is working on a new movie, it quietly gains momentum in the background as the rest of the film world continues along its business, until the hype machine gets so loud that it drowns out everything else. This year is no exception. PTA has been pushing along his secretive tale about the fashion world in ’50s-era London for what feels like eons, and there’s a strong chance it won’t play at any festivals before it opens Christmas Day. But while this allegedly very sensual, very British movie that finds its protagonist assigned to design outfits for the royal family already held plenty of intrigue, it became the atom bomb of the fall season once the actor playing that dressmaker, Daniel Day-Lewis, announced his impending retirement. Now, it’s not only an intriguing new entry in PTA’s distinctive approach to major historical periods through a personal lens; it’s also a farewell from one of the greatest actors of all time, and thus a historic event unto itself. -EK

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