COURTESY OF UNIVERSAL PICTURES
After a considerable summer lull, the Oscar movie season is heating up. From another Cormac McCarthy adaptation to a George W. Bush biopic, the film lineup promises a full slate of rich cinematic fare.
Directed by: Mike Leigh
Starring: Sally Hawkins, Eddie Marsan and Alexis Zegerman
Release Date: Oct. 10
In “Happy-Go-Lucky,” Sally Hawkins stars as Poppy, a single, 30-year-old zany primary school teacher who blissfully carouses through her north London life with unwavering optimism. Critics heralded Hawkins’ sublime performance at the Berlin International Film Festival where she nabbed the coveted Silver Bear Award for Best Actress.
With a slew of eccentric characters, from Poppy’s racist, repressed driving instructor who challenges her cheerful disposition, to her fervent flamenco teacher, this is an unusually upbeat follow up to Leigh’s somber abortion drama “Vera Drake.” Yet in a season marked with Oscar-bait and weepy melodrama, “Happy-Go-Lucky” serves as a charming alternative.
Directed by: Oliver Stone
Starring: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Banks, Richard Dreyfuss and James Cromwell
Release Date: Oct. 17
Based on the life on President George W. Bush, Oliver Stone’s “W.” will likely be the fall’s most controversial film. Stone stated that he doesn’t intend to bash Bush with the film, but rather, present a fair and honest analysis of the seminal events in Bush’s life. Then again, it’s Oliver Stone. If the film’s teaser trailer, which featured a young, hard-partying Dubya crashing a car with “What a Wonderful World” playing in the background, serves as any indication of the film’s tone, “W.” may be the surprise satire of the season.
“Synecdoche, New York”
Directed by: Charlie Kauffman
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Michelle Williams, Samantha Morton, Emily Watson and Diane Wiest
Release Date: Oct. 24
In the directorial debut of Charlie Kauffman, the critically lauded screenwriter of such mind trips as “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “Adaptation” and “Being John Malkovich,” struggling New York theater director Caden Cotard (Hoffman) receives a MacArthur grant and uses it to recreate a replica of New York City in an abandoned warehouse. Cotard is burdened with a mysterious medical condition that methodically shuts down each of his autonomic functions, and as the city continues to grow, he loses his mind within his masterpiece. We’ve seen Kauffman’s vision exercised through the lens of Michel Gondry and Spike Jonze, yet with “Synecdoche, New York,” he’s in full control, so anticipate something wildly creative and decidedly Charlie Kauffman.
Directed by: John Hillcoat
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Robert Duvall, Charlize Theron and Guy Pearce
Release Date: Nov. 26
An adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “The Road” charts the journey of a man and his young son across post-apocalyptic America. Considering the great success of “No Country for Old Men,” McCarthy’s austere writing elegantly transitions from page to screen, and the gritty vision Australian director John Hillcoat displayed in 2005’s critics’ darling “The Proposition” may serve as a perfect marriage of talent.
Directed by: Gus Van Sant
Starring: Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch and James Franco
Release Date: Dec. 5
In Gus Van Sant’s highly anticipated “Milk,” Sean Penn stars as Harvey Milk, a gay rights activist and city politician who was the first openly gay man elected to a public office in America. A short year later, former city supervisor Dan White murdered both Milk and the city’s mayor, later making him notorious for his “Twinkie defense” at the proceeding trials. With Van Sant behind the camera and a cast including Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch, Victor Garber, James Franco, and Diego Luna, “Milk” is bound to be the season’s atypical biopic.
Directed by: John Patrick Shanley
Starring: Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and Voila Davis
Release Date: Dec. 12
Academy Award-winning screenwriter of “Moonstruck” John Patrick Shanley has adapted his multiple Tony Award winning play “Doubt” to the screen. Set in the 1960s at a Catholic high school in the Bronx, “Doubt” follows Sister Aloysius (Streep), a school principal who accuses Father Flynn (Hoffman) of sexually abusing a 12-year-old boy. After Flynn denies the charges, Aloysius embarks upon a journey of moral revaluation and self-denial.
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Directed by: David Fincher
Starring: Brad Pitt, Tilda Swinton, Cate Blanchett and Elle Fanning
Release Date: Dec. 25
Adapted from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1922 short story of the same title, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” chronicles the whimsical life of Benjamin Button (Pitt), a man who is born an old man and physically ages backwards. With production plans rooting back to 1994, numerous directors and screenwriters, from Ron Howard to Spike Jonze, have been attached to the project, yet “Fight Club” director Fincher and the Oscar-winning screenwriter of “Forest Gump,” Eric Roth, took charge. Spanning from World War I through 2000, “Benjamin Button” is an epic film that will undoubtedly make a splash in the Oscar race.
Directed by: Sam Mendes
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Kathy Bates
Release Date: Dec. 26
“American Beauty” director Sam Mendes has been lying low since his controversial 2005 film “Jarhead,” but now he has the year’s first presumptive Best Picture nominee on his hands. A reunion for “Titanic” cast members Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet and Kathy Bates, “Revolutionary Road” is based off Richard Yates’s 1961 classic novel. An unsentimental view of a decaying marriage, “Revolutionary Road” follows Frank and April Wheeler, two young Connecticut suburbanites, as they grow increasingly disillusioned by their inability to feel self-fulfilled in their lives and respective careers.