Simon Bland in Film & TV

06/08/2015

Autumn Festival Season - Ones To Watch

With the blockbuster season coming to a close, it’s time for audiences to ditch the dinos and gaudy superheros for cinema’s more subtle offerings as award season looms. 

Venice Film Festival is just under a month away and with it comes our first look at some of this year’s big-screen heavyweights. From there on out it’s a slippery slope of festivals, screenings and online chatter as 2015’s best buzz their way through the circuit on route to the big one, the 86th Academy Awards in February 2016.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Many of this year’s best have yet to be screened, let alone hyped but if we were the betting type, these are the titles we’d put our money on for bagging the most awards this year...

'Carol'

Todd Haynes’s adaptation of Phyllis Nagy’s novel ‘The Price of Salt’ debuted in competition at Cannes in May. While it didn’t take home the Palm D’Or (Jacques Audiard’s ‘Dheepan’ snatched it from left field), star Rooney Mara won the award for Best Actress tieing with ‘Mon Roi’’s Emmanuel Bercot. Set in the 1950s, the story follows Therese (Mara), a young store clerk who falls for an older married woman, the eponymous Carol played by Cate Blanchett. Audiences won’t get to see the film until its November release, but expect ‘Carol’ to make an appearance again in February alongside more nominations for Mara.

'45 Years'

Having already made a splash at Berlinale and Edinburgh earlier this year, Andrew Haigh’s Creative England supported feature ‘45 Years’ has awards season fodder written all over it. Screen legends Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay lead the way as Kate and Geoff, a couple whose 45th wedding anniversary plans get thrown into disarray when a long-forgotten secret reemerges and forces them to re-evaluate their entire relationship. Haigh’s story is quietly powerful and packs an emotional punch that’s hard to ignore. Throw in some career-defining turns from its veteran stars and you can almost hear those acceptance speeches.  

'Me, Earl and the Dying Girl'

Award season loves an indie darling and Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s hotly-tipped heartwarmer ‘Me, Earl and the Dying Girl’ looks set to be just that. The film was the talk of this year’s Sundance, with early reviews placing it somewhere between ‘Juno’ and ‘The Fault In Our Stars’. Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler and Olivia Cook head up the story of two teenage filmmakers who specialise in spoofs but have their tongue-in-cheek life outlook changed forever when they befriend a terminally ill classmate. Expect laughs, tears and maybe even a few award nods. 

'The Hateful Eight'

Tarantino’s Oscar win back in 2013 for ‘Django Unchained’’s stellar screenplay let us know that even the Academy recognise the power and cool of this specialised cinema voice. With this in mind you can expect a lot of buzz leading up to the man’s eight directorial effort and second foray into his own stylised wild West. Can he achieve award gold two years on the trot? With no finished footage released just yet it’s a little too early to tell, however with the Weinstein Company driving, we’d be surprised if we don’t see more of The Hateful Eight during award season.

'Black Mass' 

Johnny Depp takes a break from Tim Burton and Jack Sparrow to return to the type of role that reminds us just what he can do when he puts his mind to it. ‘Black Mass’ is director Scott Cooper’s Whitey Bulger biopic, chronicling the notorious Irish mobster’s work the FBI to try and take down the Italian mafia during the 70s. Audiences can witness Depp’s transformation into an eerily accurate Bulger at Toronto International Film Festival in September. Could it be enough to earn him a Best Actor nomination or Best Director for Cooper? Only time will tell.

'Beasts of No Nation' 

Netflix continues to change the game with ‘Beasts of No Nation’, the streaming-site-turned-studio’s first foray into the feature film marketplace and by all accounts, they’re coming out swinging. Golden Globe winner Idris Elba takes the lead with ‘True Detective’ mastermind Cary Fukunaga on writing and directing duty telling a story of civil unrest in Africa all from the point of view of an unwilling child warrior. If ‘Beasts of No Nation’ receives any nods this year (which it undoubtedly will) it’ll be another boon for the studio, who keep changing the rulebook and going from strength to strength in the process. 

'The Martian'

Ridley Scott’s adaptation of Andy Weir’s bestselling book pits Matt Damon against the Martian elements as a stranded astronaut left to fend for himself in an unfamiliar world. Scott gathered together an ensemble cast to tell his big-budget sci-fi story including Jeff Daniels, Kristen Wiig, Jessica Chastain and Sean Bean however it’s likely that Scott, Damon or screenwriters Weir and Drew Goddard will receive the bulk of the nominations. The ‘Alien’ director’s latest will be unveiled at Toronto International Film Festival early next month.  

'Steve Jobs'

Oscar winning director Danny Boyle teams up with Oscar winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin for the long-awaited biography of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs that’s likely to be...well, Oscar winning. Michael Fassbender dons the iconic black polonecks with Seth Rogen flexing his dramatic muscles as lesser-known company co-founder Steve Wozniak. Kate Winslet and Jeff Daniels co-star in this no-holds-barred tale of ingenuity, power and relationships that looks set to reach ‘The Social Network’ levels of critical success. The film arrives at New York Film Festival in October, with award nominations surely not far behind.

'Bridge of Spies'

Steven Spielberg continues to explore his passion projects, taking a break from popcorn cinema and saccharine CG to tell the true story of an American lawyer forced to negotiate the exchange of two spies during the height of the Cold War. After finally earning the Academy’s trust with ‘Schindler’s List’ back in 1993, Spielberg has regularly appeared on the Best Director list in the years following, even taking home gold on two occasions. With Spielberg alum Tom Hanks and brilliant Brit Mark Rylance at the forefront of his latest work, ‘Bridge of Spies’ looks set for big things.  

'The Danish Girl' 


Screening at Venice and Toronto, ‘The Danish Girl’ could set Eddie Redmayne up for that trickiest of tricks - winning two Best Actor Oscars two years running. The film reunites Redmayne with his ‘Les Miserables’ director Tom Hooper for a story that could have been taken direct from today’s headlines. Hooper’s timely trans tale follows the journey of the first recipient of male-to-female gender reassignment. Set in the 1920s, Redmayne plays artist Einar Wegenar who transitioned into Lili Elbe and became a transgender pioneer in the process. 

'In The Heart of the Sea'

A delayed release date can mean many things but when a film’s pushed back until December, it’s a safe bet that the powers-that-be have faith that it’s award worthy. Ron Howard’s nautical epic ‘In The Heart of the Sea’ sees Chris Hemsworth and Cillian Murphy forced to survive 90-days in open water when their ship is critically attacked by a sperm whale. The film’s trailer promises drama, action and a wave of emotions that could very well prove to be award worthy. 

'The Walk'

Philippe Petit’s unbelievable high-wire heist has already had the big screen treatment once before with James Marsh’s must-watch doc ‘Man On Wire’. With ‘The Walk’, director Robert Zemeckis returns to the story of a French tight-rope expert bent on doing the impossible and walking across the World Trade Centre buildings. Having recently been nominated for ‘Flight’, there’s a strong chance that ‘The Walk’ could land Zemeckis back on the Best Director shortlist, however it’s more likely that Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s performance as the determined Petit could earn him a long-overdue Best Actor nod. We’ll know more when the film opens the New York Film Festival in October.

'Where To Invade Next' 

The Academy have a sort of love-hate relationship with Michael Moore. They loved him enough to award him the Best Documentary Feature statue for 2003’s all-too-relevant ‘Bowling For Columbine’ only to shower him with ‘boos’ during his politically-charged acceptance speech. Whatever your stance, his work is undeniably hard to ignore. His latest, ‘Where To Invade Next’, took audiences by surprise when it was revealed to be premiering at Toronto in early September. Apparently, Moore has been working on this since 2009, taking aim at America’s obsession with ‘Infinite War’. Could it be his Magnum Opus? We’ll find out soon. 

'Legend'

Also appearing at Toronto is ‘Legend’ from ‘LA Confidential’ director Brian Helgeland. The film features Tom Hardy in a dual role as the infamous London gangsters The Kray Twins with Northern powerhouse Christopher Eccleston as the cop tasked with the job of ending their reign of terror. With Johnny Depp’s performance of Whitey Bulger already turning heads, Tom Hardy may very well be the second (and third) actor portraying a notorious gangster to find himself on the Best Actor nominee list this year.  

Did we miss out a film that you feel will win big this year? Let us know on Twitter.

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