Buzz, Daniel Day Lewis, Movies, Mudbound, Paul Thomas Anderson, Steven Spielberg

Fall movie preview 2017: Oscar contenders to watch

L-R: Mudbound, The Greatest Showman, Darkest Hour

Image: Netflix / 20th Century Fox / Focus Features

This week, we’re running our 2017 fall movie preview. On Monday, we started with our superhero picks. Today, we’ll dig into the awards hopefuls.

In another couple of months, we’ll all be sick to death of talking about the Oscars. We reach that point every year, and we’ll reach it again this year. When we do, we’ll look up to realize we’ve still got months to go before we’re done. (This train goes all the way to March, folks.)

But you know what? That’s tomorrow’s problem. Right now, the thought of filling up on awards-worthy drama still fills us with gleeful anticipation. 

How can it not, when this year’s crop includes new features by Dee Rees and Steven Spielberg, a quirky high-concept dramedy starring Matt Damon, and what may well be the last performance ever from Daniel Day-Lewis? Here’s what to watch if the Oscars are your Super Bowl …

… and you want to see the next big thing: Mudbound (November 17)

Jason Mitchell and Garrett Hedlund in Mudbound.

Jason Mitchell and Garrett Hedlund in Mudbound.

If Dee Rees’ directorial debut, Pariah, put her on the map as a talent to watch, Mudbound ought to cement her as a bonafide star. Mudbound is bigger and more ambitious in just about respect – it’s the sprawling saga of two intertwined families, one black and one white, in the post-WWII South – but maintains the intimacy and empathy that made Pariah so affecting. Look for a career-best performance from Garrett Hedlund, and a surprising turn by a near-unrecognizable Mary J. Blige.

… and you always bet on WWII dramas: Darkest Hour (November 22)

Joe Wright covered the evacuation of Dunkirk from the ground in Atonement, and in Darkest Hour he covers it from the top. Gary Oldman disappears into the role of Winston Churchill (so, keep an eye on this one throughout the Best Actor race), who faces that particular crisis early in his career. As an aside, for those keeping count, this marks the third Dunkirk movie this year, following Lone Scherfig’s Their Finest and Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk

… and you’re #TeamSpielberg: The Post (December 22)

Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg in 2010.

Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg in 2010.

It’s kind of breathtaking how quickly this project came together, seeing as we only heard about it for the first time six months ago. But this is no slapdash affair. Steven Spielberg brings together Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep to tell the true story of the Pentagon Papers – a classified Department of Defense study about the Vietnam War that the Washington Post had to fight for the right to publish. It’s set in the 1970s, but you can see how it feels chillingly timely today.

… and you like quirky: Downsizing (December 22)

Alexander Payne has always had a biting sense of humor, as we’ve seen in films like Election and Sideways. But his latest satire takes him into brand-new territory: science-fiction. Downsizing, starring Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig, centers on a technology that allows humans to shrink themselves down to mere inches, in an effort to battle overpopulation. As Payne describes it, it’s basically Black Mirror meets Robert Altman. As we see it, it’s a must-watch for any Payne fans.

… and you want one last win for Daniel Day-Lewis: Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson Project (December 25)

Director Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis in 2008.

Director Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis in 2008.

Image: Francois Durand / Getty Images

Never a particularly prolific actor to begin with, Daniel Day-Lewis announced earlier this year that he was quitting acting for good. Time will tell whether the retirement actually sticks, but if it does, at least he’s going out on a high note. His as-yet-untitled final film has him playing a fashion designer in 1950s London, and reunites him with There Will Be Blood director Paul Thomas Anderson. What’s not to look forward to?

… and you’re still humming the La La Land soundtrack: The Greatest Showman (December 25)

The Best Original Song category is such a mess that it can be difficult to figure out which tunes are even eligible, let alone which ones might win. Still, we’d be fools to bet against The Greatest Showman. The P.T. Barnum (as in “& Bailey”) biopic features music by this year’s Best Original Song winners, La La Land‘s Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, and performances by Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, and Zendaya.

All week, we’ll be running our 2017 fall movie preview. Come back every day to find out what to watch if … 

Monday: … you can’t get enough of superheroes
Tuesday: … the Oscars are your Super Bowl
Wednesday: … you want to feel good
Thursday: … you want to feel bad
Friday: … you just want to see the best of the best

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