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Fall Movie Preview

Our film critic looks ahead at the fall season after historic strikes in Hollywood.


As of press time, the actors’ and writers’ strikes are still raging in Hollywood and release dates for upcoming movies are fluid. With actors not promoting movies, studios are shifting productions into next year rather than reexamining their practices of paying most professionals pennies on the dollar.

As you read this, studios are investigating how artificial intelligence can steal said professionals’ jobs and impersonalize cinema even further. If you think the strikes are ludicrous, remember that not everyone makes Brad Pitt or Aaron Sorkin money. The films and TV that we watch are the collective results of countless unseen workers who make nothing compared to the conglomerates that fudge on the productions’ earnings and pay themselves kings’ ransoms. That studios would rather delay movies than share more money with collaborators, just as theater going seems to be regaining its sea legs in the wake of COVID, should tell you something.

While those strikes cast a pall over the autumn season, there appear to be many titles worth anticipating. Director Justine Triet’s Palme d’Or-winning “Anatomy of a Fall” promises to give us a jump into serious season with an early October release. Rapturously received at the Cannes Film Festival, the film concerns a woman suspected of her husband’s murder and the son caught in the middle. Speaking of the darlings of this year’s Cannes, Jonathan Glazer’s “The Zone of Interest,” said to be a loose and disturbing adaptation of Martin Amis’ concentration camp novel of the same name, will surface this December courtesy of A24.

I’m impatient for Sofia Coppola’s “Priscilla,” also due in October. A woman to the manor born, as the daughter of Francis Ford Coppola, Sofia has fashioned herself into a chronicler of the neuroses that come from living in high and rarefied places. She would appear ideal for the story of Priscilla Presley and her relationship with the iconic Elvis, and the trailer suggests another haunting Coppola mood poem. While we’re in October, this is my obligatory reminder that I’m still eagerly awaiting Martin Scorsese’s epic “Killers of the Flower Moon,” [which used Virginian Jack Fisk as production designer] and which is set to finally land in theaters this fall courtesy of Apple.

More October, which could be the richest of the fall months this year, though I can’t help but include a potential irritation. Director David Gordon Green of the recent “Halloween” sequel movies, who is apparently determined to turn every classic 1970s-era horror movie into a trilogy of laborious remakes, brings us “The Exorcist: Believer.” The trailer seems driven by the sort of creativity for which desperate studio execs are known: this time, two girls are possessed instead of one! I mention this movie for two reasons: as a reminder that you could see A24’s terrific possession thriller “Talk to Me” instead, or check out at home the original “Exorcist” sequels, which are insane. Let’s close out the month with a movie I’ve already seen: Chloe Domont’s “Fair Play,” which suggests a woman’s answer to macho money movies like “Wall Street” and series like “Billions,” on which Domont worked. Blending eroticism and a tale of profound jealousy with the tropes of the high finance fable, Domont veers into undiscovered territory for the modern thriller, though she loses her nerve near the film’s end. It drops on Netflix in the middle of the month.

In November, David Fincher returns with “The Killer,” also for Netflix. For all of the hype that attends Fincher pictures, I can’t help but suspect that he’s a peddler of airport fiction who draws respect for his meticulous working methods and air of self-seriousness. That said, “Zodiac” is a classic, and very few of his films are without interest. Michael Fassbender in the lead role and a very capable supporting cast only sweeten the pot. Speaking of directors who might be better at generating press and fanning their reputation than directing movies, Ridley Scott returns this November with “Napoleon,” wresting to the screen a subject that seemingly every filmmaker has tried to tackle, most famously Stanley Kubrick. Scott may be overpraised, but he’s coming off one of his best films, “The Last Duel,” and who isn’t curious to see what Joaquin Phoenix does with Bonaparte? Let’s round out our tour of overpraised directors with Alexander Payne, who’s following up his disastrous “Downsizing” with “The Holdovers,” a reunion with “Sideways” frontman Paul Giamatti about a stuffy teacher who probably exchanges life lessons with his students during a holiday season on campus. Giamatti is the draw in a movie that suggests a blend of “The Browning Version” with “The Breakfast Club.”

Bradley Cooper’s “Maestro” is unveiling late fall. It’s his follow-up to “A Star is Born” and he’s been working on it for years, obsessively mining the life of subject Leonard Bernstein. Meanwhile, Michael Mann’s first movie since “Blackhat,” “Ferrari” is said to be due by Christmas. Also on the controversial side are the appearances of new films by Roman Polanski and Woody Allen at the upcoming Venice Film Festival. Polanski’s “The Palace” and Allen’s “Coup de Chance” will not be playing at an American theater near you, though it will be interesting to see the waves they make from overseas.

I’ve saved what could be the best for last, as it has come to light that Ryûsuke Hamaguchi might have two movies releasing this year. “Evil Does Not Exist” and “Gift,” apparently conceived in tandem, are maybe set in a town not far outside Tokyo, dealing with glamping, COVID, and immigrant tensions. In the midst of a run that includes “Happy Hour,” “The Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy,” and “Drive My Car,” Hamaguchi has positioned himself at the forefront of world auteurs on the rise. I’d follow him anywhere.