Forget Transformers: A Cinephile’s Guide to the Fall Festival Season

Please extend a warm welcome to the newest member of our writing team: Natalie Chao - A USC cinematic arts major! She's quite the movie fanatic.
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It’s about that time in July when one gets a little bit fed up with the onslaught of blockbusters threatening to fry our brain cells (thanks, Michael Bay). After all, there’s only so much explosions and incoherence in plot that one can endure – yes, I know that ripping on the Transformers installments is uncreative in itself but come on, Bay’s films truly epitomize “style over substance” and it’s a wonder how audiences swallow three whole hours of discombobulation sequel after sequel.

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But enough about giant robots smashing each other and…exploding, as August creeps in, we can all start looking forward to the fall festival season – beginning with the ever-prestigious Venice Film Festival, followed by Telluride at the end of August and the always highly anticipated Toronto Film Festival, which begins on September 4th. 

So here’s a compiled wish-list of sorts, of all the films you should definitely look out for as awards season kicks off:

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him & Her/Them

Directed by: Ned Benson Cast: James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Viola Davis, Isabelle Huppert, and William Hurt.

JoBlo Movie Trailers/

Having screened at the Toronto Film Festival in 2013, Ned Benson’s incredibly ambitious project involves three films: Him, Her and Them. While Him Her are told from the differing perspectives of Connor Ludlow (McAvoy) and Eleanor Rigby (Chastain), Them is an attempt to reunite its bifurcated plot structure – and is the latest version to be released by the Weinstein Co. on September 26.

Why you should be interested:  If the high-concept of telling a story from two different perspectives isn’t enough of a hook for you, then consider the talented leads – Chastain and McAvoy are arguably one of the best actors of their generation.

Gone Girl

Directed by: David Fincher Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry

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Slated for an October 3rd release, some may consider the adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s best-selling thriller as too big for the festival circuit, nonetheless it’s possible to consider that the less arthouse scene of Toronto just might open up a centerpiece slot for Fincher’s latest.

Why you should be interested: Fincher has already demonstrated his adeptness in handling an adaptation of thriller novels (Dragon Tattoo), and with Gone Girl’s dark themes and convoluted plot twists, such material seems perfectly matched to the director’s style of gritty realism. Plus, it’s been said that the ending of the film is going to deviate largely from the book, which is a relief for many fans of the original novel (me included).


Directed by: Christopher Nolan Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Ellen Burstyn and Michael Caine.

Warner Bros. UK/

Alright, so maybe this one won’t be making rounds at Venice, Toronto or Telluride (maybe AFI Fest instead?). But upon its release in November 7, Interstellar is guaranteed to be a worldwide cinematic event – one that’s definitely going to impact the awards season one way or another. As usual, Nolan has kept the plot tightly under wraps (god knows how he manages to do this with such a massive production). The only plot details that have emerged so far suggest the film deals with time travel, wormholes, and alternate dimensions.

Why you should be interested: As just mentioned: time travel, wormholes and alternate dimensions… Remember that this is the same man responsible for directing the reverse chronological masterpiece Memento, the most incredible and successful superhero trilogy of all time, The Prestige, and Inception. AND I didn’t even get around to the cast yet… There’s no need to say any more. In Nolan we trust.


Directed by: Alejandro González Iñárritu Cast: Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, and Naomi Watts.

Moviepilot Trailers/

Two words: extended takes. With a rumoured 40-minute tracking shot, the whole film is meant to be shot as one entire take, and no one is more qualified and talented to execute this feat than cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (who finally won an Oscar for Gravity last year). Headed for an October 17th release, the film is pretty much up for grabs by any of the previously mentioned festivals – most likely Venice or TIFF, I suspect.

Why you should be interested: Did you not just watch that trailer?

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