Summer is but a memory, Halloween survives only in that last remaining handful of miniature Snickers bars, and now it’s time for something new: the holiday season, sure, but also the prestige movie season. Traditionally, movie studios roll out their biggest award-season hopefuls in the last quarter of the year. Though we’ve already seen some of the films likely to figure into Oscar season — “Parasite,” “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” “Harriet,” “Pain and Glory” — prestige titles will be popping up nearly every week until New Year’s. Here are some to watch for.
Martin Scorsese, whose first Academy Award nomination for best director was nearly 40 years ago (“Raging Bull”), returns to crime drama with the based-on-a-true-story epic “The Irishman” (opens theatrically in the Seattle area Nov. 15; begins streaming on Netflix Nov. 29). Al Pacino — working with Scorsese for the first time — stars as union activist Jimmy Hoffa; regular Scorsese collaborator Robert De Niro plays Frank Sheeran. Likewise, veteran filmmaker Terrence Malick (“Days of Heaven,” “The Tree of Life”), turns to history for his latest film: “A Hidden Life” (Dec. 13), which tells the story of Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian conscientious objector during World War II.
Sam Mendes (“American Beauty”) has spent much of the past decade directing James Bond films — “Spectre,” “Skyfall” — but he returns with the World War I drama “1917” (Dec. 25), in which two young British soldiers are given a dangerous mission that involves crossing enemy lines. Clint Eastwood, still making movies at 89 years old, turns to more recent history for “Richard Jewell” (Dec. 13), which follows the security guard who saved numerous lives when a bomb went off at the 1996 Summer Olympics, only to be falsely accused of being a terrorist. Paul Walter Hauser (“BlacKkKlansman”), Sam Rockwell and Jon Hamm are among the cast.
Portland-based filmmaker Todd Haynes, whose “Carol” is easily one of the most gorgeous films of the decade, takes on another true story: “Dark Waters” (Nov. 22), in which an attorney (Mark Ruffalo) uncovers environmental misconduct by a large corporation. And Greta Gerwig follows up her delightful directorial debut (2017’s “Lady Bird”) with something rather audacious: a new adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” (Dec. 25), starring Saoirse Ronan (as Jo), Emma Watson (Meg), Florence Pugh (Amy), Eliza Scanlen (Beth), Laura Dern (Marmee), Timothee Chalamet (Laurie) and Meryl Streep (Aunt March). That cast seems … insanely right, doesn’t it?
Could there possibly be a more perfect duo than Sir Ian McKellen and Dame Helen Mirren? The two team up for the first time in “The Good Liar” (Nov. 15), in which he’s a con man, she’s a wealthy widow, and … oh, just watch it. Also in the perfect-casting department: a cardigan-wearing Tom Hanks as Mister Rogers in “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” (Nov. 22). Prepare the tear ducts now.
Christian Bale and Matt Damon match movie-star charisma in “Ford v Ferrari” (Nov. 15), an action drama centered on a famous 1966 showdown between two automotive racing teams. Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver play a couple struggling with a divorce and child custody in Noah Baumbach’s much-buzzed “Marriage Story” (Nov. 29; on Netflix Dec. 6). “Bombshell” (Dec. 20), about the real-life sexual harassment scandal that rocked Fox News, features three Best Actress contenders: Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie and Charlize Theron. And Oscar nominee Daniel Kaluuya (“Get Out”) is getting awards buzz for his work in “Queen & Slim” (Nov. 27), a drama written by Emmy winner Lena Waithe (“Master of None”) about a young couple whose first date turns into a run from the law.
And also …
It may not be an awards contender (the trailer alone gave me nightmares), but the movie version of the musical “Cats” (Dec. 20) does seem to suggest a certain OMG-did-you-see-it cachet. And all those parents still belting out “Let It Go” at bedtime will be glad (or maybe not) to tell their kids about “Frozen 2” (Nov. 22), featuring the continuing adventures of Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven.
“Knives Out” (Nov. 27), directed by Rian Johnson (“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”), should find a wide audience; it’s a darkly comic murder mystery in which a crime-fiction author (Christopher Plummer) gets bumped off, and everyone in his extended family seems to have a motive. And speaking of “Star Wars,” there’s one of those as well: “The Rise of Skywalker” opens Dec. 20. Happy holidays to all!