On Thursday morning, the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival kicks off – which, along with the festivals in Venice and Telluride, signifies the start of this year’s Oscar campaign. Hey, this means good movies are back! (Well, after this summer’s offering, we certainly hope.) But, hey, this is when these movies are at their most exciting, as opposed to five months from now when we will be sick of talking about them. We’ll be onsite in Toronto for the festival so that we can bring you the news on a lot of the movies you will be watching this fall. What movies? Well, here are the five we are most excited to see.
In Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, we follow Chiron through three stages of his life: starting as a child in Miami, then in high school, then in the present day. It’s a haunting look at a gay African-American man and the definitions of masculinity and what that means at each stage of his life. It’s a startling transformation each time there’s a jump and the film goes places the viewer would never expect, yet stays true to this wonderful story and brilliant vision. This is a movie that will win many, many trophies over the next few months. (Much more to come on Moonlight after its Toronto debut.)
La La Land
Following up on 2014’s breakout Whiplash, Damien Chazelle is back with the lush, lavish, and breathtaking-looking La La Land. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone star as lovers who sing and dance their way through their bliss until things just aren’t blissful anymore. La La Land just had its premiere at the Venice Film Festival, and the word coming out of there makes me want to see it even more. We will be talking about La La Land for oh, the next six months or so, so get ready.
In the telling of the story behind a landmark judicial decision, Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga play Richard and Mildred Loving, two people who are arrested for interracial marriage in Virginia. (What’s shocking here is this wasn’t that long ago. The Supreme Court case that found these state laws unconstitutional happened in 1967.) This has been on my radar since it premiered at Cannes back in May. And it’s directed by Jeff Nichols, one of the best directors working today who seems to get better with every outing. (Not many people saw Midnight Special when it came out earlier this year, but I still think that one will catch on with people soon.) Here, Nichols has his first bonafide Oscar player.
The Magnificent Seven
I’m cheating a bit because I’ve seen this movie (a full review is coming Thursday), but I do love collaborations between Denzel Washington and director Antoine Fuqua. (The Equalizer was a study in over-the-top violent perfection.) Here, we have a remake of a remake, starring Washington, Chris Pratt, Haley Bennett and Ethan Hawke teaming up to stop an ornery cuss named Bartholomew Bogue, played by a scenery chomping Peter Sarsgaard, who has taken over a gold-rearing town. This is an honest-to-goodness Western with one-liners aplenty. (I will probably see this movie 50 times before I die.)
I have not seen Arrival, but I do know a good portion of its plot. (I love spoilers, but I will not be spoiling a movie I haven’t seen yet for you.) But I will say this: What appears on the surface to be a movie about aliens visiting Earth and the two American language experts (Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner; other countries have their own aliens and own interpreters) charged with communicating with the aliens has quite a bit more going on. Denis Villeneuve (Sicario) has become one of my favorite directors working today – if you haven’t seen Enemy, you should see Enemy – and from what I know about the plot of Arrival, it will have a lot of people talking.
Mike Ryan lives in New York City and has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and New York magazine. He is senior entertainment writer at Uproxx. You can contact him directly on Twitter.