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Critics’ Picks: Cate Blanchett, Steven Spielberg Films Among the 15 Best of the Fall Festivals

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Venice, Toronto

Laura Poitras’ sublime Golden Lion-winning doc chronicles photographer Nan Goldin’s mission to hold the Sacklers responsible for the opioid crisis perpetrated by their company Purdue Pharma. It’s also a portrait of the artist, an intimate look at grassroots political action and a devastating story about family. — SHERRI LINDEN

Venice, Toronto

Martin McDonagh’s superb dark comedy about the abrupt breakup of lifelong friends (a never-better Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson) evolves steadily into an unexpectedly poignant account of a bond severed, though never erased. It’s the writer-director’s most deeply and distinctly Irish work for the screen to date, and also one of his best. — DAVID ROONEY

Venice, Telluride

Luca Guadagnino’s affecting account of first love between two cannibal drifters in 1980s Middle America is a delicate emo horror movie. Even when they’re feasting on flesh, the film depicts its protagonists (played with touching fragility by Taylor Russell and Timothée Chalamet) not as monsters but as outsiders hungry to connect. — DR

Casa Susanna

Venice, Toronto

Sébastien Lifshitz’s sharp, tender doc reveals the secret history of a support network created by cross-dressing men and trans women in the 1950s and ’60s. The focus is the Catskills guesthouse that was a refuge for these pathfinders. In their specificity and emotion, the recollections here are alive with a complexity that defies labels. — SL

Toronto

Steven Spielberg’s film is a vivid depiction of the auteur’s earliest flashes of directing talent and a portrait, full of love yet unclouded by nostalgia, of the family that made him. With heart-grabbing turns by Michelle Williams, Paul Dano and Gabriel LaBelle, it brims with compassion for both of his parents, who divorced when he was a teenager. — JOHN DEFORE

Toronto

Rian Johnson’s delightful sequel offers enjoyable action, delicious comeuppances and daring design. Yet it doesn’t suffer from “give ’em the same thing, but more of it” bloat. Its ensemble — Daniel Craig is joined by Kate Hudson, Kathryn Hahn, Janelle Monáe and others — is even better, its critique of the rich sharper. — JD

Toronto

A personal drama shimmering with pain, pride and hard-won elation, Elegance Bratton’s feature debut draws on his own story as a gay Marine to create one of the most stirring portraits of queer Black masculinity since Moonlight. It’s a stellar vehicle for theater actor Jeremy Pope in his first leading screen role. — DR

Telluride

Emma Corrin and Jack O’Connell steam up the screen as kindred spirits ignited by carnal passion in Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre’s sharp and sensuous adaptation of the DH Lawrence novel about an upper-class woman’s affair with a working-class man. It’s an interpretation that’s true to Lawrence’s idealization of sex and nature in invigorating ways. — SL

Venice, Toronto

Imprisoned and subject to a filmmaking ban in his country, Iranian auteur Jafar Panahi offers his most chilling clandestine metafiction yet. Deceptively simple, with increasingly complex layers, it’s a hushed powerhouse about the divide between modernity and tradition, the world of difference between Tehran and Iran’s rural backwaters. — DR

Venice, Toronto

Anchored by a superb Virginie Efira as a 40ish teacher whose bond with her boyfriend’s daughter awakens unexpected maternal yearnings, Rebecca Zlotowski’s film confirms her gift for investing formulas with freshness and charm, smarts and sexiness. It has the contours of conventional Parisian dramedy, but deepens into something tougher and wiser. — JON FROSCH

Venice, Toronto

A spellbinding drama about the isolation of motherhood, the grief of parenting and racial interpellation, Alice Diop’s narrative debut chronicles the trial of a Franco-Senegalese woman who committed infanticide. Based on a real case that riveted France, the film derives its power from its subtlety and observational naturalism. — LOVIA GYARKYE

Venice, Telluride

Cate Blanchett is astonishing as a composer-conductor whose reputation is shattered by revelations about her personal life in Todd Field’s rich, mesmerizing character study that doubles as a caustic dissection of power dynamics and cancel culture. It’s a forensically crafted, major work whose audacity, artistry and scalding authority are bound to start conversations. — DR

Telluride, Toronto

In one of his best docs yet, Werner Herzog turns his lens on the world of brain-computer interfaces, their therapeutic potential and chilling implications. Speaking with people working in neurotechnology (inventions that link the nervous system to electronic and other devices), he summons a wry, lyrical mix of awe and foreboding. — SL

Telluride, Toronto

Centering on female members of a Mennonite colony sorting out their response to sexual abuse by men in their sect, Sarah Polley’s film is a finely crafted vision of rage and hope. With an ace cast led by Rooney Mara, Claire Foy and Jessie Buckley, the smart, beautifully shot feature addresses existential questions facing any contemporary woman navigating patriarchal setups. — SL

Telluride, Toronto

Florence Pugh is monumental as an English nurse who travels to an Irish village in 1862 to care for a child who has stopped eating in Sebastián Lelio’s mesmerizing film, perhaps his best yet. Based on Emma Donoghue’s novel, it’s a haunting study of religious obsession and the oppression of women. — STEPHEN FARBER

This story first appeared in the Sept. 16 issue of The News84Media magazine. Click here to subscribe.



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