Summertime may be over, but anticipation is already heating up for 2020's Oscar contenders.
Film festival season has started in earnest with Venice, and the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF for short) is currently underway. TIFF is often used as a barometer of possible Academy Awards success, so we've rounded up eight movies screening this year that are potential contenders.
Just another comic book movie? Don't bet on it – Todd Phillips' ambitious super-villain origin story brought the house down at Venice, a sign that both the director and studio Warner Bros have grand plans for the movie.
The artistic director of Venice, Alberto Barbera, revealed to Variety that it was Philips who pushed for the movie's inclusion. Barbera says: "It’s a really surprising film. It’s the most surprising film we’ve got this year. This one’s going straight to the Oscars even though it’s gritty, dark, violent. It has amazing ambition and scope."
Joaquin Phoenix stars as Arthur Fleck, a mentally disturbed stand-up comic whose failed aspirations and constant abuse hasten his transformation into the 'Clown Prince of Crime'.
Joker is released on 4th October.
2. The Goldfinch
Donna Tartt's ambitious novel The Goldfinch won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2014, and its subsequent film adaptation comes freighted with expectation.
The story recounts the troubled life of Theo Decker, who loses his mother in a New York art gallery bombing and embarks on a tormented journey throughout adolescence and young adulthood. His mother's presence remains, however, in the form of the painting The Goldfinch, which Theo stole from the museum in the wake of the tragedy.
Directed by Brooklyn's John Crowley, written by Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy's Peter Straughan and lensed by Blade Runner 2049's Roger Deakins, there's no denying the movie has impeccable credentials. And it also has the kind of cast that will do justice to its multi-generational narrative of hope and despair: Ansel Elgort, Nicole Kidman, Finn Wolfhard, Jeffrey Wright and Sarah Paulson are among those starring.
The Goldfinch is released on 27th September.
3. Ad Astra
Brad Pitt heads into outer-space for this emotional sci-fi drama. He plays an astronaut whose love of the solar system was instilled by his father – now an absentee figure who disappeared into the cosmos on a mysterious mission. Ad Astra screened at Venice where Brad Pitt's performance as the recipient of widespread acclaim.
Tommy Lee Jones plays the long-lost parental figure, whose elusive experiments now appear to be threatening the future of mankind. Pitt's character Roy must then set off to to make peace and save the human race.
Ad Astra (Latin for 'to the stars') is directed by The Lost City of Z director James Gray, promising an atmospheric and somewhat cerebral take on the unknown that combines the personal and the intergalactic a la Christopher Nolan's Interstellar (it's shot by that film's cinematographer, Hoyte van Hoytema).
Ad Astra is released on 18th September.
4. Le Mans '66
Rev up those engines for the story of one of the greatest automotive clashes of all time. Logan director James Mangold tackles the Jason and Goliath struggle between automotive monoliths Ford and Ferrari, which reached its apex during the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France.
Mangold reunites with 3:10 to Yuma star Christian Bale, here playing British racing driver Ken Miles, who is co-opted by American Ford car giant Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) to help bring down Ferrari. The combination of the cast, director and story surely promises seat-gripping action when Le Mans '66 is released on 15th November.
- 5 sports rivalry movies to get you ready for Le Mans '66
- Joker: 7 films that have influenced Todd Phillips' gritty-sounding comic book movie
- The Goldfinch: who's who in the big screen adaptation of Donna Tartt's novel
5. Jojo Rabbit
Those who admired Taika Waititi's offbeat, candy-coloured work on Thor: Ragnarok are of course reminded that he charted a very specific course towards the Marvel blockbuster. The New Zealander got the gig off the back of wonderfully quirky gems like What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and before he returns to the MCU for Thor: Love and Thunder, he's delivering another indie oddity.
Adapted from Christine Leunens' novel Caging Skies, Jojo Rabbit is bound to cause controversy with its story of a young boy in the Hitler youth who imagines Adolf Hitler as his imaginary friend. The first trailer looks suitably bonkers, and the cast is impressive: Waititi is the petulant, babyish Hitler with support from Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Stephen Merchant and Rebel Wilson.
Jojo Rabbit is released on 3rd January 2020.
6. The Lighthouse
Back in 2016, director Robert Eggers electrified the film-making community with his feature debut The Witch. This elegantly creepy story of a 17th century Puritan family beset by both the supernatural and their own religious mania was acclaimed as one of the finest horror movies in years. And his latest promises a similarly intense experience.
The Lighthouse casts Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson as two lighthouse keepers who slowly come apart at the seams while manning their remote station. Those who've seen it say the film mines a great deal of dramatic tension from the contrasting age of the leads – Dafoe grizzled and salty, Pattinson younger and volatile – and the gorgeous-looking black and white cinematography owes a debt to a bygone age of horror cinema. (The movie is shot in the now little-used square aspect ratio of 1.19:1, one favoured by the German Expressionist horror movement of the 1920s.)
The Lighthouse is released in the UK on 17th January 2020.
7. Knives Out
Following 2017's divisive Star Wars: The Last Jedi, director Rian Johnson hops over to a completely different genre entirely. Knives Out both embraces and satirises the conventions of the classic whodunnit murder mystery, assembling an excellent cast in the process.
Paying tribute to genre masters such as Agatha Christie, the movie is a classic head-scrambler, as two detectives arrive at a remote country house to investigate the apparently impossible death of a wealthy crime novelist. Daniel Craig and Lakeith Stanfield are the gumshoes, Christopher Plummer is the deceased, and the suspects are played by a veritable who's who. These include Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Toni Collette and Don Johnson – so who's the killer?
Knives Out is released on 29th November.
8. A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood
In a perfect example of synergy between actor and character, Tom Hanks portrays beloved American TV host Fred Rogers. Through the popularity of his programme 'Mister Rogers' Neighbourhood', the kindly TV presenter became the USA's surrogate father, informing entire generations about the power of imagination and instilling a sense of kindness and decency.
Who better to depict the late Rogers than Hanks himself? The Oscar-winning actor has carved out a reputation for such things through the likes of Forrest Gump, Saving Private Ryan and Captain Phillips, and it appears this was the role he was born to play.
The movie explores the behind the scenes making of Rogers' era-defining show, as he's profiled by journalist Lloyd Vogel (played by Matthew Rhys). It's directed by Marielle Heller who earlier this year landed a significant critical hit with Oscar-nominated Melissa McCarthy drama Can You Ever Forgive Me?
A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood is released on 6th December.
Which of these TIFF-competing movies do you think stands a chance at next year's Oscars? Let us know @Cineworld.