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Films To Watch Out For This Winter

Not many people like this time of year when the temperature begins to drop and the central heating bill sky-rockets, but for film nerds, we love it. Why? Because it means we’re heading into Oscar season, where the film industry’s most creative and innovative minds release their films hoping for recognition from the Academy. This year looks packed with so many potentially great movies that some have had to be pushed back into the January/February period. There are so many to get excited for, sometimes it’s hard to keep track. But today’s your lucky day (maybe) – I’m kind (hopefully) and I’ll guide you through the films you should be watching out for this winter (probably.)

Room – Director: Lenny Abrahamson

Based on the 2010 novel by Emma Donoghue – which was long listed for the 2011 Orange Prize, won the 2011 Commonwealth Writer’s Prize and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize (yeah, it’s a good book) – Room is about a mother and son who escape from captivity from where they have been held for nearly a decade. They must adjust to the real world outside which is vastly different from the one they imagined.

Critics have already been won over by the adaptation which was screened at the Toronto Film Festival a couple of months ago. Critics praised it because Abrahamson, director of kind-of-cult-classic, Frank, has turned Donoghue’s script into a relentlessly compelling adaptation and a tense and surprisingly credible tale.

A lot of the praise has been reserved for the two leads, Jacob Tremblas and Brie Larson, who both give break-out performances and have already earned a bit of Oscar buzz.

Seeing that the Academy likes to nominate films that have a powerful and emotional roller coaster of a story,  I wouldn’t bet against Room earning the most Oscar nominations on this list and, yes, that is a big call considering a David O. Russell film is on this list.

Room is set to be this year’s tear jerker and has already opened on November 6th.

Joy – Director: David O. Russell

We know David O. Russell’s films divide opinion. His films don’t please mass audiences as they often lack a plot; but what makes his films so unique and actually downright entertaining to watch, is the fact that they are all character studies with a beautiful mix of comedy and drama. And Joy is going to continue that trend, but this time the character study is going to reach further than any other character study has ever gone before!

First of all let’s get to grips with the ‘plot.’ Joy is about the lady who invented the miracle mop; it follows her through her journey from rags to riches in a world full of betrayal and treachery.

It’s not your typical rise to power kind of story; Russell has devised a way to turn this familiar trope in its head. According to the film’s star, Jennifer Lawrence, the film goes beyond the rags to riches and shows what happens after her character reaches the ‘top.’ It will show the struggle that comes after success, and the sacrifices that come with it.

It’s refreshing to get a more down to Earth character study, rarely in real life once a person experiences success is it ‘happy ever after’ –  there are always struggles.

Plus, if the story innovation isn’t enough, it’s always a delight to listen to the rhythms of the way the dialogue exchanges between his characters. His films are often like plays for the big screen, and I’ll quite happily give money to the nutcase that is David O. Russell just for that.

Joy opens on Christmas Day.

The Hateful Eight – Director: Quentin Tarantino

I’m sure just seeing the man’s name will be enough to get butts on seats. But if you’re a cinema snob like me and know this is shot on 70 mm, using ultra Panavision 70, then it just adds to the excitement.

The plot follows eight strangers who, because of a blizzard, are isolated in a stagecoach passover. And it’s safe to say betrayal and deception ensue.

The eight strangers are played by Samuel L. Jackson, Channing Tatum, Kurt Russell, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Walton Goggins, Demian Bichir, Bruce Dern and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Oh, that’s more than eight; ah well I’m sure someone will get clipped to make it eight anyway.

Reservoir Dogs’ claustrophobia and Mexican standoffs are almost guaranteed. The Hateful Eight is going to be like a tense stage play and it’s often a perfect tool to highlight Tarantino’s deftness at creating witty dialogue and great conflict.

It’s a nicely balanced cast too. There’s no standout star who you could say is going to survive until the end, it’s going to be a fight to the finish for these passersby, and a good one at that, may even be a great one judging by the reaction the scripts that were leaked last year.

The Hateful Eight opens on January 8th.

Hail, Caesar! – Director: The Coen Brothers

I have a blind faith in the Coen brothers: every film they release I will kiss its toes, but I’ll put aside my worshipping and give an honest assessment as to whether you should see their upcoming comedy/musical/drama set in 1950s’ Hollywood … Yeah, you should.

Why? Because while the Coens at first glance seem to be going in the direction of more of their wackier comedies like The Ladykillers or Intolerable Cruelty, actually, Hail, Caesar! is going to be a lot different from anything we’ve seen before from the Coens.

Hail, Caesar! follows a Hollywood fixer, Eddie Mannix, through studio backlots as he tries to keep the stars of Hollywood in line. It’s going have movies within movies as Mannix travels from one problem to the next. Each film set he visits will have a different tone to it, and different music composed, giving each encounter a very different feel. And while this will be a more knockabout Coens’ film, composer Carter Burwell told THR recently “the movie we’re making is actually not comical, it is actually quite the opposite.”

Hail, Caesar! is reportedly going to explore the paranoia movie stars were feeling at the time due to the Hollywood Blacklist, which would fit the identity of how the Coens like to tell their stories. There’s always a darker under pinning in their plots. For example, take Barton Fink, at first glance it’s a comedy about a struggling screenwriter, but the film’s eerie hotel and over-the-top cheery John Goodman slowly reveals the film to be more of a psychological horror than comedy. So hopefully Hail, Caesar! will strike that balance between belly laughs and edge of seat intensity. If you’re going to have a varied story, then you’re going to need a varied cast and it looks like the Coens have got that base covered too.

The cast includes, Josh Brolin, who plays Eddie Mannix, Channing Tatum, Scarlett Johansson, George Clooney, Ralph Fiennes, Dolph Lundgren, Jonah Hill, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand and David Krumholtz.

Hail Caesar opens February 5th.

The Witch – Director, Robert Eggers

The Witch is Eggers’ debut feature. And it’s out and out horror that centers on a Puritan family who encounter forces of evil in the woods beyond their New England farm. The cast is mainly British, but it features some of the most underrated British actors like Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie and Anya Taylor-Joy.

The film won the dramatic award at the Sundance Film Festival because it’s bloody scary. Yes, that’s right, a film that’s not comprised of jump ‘scares’ and ‘scary’ toddlers. The film has been praised for compiling a sense of dread and tension by not showing exactly what the family are scared rather the mental break down the characters suffer from the fear of not knowing what it is. Many critics have commended The Witch as being a terrifying look at the dissonance of human nature.

Drew McWeeney from Hitfix said, “Eggers manages to create a sense of mood and dread that is so suffocating at times that it feels like we’re watching something genuinely transgressive, something we should not be seeing.”

The Witch opens on February 26th.

Knight of Cups – Director: Terrence Malik

Malik doesn’t sit well with some, because he’s too artsy, too philosophical about his storytelling techniques, but there’s no doubt Terrence Malik can create films that can move you if you let them wash over you like a slowly rolling tide. Malik makes you feel rather than understand sometimes, and there is a place for abstract cinema, and it looks as though Knight of Cups is going to fill it. In fact, Knight of Cups could be one of the most experimental pieces of cinema ever, which is why I recommend keeping tabs on this one.

Knight of Cups does not have a script. Malik just gave a simple premise to his actors – which include Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Jason Clarke and Imogen Poots – telling them that the film centers on Bale’s characters who’s a screenwriter in L.A desperately trying to make sense of the strange events occurring around him. That’s it, nothing else.

From then on every scene was improvised, allowing the actors to explore themes they wanted. And what it has resulted in, as Patrick Gamble from CineVue put it: the film can lead the viewer to experience a “profound and deeply personal connection to the film.”

Malik very much wants you to draw an interpretation rather than for everyone to come out of the theatre with the same understanding, which is what all great art should achieve. I know it won’t be for everyone, but I have a feeling Knight of Cups may just be the cult hit of the winter.

Knight of Cups opens March 4th.

Let me know below which films you’re excited for this winter, as long as it’s not Michael Bay’s, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.