Oscar season is back, even if an increasing number of Americans no longer care about the annual ceremony.
The awards gala deserves all the disdain coming its way, but the movie awards season shouldn’t be dismissed so easily. Some of our brightest filmmakers save their best wares for this time of year, and despite the industry’s woke makeover, the season still delivers some stirring work.
And, in between, a few popcorn blockbusters elbow themselves into the conversation.
Will this fall top last year’s mediocre lineup? Just how much will Identity Politics and other progressive lectures infiltrate the so-called best and brightest fare? The following films hold the key.
“Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul” (September 2, in theaters and Peacock)
Hollywood loves mocking Christianity in any way, shape, or form. It can come via genre fare (“The Purge” franchise) or Oscar-bait films like last year’s “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”).
This year’s entry stars Sterling K. Brown and Regina Hall as fallen televangelists trying to rebuild their spiritual kingdom. Does the film grant its broken characters some humanity? Will the screenplay discern solid Christian souls from those eager to swindle their brethren? We’ll see, but a strong theatrical debut could help its Oscar chances.
“God’s Country” (September 16)
This could be the season’s version of “The Hunt,” deliberately poking the “two Americas” bear, or just another progressive screed against Red State USA. Thandie Newton stars as a black professor who runs afoul of two white hunters.
Newton’s film proves subversive in the best sense of the word, acknowledging stereotypes before upending them. Unfortunately, the early reviews from its Sundance Film Festival run suggest a picture that plays down to our expectations. The film “punches up,” critics say, delivering a “bleep you” to the patriarchy.
“See How They Run” (September 16)
The “They Don’t Make ‘em Like This Anymore” crowd could be in for a treat. Oscar winner Sam Rockwell and future winner Saoirse Ronan (would anyone deny that prediction?) star as detectives in ‘50s era London solving a theatrical murder mystery. The comic romp features a great supporting troupe including David Oyelowo, Adrien Brody, and “The Affair’s” Ruth Wilson.
“Don’t Worry Darling” (September 23)
Olivia Wilde proved her directorial bona fides with 2019’s “Booksmart,” which was both absurdly woke and undeniably fun. This time ‘round, she’s playing in one of Hollywood’s favorite sandboxes, the 1950s, eager to show the decade’s glossy exterior didn’t match reality.
Harry Styles and Florence Pugh headline this psychological drama, which given the era must leave most of Wilde’s woke tics behind. Right?
“Blonde” (September 28, Netflix)
Let’s hope the hype doesn’t overshadow the movie. We’ve already read far too much about “Blonde,” from the casting of Cuban starlet Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe to the buzz about that NC-17 rating. The bigger question is obvious. What’s left to be said about the doomed superstar, one whose iconic beauty has powered countless tributes?
We’ve seen Marilyn Monroe depicted many times already, most recently in the sturdy 2011 drama “My Week with Marilyn,” that there’s seemingly little fresh ground to till. The same could have been said of “Elvis,” but Baz Luhrmann’s summer hit showed a fresh appetite for the rock icon.
“Bros” (September 30)
Comedy is on life support at the theatrical level, at least the bawdy, R-rated romps we once knew and loved. Director Nicholas Stoller of “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” fame tries to revive that genre with “Bros,” a gay rom-com starring far-left comic actor Billy Eichner.
Eichner falls for a muscular singleton (Luke MacFarlane) amidst a sea of LGTBQ+ trappings, according to the disappointing trailer. Dethroned comedy king Judd Apatow is on hand as a producer, but the cultural guardrails around humor in the modern era could keep “Bros” from reaching beyond its target audience.
“Amsterdam” (October 7)
Some of our most talented directors take their sweet time between projects. Think Quentin Tarantino, the late Stanley Kubrick and “Amsterdam” auteur David O. Russell of “American Hustle“ fame. He’s assembled a truly all-star cast (Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, Chris Rock Mike Myers, Robert De Niro, John David Washington and Michael Shannon) for an ensemble drama centered on soldiers caught up in a murder plot.
“Halloween Ends” (October 14 in theaters and Peacock)
Danny McBride and David Gordon Green delivered a mostly satisfying “Halloween” do-over in 2018, and then followed it up with “Halloween Kills,” the kind of brain-dead sequel that’s all too familiar to horror fans.
Here, the Michael Myers saga is supposed to wrap (as if the industry wouldn’t think of bringing The Shape back in some form). Jamie Lee Curtis makes what should be her swan song in the film, overseen by original “Halloween” director John Carpenter.
“Halloween Kills” showed way too much of Michael Myers. Can “Ends” bring back the sense of awe and mystery, or is that impossible in our short attention span times?
“Till” (October 14)
The suffering and death of Emmett Till are the stuff of American nightmares. The 14-year-old’s death at the hands of unabashed racists is made for a theatrical re-enactment, but the subject matter simultaneously demands the utmost restraint.
As is, the horror story needs no embellishment. Will the filmmakers turn Till’s tragedy into a referendum on race circa 2022? The focus here, and rightly so, is on the boy’s mother. She engaged the ‘50s era system seeking justice, and her journey could yield Oscar-worthy results. Danielle Deadwyler gets the plum assignment of bringing Mamie Till-Mobley to life.
“Black Adam” (October 21)
Dwayne Johnson has played so many super heroic figures it’s a shock he’s never gone the full Superman until now. “Black Adam” arrives with plenty of fanfare along with the sense that the culture is getting a little bored of grown-ups in tights. Can Johnson bring some vitality to the genre, or will “Black Adam” ding the DC comic’s uneven universe? Just know that Johnson’s caped figure isn’t one of the good guys. The “Black” in Black Adam refers to his soul, Johnson clarified to Vanity Fair.
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” (November 11)
How do you make a “Black Panther” sequel without the titular hero? Director Ryan Coogler stared that question down after the film’s celebrated star Chadwick Boseman died in 2020.
The story behind the sequel, co-written by Coogler, is mostly under wraps. Boseman’s fellow cast mates return, including Letitia Wright, Angela Bassett and Lupita Nyong’o. We’ll also meet Sub Mariner (Tenoch Huerta) and Ironheart (Dominique Thorne), the black female heroine tied to Tony Stark’s iron legacy (and headed for her own Disney+ series).
“She Said” (November 18)
Journalism films have taken on a new, depressing flavor in the modern era. Do we really want to celebrate such a corrupt profession that often slavishly follows the Democratic playbook?
“She Said” can’t fix that problem, but the story follows two journalists who did their jobs so well they helped bring down one of Hollywood’s true supervillains.
Based on the memoir “She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement,” the film tracks New York Times journalists Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) and Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) as they get the goods on producer Harvey Weinstein.
It’s only a movie, but let’s hope “She Said” at least touches on Hollywood’s culpability in Weinstein’s crimes (they knew) and how Hollywood reporters suspected his misconduct but didn’t pursue it.
“The Fabelmans” (November 23)
Steven Spielberg remains the most vital filmmaker of our era with a body of work that speaks for itself. His latest film finds him recalling his formative years, a time that convinced an Arizona lad to pick up a film camera and never let go.
The semi-autobiographical film co-stars Seth Rogen, Michelle Williams, and Judd Hirsch. Young Gabriel LaBelle gets the nod to play young Spielberg, here named Sammy Fabelman.
“Avatar: The Way of Water” (December 16)
It’s finally here. Director James Cameron follows up his 2009 smash with the first of four planned sequels. The first film doubled as an eco-lecture, and there’s little evidence Cameron’s eco-hypocrisy will stop him from wagging his finger at us anew.
Few filmmakers can get away with that brand of storytelling like Cameron, though. With classic films like “The Terminator,” “Aliens,” and “Titanic” under his Oscar-approved belt, can anyone dismiss an “Avatar” sequel out of hand?
Then again, the self-described “King of the World” is due for a mighty fall.
Christian Toto is an award-winning journalist, movie critic and editor of HollywoodInToto.com. He previously served as associate editor with Breitbart News’ Big Hollywood. Follow him at @HollywoodInToto.
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.