As we enter the throes of awards season more and more films are starting to make their qualifying runs in what is expected to be a very different kind of season. For starters, Searchlight Pictures is set to release Chloe Zhao’s buzzy pic of existential wanderlust Nomadland starring Frances McDormand for its virtual qualifying run starting today before expanding in 2021.
The film, which is set to run virtually at the Film Lincoln Center through December 11, follows Fern (McDormand, who also produces) in the midst of the economic collapse of a company town in rural Nevada. We take a journey alongside Fern as she packs her van and sets off on the road exploring a life outside of conventional society as a modern-day nomad. This marks the third feature for Zhao and features real nomads Linda May, Swankie and Bob Wells as Fern’s mentors and comrades in her exploration through the vast landscape of the American West.
Nomadland debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival and played at Venice and New York film as well as its 64th edition of the BFI London Film Festival. It has already received acclaim for Zhao’s “golden hour” direction and McDormand’s captivating performance.
In Todd McCarthy’s review of Nomadland for Deadline, he wrote, “It’s an observant, simple, contemplative work, one uninterested in manufacturing melodrama or hyped-up incident, but rewarding for its illumination of Americans who represent societal afterthoughts, mostly older working people left behind in backwaters and on the sidelines with no prospects at all.”
Watch the teaser trailer below.
Denmark’s official entry to the 2021 International Oscar race Another Round from Thomas Vinterberg is set to make its debut this weekend.
Another Round, which was originally titled Druk, centers on a group of weary high school teachers who embark on an experiment to maintain a constant level of intoxication throughout the workday — if Churchill won World War II in a heavy daze of alcohol, who knows what a few drops might do for them and their students? The initial results are positive and the project becomes a genuine academic study. However, while some of the participants see improvement, others go off the rails and it’s increasingly clear that some bold acts carry consequences.
The film stars Mads Mikkelsen and made its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September before hitting the festival circuit. It garnered critical praise, nabbing the Virtual Audience Award for Best Film at the BFI London Film Festival and was an official selection for Cannes’ 2020 edition. At San Sebastian, it won the Silver Shell for Best Actor.
This marks a reunion between Vinterberg with Mikkelsen, who previously worked together on the 2012 film The Hunt.
Watch the trailer below.
Awards season wouldn’t be awards season without a movie about Hollywood. How meta, right? Enter David Fincher’s Mank starring Oscar-winner Gary Oldman. Netflix has released Mank in select theaters and drops on Netflix today.
The film is set in 1930s Hollywood as we follow scathing social critic and alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (Oldman) as he races to finish the screenplay of Citizen Kane for Orson Welles.
The black-and-white drama is filled with actors stepping into the shoes of recognizable Hollywood figures from the era including Lily Collins as Rita Alexander, Amanda Seyfried as Marion Davies, Tuppence Middleton as Sara Mankiewicz, Tom Pelphrey as Joseph Mankiewicz, Sam Troughton as John Houseman, Ferdinand Kingsley as Irving Thalberg and Toby Leonard Moore as David O Selznick.
Deadline’s Pete Hammond called Mank a “brilliant Citizen Kane origin film” and added in his review, “I can tell you one group that is going to stand up and cheer for this film: The Writers Guild. This project is very much a tribute to screenwriters, the often forgotten artists in the making of a film.”
Watch the trailer below.
Focus Features will release Luke Greenfield’s Half Brothers today which follows Renato (Luis Gerardo Méndez), a successful Mexican aviation executive, who is shocked to discover he has an American half-brother he never knew about by the name of Asher (Connor Del Rio), a free-spirited guy. The two very different half-brothers are forced on a road journey together masterminded by their ailing father, tracing the path their father took as an immigrant from Mexico to the US.
“It may be predictable, but amidst the broad attempts at hit-and-miss humor, as well as the slapstick moments, the pair grows on you, and the frenetic but lively direction by Luke Greenfield (Let’s Be Cops) help make this film a heart-warmer,” said Hammond in his review.
We can all use a little bit of holiday cheer during a year like 2020. Enter the IFC Films documentary Dear Santa, which opens in 38 theaters today. The Dana Nachman-directed feature docu spotlights the 100-year-old “Operation Santa” Program of the United States Postal Service.
For those who don’t know, each year, hundreds of thousands of letters to Santa arrive at Post Offices around the country. Through “Operation Santa”, the USPS makes it possible for the public to safely adopt these letters and make children’s dreams come true. The film takes us on a magical journey with this endeavor.
Dear Santa focuses on select “Operation Santa” Centers all over the country. From metropolitan areas like the massive operation in New York City to others in small towns where the Post Office is the heart of the community, the film highlights letters where a child is asking for something poignant, something that goes beyond the common wish for a toy. We even get to hear from Santa as he explains how he enlists kind-hearted strangers across the country for these special requests while he concentrates on toy making and his demanding delivery schedule. This docu captures the warmth and spirit of Christmastime through the lens of this great American tradition, provoking audiences throughout the world to ask themselves how they can make the world a better place, one gesture at a time.
MTV Documentary also drops the COVID-19 docu 76 Days in over 50 virtual cinemas nationwide including Film Forum in NY and Laemmle Theaters in L.A starting today.
Directed by Hao Wu (People’s Republic of Desire) and two China-based journalists, Weixi Chen and “Anonymous,” 76 Days is an ultra-timely docu that gives a raw and emotional look at the struggles of the people of Wuhan, China, in the earliest days of the coronavirus outbreak.
76 Days made its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival before going on its festival run which included AFI Fest and DOC NYC.
Also opening this weekend is James Erskine’s Billie, which chronicles the life of the titular music legend Billie Holiday.
Holiday is easily one of the greatest voices of all time, was an international star, but did not shy away from stirring controversy. She started a notable rebellion singing “Strange Fruit” which exposed the realities of Black life in America and earned her enemies. Billie is filled with incredible, unheard testimonies from musical greats like Charles Mingus, Tony Bennett, Sylvia Syms and Count Basie.
In the late ’60s, journalist Linda Lipnack Kuehl set out to write the definitive biography of Billie. Over the next decade, she tracked down and tape-recorded interviews with the extraordinary characters that populated the singer’s life. The testimonies are not only told by some of the musical greats but also school friends, lovers, lawyers, pimps and even the FBI agents who arrested her. These tapes were not available for public consumption until Billie. The music docu serves unprecedented and exclusive access to Kuehl’s 200 hours of never-before-heard interviews.
Written by Justin Moretto, Eric Schultz, and Thomas Torrey, and directed by Eric Schultz, Minor Premise follows Ethan (Sathya Sridharan) a reclusive neuroscientist who becomes entangled in his own risky experiment after he is pressured to surpass his own father’s legacy. He has now locked himself in his home with his ex-girlfriend Allie (Paton Ashbrook) and the two navigate trauma, ambition, and missteps of the past. Diving headfirst into the uncharted equations of the brain, they realize that there is more at stake than just their relationship or Ethan’s reputation. With time quickly running out, he is forced to face off against the darker sides of himself while frantically attempting to solve an enigma that lies within his subconscious. The film also stars Paton Ashbrook, and Dana Ashbrook. It opens in theaters, virtual cinemas and digital & on-demand today.
Lawrence Michael Levine’s Sundance pic Black Bear starring Aubrey Plaza, Christopher Abbott and Sarah Gadon will make its debut this weekend in theaters and on VOD. Set in a lake house, a filmmaker plays a calculated game of desire and jealousy in the pursuit of a work of art that blurs the boundaries between autobiography and invention.
Samuel Goldwyn’s Sundance romantic drama Luxor from Zeina Durra is set to make its digital debut today. Starring Andrea Riseborough, Karim Saleh and Michael Landes, the film follows a British aid worker who returns to the ancient city of Luxor only to run into Sultan, a talented archaeologist and former lover. As she wanders, haunted by the familiar place, she struggles to reconcile the choices of the past with the uncertainty of the present.
Also opening this weekend on digital and on demand is the April Mullen-directed thriller Wander starring Aaron Eckhart, Katheryn Winnick, Heather Graham and Tommy Lee Jones as well as Braden R. Duemmler’s sci-fi thriller What Lies Below starring Ema Horvath, Trey Tucker and Mena Suvari.