Battle of the Sexes
The 1973 tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King was a carnival—the equal rights movement as prime-time game show, broadcast on ABC to an audience of 90 million. This makes it fine material for the offbeat comic filmmakers Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine), and publicity materials show how carefully they’ve replicated the famous match, with Emma Stone a ringer for King and Steve Carell a perfect choice to play Riggs the pig. But the real question is whether they can conjure up the casual chauvinism of the era without turning this into Anchorman 3.
Blade Runner 2049
According to the original Blade Runner (1982), Los Angeles should be heavily populated by human replicants by 2019. So I guess we’re right on schedule. Yet this long-awaited sequel takes place 30 years after the events of the first movie, as a new “blade runner” (Ryan Gosling), charged with tracking down runaway replicants, enlists the aging hero of the original (Harrison Ford) in a new adventure. Ridley Scott, director of the old Blade Runner, is busy with other things (his drama All the Money in the World opens in December), so 2049 has been entrusted to Canadian director Denis Villeneuve, who earned his sci-fi stripes with the disorienting Arrival.
Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House
Liam Neeson stars as Mark Felt, the FBI agent who leaked information on the Watergate scandal to the Washington Post, in this biopic from Tom Hanks’s Playtone production company. Playtone’s historical dramas include two credible HBO miniseries, John Adams and Band of Brothers, and writer-director Peter Landesman demonstrated a knack for slow-building paranoia with Kill the Messenger, his drama about the ill-fated investigative reporter Gary Webb. With Neeson in the lead, this will probably paint Felt as a noble guardian of democracy, but perhaps it will also explore his less savory days administrating the bureau’s notorious COINTELPRO program.
Revolution Every Day: Dziga Vertov in the 1930s
Sight & Sound recently ranked Vertov’s dreamlike Soviet documentary Man With a Movie Camera (1929) number eight on its list of the greatest films ever, but what about Vertov’s later work? This fall University of Chicago Film Studies Center presents a trio of Vertov’s “poetic documentaries” from the sound era, screening in archival prints with new subtitles. Three Songs About Lenin (1934), Lullaby (1937), and The Three Heroines (1938) all hewed to the Stalinist party line, though Vertov’s abiding sense of reverie left him out of step with the socialist realism of the era.
October 6 through November 10
The Florida Project
No one could stop talking about the fact that Sean Baker’s indie drama Tangerine (2015) was shot on iPhones, but what really gave his tale of transsexual sex workers its tart flavor was the ongoing sidewalk tour of West Hollywood. Baker’s follow-up, The Florida Project, features name actors (Willem Dafoe, Caleb Landry Jones), but again the terrain promises to play a prominent role: centered on a precocious six-year-old, the story unfolds in a budget motel on a highway near Disney World.
Chicago International Film Festival
The long-running festival turns a page with Mimi Plauché’s first edition as artistic director, and this year’s schedule offers some choice prospects: Blade of the Immortal, a samurai adventure from Japanese bad boy Takashi Miike (Audition); Faces Places, a documentary trip through the French countryside with the winsome Agnès Varda (Cleo From 5 to 7) and street photographer JR; and In the Fade, a drama about neo-Nazi violence in Hamburg by German-Turkish maverick Fatih Akin (The Edge of Heaven). Among the other highlights: an international film noir series and documentaries on architecture and design, showing in concert with the Chicago Architectural Biennial.
October 12 through 26
This indie drama about Catholic nuns in the wake of Vatican II was produced, written, directed, shot, edited, and primarily acted by women, but the real minority perspective comes from writer-director Margaret Betts, a woman of color whose family is close with George and Laura Bush. Betts’s work with UNICEF in Africa led her to the letters of Mother Teresa, which taught her that “nuns are deeply romantic and intensely emotional people” whose world offers “a unique and profound way to explore the subject of the way women love.” If that sounds too gauzy for you, how about Melissa Leo as a fuming Mother Superior?
The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Irish playwright Martin McDonagh made an auspicious filmmaking debut with In Bruges (2008), starring Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell as philosophical Irish hit men, then lost his footing with the violent crime comedy Seven Psychopaths (2012). His third feature sounds more like his first, with Frances McDormand as a woman whose daughter has been murdered; when the local police prove more interested in harassing the black populace than finding the killer, mom takes advantage of the title billboards to make her case against them.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
What is Greek madman Yorgos Lanthimos up to this time? His international breakthrough Dogtooth (2009) welcomed audiences into a family whose children are so cloistered they live in an alternate reality, and The Lobster (2015) took place in a dystopian society where singles are forced to find a mate or be turned into an animal of their choice. Details on this new freak-out are scarce, but Colin Farrell plays a surgeon enamored of a teenage boy; a trailer shows Lanthimos playing around with the icy white spaces of a modern hospital (and of Nicole Kidman, as the surgeon’s wife).
UCLA Festival of Preservation
Every few years, UCLA’s Film and Television Archive, one of the best film research facilities in the U.S., presents a touring festival of its newly preserved films, which lands here at the Gene Siskel Film Center. This year’s lineup offers some real treats: Ernst Lubitsch’s witty and elegant Trouble in Paradise (1932); Laurel and Hardy’s funniest feature, Sons of the Desert (1933); Howard Alk’s historic documentary The Murder of Fred Hampton (1971); Juleen Compton’s long-lost indie drama about a woman in search of herself, Stranded (1965); and John Reinhardt’s Open Secret (1948), a murder mystery that plays out against a small town’s anti-Semitism.
October 7 through November 1 v