The Mill Valley Film Festival always showcases many of the most promising prestige films that are scheduled for release during Award Season. It’s the best opportunity for Bay Area film goers to catch an early look at the Big Movies.
This year’s fest opens on October 6 with BOTH Arrival and La La Land and closes on October 16 with Loving – three of the biggest prestige movies and early favorites for Best Picture at the 2017 Academy Awards.
- Arrival stars Amy Adams as a linguist dispatched to communicate with alien lifeforms Directed by Denis Villaneuve (Incendies – my top movie of 2011, Prisoners, Sicario).
- La La Land is a big studio musical a la Singing in the Rain with Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling.
- Loving tells the story of the Virginia couple whose 1967 US Supreme Court case overturned state laws banning inter-racial marriage. Stars Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga. Directed by Jeff Nichols (Shotgun Stories, Take Shelter, Mud, all three of which made my Best of the Year lists).
- Besides Arrival, La La Land and Loving, buzz is trending for another MVFF offering – Lion – with Dev Patel starring as an Australian adoptee returning to India to search for his biological parents.
- And the big family hit of the Holiday season may turn out to be, of all things a documentary about a Mongolian girl – The Eagle Huntress; reportedly it’s both a crowd pleaser and spectacular eye candy.
One MUST SEE at the fest is Toni Erdmann, from writer-director Maren Ade. You might not expect an almost three-hour German comedy to break through, but I’ve seen it, and I think that it’s a lock to win the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Picture. Ade gives us a woman’s perspective of a father-daughter relationship, creating a totally original and unforgettable father character that takes prankstering into performance art. This is a movie with the funniest nude brunch you’ll ever witness, and it will still leave you choked up at the end. Toni Erdmann leads a roster rich with future art house hits from some of the world’s leading filmmakers:
- The Handmaiden from Chan-wook Park of Oldboy.
- Julieta, Pedro Almodovar’s latest.
- Aquarius, starring Sonia Braga, still luminous 40 years after Donna Flor and Her Two Husbands.
- The Salesman from Asghar Farhadi of A Separation.
- Certain Women from Kelly Reichardt of Wendy and Lucy, starring Michelle Williams, Kristen Stewart and Laura Dern.
- Paterson from Jim Jarmusch with Adam Driver; Jarmusch’s Iggy Pop doc Gimme Shelter also screens at MVFF.
- Frantz from François Ozon (Swimming Pool, Potiche).
- Elle from Paul Verhoeven with Isabelle Huppert in, what else?, a psychological thriller with disturbing sex.
Celebrity appearances, for those of you who like that sort of thing, will include Nicole Kidman, Amy Adams, Ewan McGregor, Emma Stone, Gael García Bernal, Edward James Olmos, Joel Edgerton, Annette Bening and Aaron Eckhardt. For those of you seeking a chance to hear great filmmakers discuss their work in the flesh, you’ll get your chance with Jeff Nichols, Kelly Reichardt and Asghar Farhadi.