Fall Film Forum: Anticipated Autumn Movies

by Brian Bromberger

Bay Area Reporter

Saturday September 4, 2021
Originally published on September 1, 2021

Steven Spielberg's 'West Side Story'
Steven Spielberg's 'West Side Story'   

In early June, when California lifted many COVID restrictions, things began to look up for movie theaters, which reopened after being shuttered for 16 months. People gradually returned to multiplexes and with movies like "F9" and "A Quiet Place Part II," box office was starting to rebound, though a long way from reaching pre-pandemic levels.

Then the Delta variant struck, and with breakthrough infections occurring among the vaccinated, a reemergence of pre-pandemic freedoms was put on hold with indoor mask mandates reinstated. What impact such curtailments will have on the film-going public remains to be seen.

However, studios this fall are releasing movies that were supposed to open last year in the hope audiences will be tempted to see these anticipated features in-person despite any health risks. Will people be willing to sit for two hours wearing masks? Will it be financially worthwhile for theaters to show movies when social distancing limits seating?

Idina Menzel, Camila Cabello and Billy Porter in 'Cinderella'
Idina Menzel, Camila Cabello and Billy Porter in 'Cinderella'  

AMC is reopening, having upgraded their air filters, and will operate at 40% capacity. The chain will disinfect theaters in-between show times, and will ensure a six-foot distance between groups.

However, allowing viewers to remove masks while eating and drinking increases the possibility of viral transmission. Also, not knowing what surfaces people have touched, or their travel history, brings up many uncontrollable variables, not to mention the chance of sitting near unvaccinated attendees.

Will audiences — now used to streaming pictures at home — decide it isn't worth the cost and possible exposure to watch on the big screen, especially since the time between a film playing in a theater and then sent to a streaming platform or put on Blu-ray/DVD has been considerably shortened?

The latter especially impacts LGBTQ-related movies, which are mostly independent or foreign, and, if they play in theaters at all, do so for a very limited period. Some studios are co-releasing films simultaneously in theaters and on streaming services, raising the question of how such a policy affects box office revenue. Theaters are in precarious positions, and the next few months will probably determine whether streaming will now become the permanent dominant viable option for watching movies.

Still, there's no shortage of quality, attention-grabbing movies catering to queer tastes coming this fall. Films release dates are for theaters, unless otherwise noted.



September

"Cinderella" (Sept. 3/Amazon Prime): Music sensation Camila Cabello stars, with support from Idina Menzel, Pierce Brosnan, James Corden, and Billy Porter ("Pose") as the Fairy Godmother, in this British/American musical of the beloved fairy tale, featuring original songs and pop classics (e.g. Eurthymics' "Sweet Dreams").

"Worth" (Sept. 3/Netflix): Michael Keaton plays lawyer Kenneth Feinberg in this biopic, as he struggles with bureaucracy and politics to provide financial compensation for the victims/families of 9/11, with help from Amy Ryan and Stanley Tucci, just in time for the 20th anniversary of the colossal tragedy.

Andrew Garfield and Jessica Chastain in 'Eyes of Tammy Faye'
Andrew Garfield and Jessica Chastain in 'Eyes of Tammy Faye'  

"Blood Brothers" (Sept. 9/Netflix): Documentary on the friendship between Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X, including their eventual falling out, fictionalized in last year's "One Night in Miami."

"Language Lessons" (Sept. 10): Mark Duplass wrote and stars as gay Adam, who, after a life crisis, begins taking Spanish lessons online from a straight Costa Rican woman, and they bond. It played at Frameline this year.

"Capote Tapes" (Sept. 10): This documentary exploring celebrated gay author Truman Capote uses narration from uncovered tapes of interviews that George Plimpton, co-founder of The Paris Review, conducted with Capote's friends and colleagues after his 1984 death.

"Everybody's Talking About Jamie" (Sept. 17/Amazon Prime): The adventures of an aspiring adolescent drag queen (Mark Harwood), tutored by Richard E. Grant ("Can You Ever Forgive Me?") as a veteran drag performer. This film played at Frameline in June.

"Eyes of Tammy Faye" (Sept. 17): Andrew Garfield becomes televangelist Jim Bakker while Jessica Chastain channels his wife Tammy, detailing the couples' rise and fall in the 1970s and 1980s, leading to their infamous 1987 sex/financial scandal.

"My Name is Pauli Murray" (Sept. 17/Theater; October 1/Amazon Prime): Documentary on the nonbinary Black lawyer, poet, activist, and Episcopal priest way ahead of her time on civil rights, who influenced Thurgood Marshall and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Featured at last month's SF Jewish Film Festival.

"Dear Evan Hansen" (Sept. 24): The hit Broadway musical made a star of Tony Award-winning Ben Platt, who reprises the title character high school student in this big screen adaptation. Evan Hansen suffers from social anxiety, and begins self-discovery and healing following a classmate's suicide. The trailer has suggested to some that Platt at 27 is too old for the role. Julianne Moore plays Platt's mother, while Amy Adams acts the classmate's mother.



October

"The Addams Family 2" (Oct. 1): The sequel to 2019's animated "The Addams Family," with Oscar Isaac as Gomez, Charlize Theron as Morticia, and Bette Midler as Grandmama, based on the campy 1960s television comedy.

"Many Saints of Newark" (Oct. 1/HBO Max): The film prequel to the landmark HBO series "The Sopranos," with the late James Gandolfini's son Michael playing the young Tony Soprano. The film reveals how Tony became the mobster later played by Michael Gandolfini's father.

Timothee Chalamet in 'Dune'
Timothee Chalamet in 'Dune'  

"Diana: The Musical" (Oct. 1/Netflix): This is a live recording of the 2019 stage musical on the life of the late Princess of Wales, mother of Princes William and Harry, two months ahead of its Broadway debut.

"No Time to Die" (Oct. 8): Daniel Craig returns in his final turn as James Bond 007, as he searches for a missing scientist. Oscar winner Rami Malek ("Bohemian Rhapsody") is cast as villain terrorist Lyutsifer Safin, and gay actor Ben Whishaw appears again as MI6's Quartermaster, Q.



"Halloween Kills" (Oct. 15): A sequel to the rebooted 2018 "Halloween," which followed directly from the 1978 John Carpenter horror classic. Jamie Lee Curtis repeats her role as Laurie Strode, this time leading a vigilante mob against the impossible-to-kill monster Michael Myers.

"Last Duel" (Oct. 15): A historical drama in 14th-century France, directed by Ridley Scott, about a woman raped by her husband's best friend, who is challenged by him to the last legally sanctioned duel in French history. Featuring an all-star cast: Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Adam Driver, and Jodie Comer.

"Julia" (Oct. 15): A documentary on the life of pioneering PBS TV chef Julia Child.

"Dune" (Oct. 22/HBO Max): The latest version, directed by Denis Villeneuve, supposedly follows closely the epic sci-fi Frank Herbert masterwork. The film features Timothee Chalamet as Paul Atreides and tells the story of the fate of the desert planet Arrakis, in an attempt to erase the memory of David Lynch's maligned 1984 film.

"French Dispatch" (Oct. 22): This film follows the travails in an outpost of an American newspaper set in a fictionalized 20th-century French city, and brings to life a collection of stories printed in "The French Dispatch," showcasing an all-star cast including Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Timothee Chalamet, Saoirse Ronan, and Francis McDormand. Directed by Wes Anderson.



November

"Eternals" (Nov. 5): Oscar-winning director Chloe Zhao's ("Nomadland") latest film is about the Eternals, a race of immortal beings with superhuman powers who for thousands of years have secretly lived on Earth. The Eternals reunite to battle the evil Deviants. The film features the MCU's first openly gay superhero, Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry), and also stars Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek.

"Ghostbusters: Afterlife" (Nov. 11): A supernatural comedy directed by Jason Reitman, and a sequel to the 1984 classic, starring the original Ghostbusters team (Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, Sigourney Weaver) about a haunted Oklahoma farmhouse and a new generation of paranormal hunters (Paul Rudd, Finn Wolfhard, McKenna Grace).

Adam Driver and Lady Gaga in 'House of Gucci'
Adam Driver and Lady Gaga in 'House of Gucci'  

"Belfast" (Nov. 12): A semi-autobiographical film, written and directed by Kenneth Branagh, about a working-class family during the tumult of the late 1960s in the Northern Ireland capitol, including Dame Judi Dench as Granny.

"House of Gucci" (Nov. 24/Paramount+): The turbulent marriage and divorce of the famed fashion designer (Adam Driver) and his ex-wife Patrizia (Lady Gaga), who later helped engineer his assassination. Al Pacino and Jeremy Irons also appear. Directed by Ridley Scott.

"Soggy Bottom" (Nov. 26): Interesting if for nothing but the title. This drama, written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, follows a high school student becoming an actor in the 1970s. Starring Bradley Cooper.



December

"Benedetta" (Dec. 3): A French/Dutch biographical drama, co-written and directed by Paul Verhoeven, concerning a novice nun in a 17th Italian convent who has a lesbian love affair with another nun.

"West Side Story" (Dec. 10): Probably the most anticipated film of the year: A remake of the 1961 classic musical about two teenagers from rival street gangs falling in love in 1950s New York City. A modern interpretation loosely based on Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," the film is directed by Steven Spielberg. The story reportedly is more similar to the 1957 stage musical than the 1961 film. Rita Moreno, who won an Oscar as Anita, has a small role as Valentina, and is also an executive producer.

"Spider-Man: No Way Home" (Dec. 17): The latest film about the Marvel Comics superhero, with Peter Parker (Tom Holland) seeking the help of neurosurgeon Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberland) to help make his identity as Spider-Man a secret again. Zendaya plays his girlfriend, MJ.

Tom Holland in 'Spider-Man: No Way Home'
Tom Holland in 'Spider-Man: No Way Home'  

"The Matrix 4: Resurrections" (Dec. 22/HBO Max): The fourth installment in the sci-fi thriller franchise, directed by Lana Wachowski. Keanu Reeves replicates his role as Neo. The plot is unknown, but gay actors Neil Patrick Harris and Jonathan Groff are part of the cast.

"Cyrano" (Dec. 24): American-British musical drama, directed by Joe Wright ("Atonement"), based on the 2018 stage musical, itself indebted to the 1897 Edmond Rostand French play "Cyrano de Bergerac," starring Peter Dinklage ("Game of Thrones"), under the guise of another man, trying to woo Haley Bennett as Roxanne, his secret love interest.




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