At the first hint of briskness in the air, my mind goes to one place: the movie theater. In a state like Connecticut where autumn seems to consist primarily of interminable grey skies and a rapidly approaching sunset, nothing is more appealing than escaping the drizzle for a few hours in the cozy depths of a theater. But it’s easy to take for granted the most crucial element of this fantasy: movies.
Although I was briefly distracted by the delight that was “Bottoms,” as September dwindled away, I began to notice that many of the major film releases I had expected to come out this month were nowhere to be found. The pickings were slim — or at least much sparser than anticipated. The reason for this is no mystery. The Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) and the Writers Guild of America (WGA) have been striking for months to demand better pay, a new structure for residuals from streaming services and clearer guidelines for artificial intelligence use in the filmmaking process, amongst other things.
Just this past Sunday, the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, a negotiating body that represents many of the major studios, struck a deal that WGA negotiators said offers “meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of the membership.” With authorization from WGA leaders, the 148-day strike came to an end at 12:01 a.m. PDT on Wednesday, Sept. 27.
Even as the curtains close on the writers’ strike, the actors’ strike shows no signs of stopping; a date for negotiations has not been set. The strike not only halts production for films in progress but also prohibits actors from promoting their projects. Thus, many high-profile films are delaying their release dates in hopes that they will be able to capitalize on a full promotional cycle in the future.
What does this mean for average moviegoers? Many of this year’s most highly anticipated films are becoming next year’s most highly anticipated films. So, here’s to the would-be fall films that are remaining in the vault for the time being.
Earlier this month, “Poor Things” took home the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. The film is a second meeting for the director-writer-actor trio of Yorgos Lanthimos, Tony McNamara and Emma Stone since they took home Venice’s Grand Jury prize for “The Favourite” in 2018. The movie is an adaptation of Alasdair Gray’s 1992 novel of the same name, which draws heavily on “Frankenstein” for inspiration. The film’s release was originally scheduled for Sept. 8, 2023, just a week after its Venice premiere, but has since been pushed back to early December.
Thanks to the assigned viewing for my Greek cinema class, I have been on a bit of a Lanthimos kick recently, so I’m curious to see how this film, which Entertainment Weekly described as “Lanthimos’ most daring, inventive film to date” builds on his oeuvre. If anything, the promise of something more “daring” and “inventive” than Lanthimos’ previous works is a threat to any viewer who was already pushed to the breaking point of unease by a film like “Dogtooth.”
Even from the trailer, however, one gets the sense that this film is going to go in a more upbeat direction than Lanthimos’ others. Bright choral music plays as Stone’s character Bella Baxter is shocked to life, and the rest of the trailer flashes across the various pleasures and misadventures Baxter will face as she “comes to age” in the body of an already adult woman. Reviews of the film have been largely positive so far, with special praise given to Stone’s performance.
By the time this film comes out, I’ll have completed an entire semester of class on Weird Greek Wave Cinema, where Lanthimos got his start; perhaps I should view the delay as an opportunity to be better prepared to understand the film when it is finally released.
When the trailer for “Challengers” dropped at the end of June with an original release date of Sept. 15, 2023, I was thrilled. Zendaya, tennis, a career-ending injury and a love triangle all set to the soundtrack of Rihanna’s “S&M.” What a treat.
If “Bones and All” was any indication, Director Luca Guadagnino knows how to make passionately romantic films with a sinister twist. Even as the characters do shocking, cruel things, we are offered too intimate a portrait of the love they share to write them off as evil people. People in love do crazy things, Guadagnino tells us; maybe they don’t literally eat people, but they certainly do in metaphorical spirit.
This time around, rather than being cannibals, the crazy people in love have the outsized egos of professional athletes. What could go wrong? Surely not infidelity and romantic subterfuge. Although I am not typically a fan of sports movies, the glamorous, high-stakes world of professional tennis seems the perfect landing point for one of Guadagnino’s psychosexual thrillers.
Many of Guadagnino’s films let the setting serve as a character unto itself. He lets you feel the heat and color and texture of a place through the screen. “Challengers,” however, was shot on the streets and tennis courts of Boston rather than northern Italy or the open roads of Ohio, so I’m curious to see how cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, who has collaborated with Guadagnino before on “Call Me by Your Name” and “Suspiria,” will assimilate his and Guadagnino’s typically evocative visual language to an urban sports film.
Since pulling out of the Venice Film Festival, the movie’s release date has been pushed back to April 26, 2024. Maybe I’ll hold a screening of the trailer in the meantime.
Dune: Part 2
Oh, Zendaya, when will I see you on the silver screen again? Apparently not until the spring thaw. Much like “Challengers,” this film’s original October 2023 release date has been delayed to March 15, 2024.
Before “Dune: Part 1,” Zendaya was marketed heavily as a main character, only to have about three lines and a dozen close-ups of her face in the entire two-and-a-half-hour film. I’ve been told both by people who have read the books and the internet that the sequel will include a more extensive development of her character, Chani. The trailer for the film is peddling a similar story, but I’ve fallen prey to the Dune marketing team’s tactics before, and I won’t believe it until I see it.
Though I am not necessarily one for science fiction and the complex worldbuilding of a film like this one, I can certainly appreciate a good spectacle, and spectacle this film will surely provide. The film was shot entirely in IMAX, in comparison to just 40 percent of the first film. When I watched “Part 1,” I already felt like I was part of Dune’s world, and I’m eager for an even more immersive film-watching experience. My comprehension of the plot details will likely also hover around 40 percent, but I’m nonetheless excited to feel like I’m literally in the desert watching Timothée Chalamet ride a worm through the dunes.
I’m sad to be denied the symmetry of watching the second installment almost exactly two years after the first, but I’m such a sucker for the Timothée-Zendaya promotional content that I’m willing to hold out for it.
I’m looking forward to the day when we can all go to the movies knowing that the people who work on them are being adequately compensated for the effort and artistry they put into them. As the temperature drops in the meantime, I’ll be hunkered under the blankets in my apartment, watching trailers for delayed movies in the dark and pretending it’s as good as seeing the real thing.