The Fabelmans (November 11)
Past generations of film aficionados fixated on the “autumnal picture”: what does a filmmaker, within the studio system, or outside it, who’s fortunate enough to have a lengthy career, make toward the end of their life? With the same budgets or with reduced means? The late miniatures of Agnès Varda, like “The Gleaners & I” and “The Beaches Of Agnès” are an example; more often, the work is loopier, like Francis Coppola’s “Tetro” and “Twixt.” Will the work be wise or will it be weird? Surely it can be both! Steven Spielberg takes a turn at the age of seventy-five at drawing a portrait of his youth, from a screenplay by himself and his customary serious-subject dramatist Tony Kushner. Spielberg isn’t lacking for means: let’s see what insight’s come from sixty years distance and the collaboration of his friend Kushner, one of America’s greatest living dramatists.
Avatar: The Way Of Water (December 16)
Since the pandemic began, the question with every mega-budgeted studio movie that sees the light of screens has been, “Is this the last blockbuster? Is this the last blockbuster?” Particularly in an era where the likes of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Paramount—for the moment—cast anything under $100 million onto the waters of streaming. For the moment, “Top Gun: Maverick,” the reigning summer savior of the box office holds that title, with its first billion-dollar-plus gross for the perennial Tom Cruise (a cool $1.4 billion or so). But does anyone count out James Cameron? Or his billions-budgeted succession of 3-D sequels to 2009’s “Avatar”? We’ve got one for Christmas, and another for 2024. Cameron told Empire in July that “Movie four is a corker. It’s a motherfucker. I actually hope I get to make it. But it depends on market forces. Three is in the can so it’s coming out regardless. I really hope that we get to make four and five because it’s one big story, ultimately.” Movie four and five? Maybe these will be the last blockbusters.
The Chicago International Film Festival (October 12-23)
Film festivals worldwide, large and small, are forced to face the existential question, “Why are we here?” with every programming choice they make, retaining what worked Before and what worked More Recently and to stay nimble, ready for what’s coming Next. Through its transition from founder Michael Kutza (an era recounted in his memoir, “Starstruck: How I Magically Transformed Chicago into Hollywood for More Than Fifty Years”) to artistic director Mimi Plauché, the longest-running competitive film festival in North America, now in its fifty-eight incarnation, appears ready to stand against what world events may bring, including a beefed-up industry component under Anthony Kaufman.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published soon. Previews of the project are on Twitter and on Instagram as Ghost Signs Chicago. More photography on Instagram.