Time was, movies were made to fit a title and poster presold to regional distributors; now, as investment-protecting Hollywood sticks fearfully to proven release strategies, it increasingly feels as though films are authored by their release date. So, following the B-grade lethargy of August, and with all the serious print critics back from vacation, the period from Labor Day to Thanksgiving is noteworthy for films rolling out off the Venice-Toronto-New York festival circuit and gathering, or not gathering, awards-season word-of-mouth.
Like: The Social Network, David Fincher's docudrama about the making of Facebook—the trailer, scored to a children's-choir cover of "Creep," seems to be shooting for something like zeitgeist opera—opens the New York Film Festival on September 24 and hits theaters on 10/1, while meanwhile NYFF continues through October 10's, closing-night screenings of Sensitive Clint Eastwood's postmortem weepie Hereafter (10/22). Star Matt Damon narrates one of NYFF's docs, too: Inside Job (10/8), Charles (No End in Sight) Ferguson's financial-meltdown recap, with Eliot Spitzer giving talking head; he's also the subject of busy-busy Alex Gibney's Client 9 (11/5), another of the fall's big-name docs (others: Fred Wiseman hangs out in the Boxing Gym [10/22], the Freanomics omnibus [10/1], the fascinating outsider-art-therapy session Marwencol [10/8], Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields [10/27], and whatever Catfish [9/17] is).
Most anticipated of NYFF's subtitled fare is Olivier Assayas's three-part, five-plus hour Carlos (10/15), which will be the definitive film on leftist terrorism in the post-'68 generation, or else disappoint me greatly. (Other topline French fare opening this fall includes Claire Denis's ravishing, intense postcolonial breakdown White Material [11/19], and Enter the Void [9/24], in which Gaspar Noé several-ups Irreversible for hyperstylized sex-n-violence, if that's what you're into.) Assayas will also be the subject of a complete retro at BAM, from 10/9-10/28. (Meanwhile, the NYFF boasts a rep sidebar on the 79-year-old Japanese New Waver Masahiro Shinoda—check out the avant-garde dynamism and pulp propulsiveness of his Criterionized Double Suicide and Samurai Spy, then join to explore the album cuts in this 12-film retro.)
Bypassing the NYFF is Howl (9/24), in which James Franco plays Allen Ginsberg (for course credit?); Franco can also be seen amputating his own arm with a dull knife knife as the real-life pinned mountaineer of Danny Boyle's 127 Hours (which runs 94 minutes and opens 11/5; Franco can compare ordeals with Ryan Reynolds, who is buried alive in Buried on 9/24). In Never Let Me Go (9/15), Mark Romanek tries to bring the coiled mortal anguish of his video for Johnny Cash's "Hurt" to Kazuo Ishiguro's genteel sci-fi gothic bestseller. Carey Mulligan stars; she can also be seen as the conscience of Oliver Stone's Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps (9/24), while fellow new Brit It Girl Gemma Arterton returns, newly hot, to her hometown as the title character of Stephen Frears's Tamara Drewe (10/8). More locally, Tiny Furniture and You Won't Miss Me (both 11/12) portend fascinating careers for the angst-ridden young Manhattanite writer-directors Lena Dunham and Ry Russo-Young, while more masculine, medicated indie angst is on display in Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden's It's Kind of a Funny Story (10/8, from Ned Vizzini's book) and Philip Seymour Hoffman's Jack Goes Boating (9/17, from Bob Glaudini's play). But the king of local neurotics, Woody Allen, shot You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (9/22) in London.
Horror junkies have reason to rejoice every October, and this year, the rest of us do too: My Soul to Take (10/8) is Wes Craven's first writer-director credit in more than a decade, and Saw VII (10/29) purports to be the final installment in the series. (It's in 3D.) Let Me In (10/1) is the inevitable American remake of Swedish vampire hit Let the Right One In; our other favorite violent Swedish cutie of recent vintage, Lisbeth Salander, also returns when The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest closes out the Millennium Trilogy on 10/29. Other genre fare: Unstoppable (11/12), the fifth team-up for Denzel Washington and Tony Scott—they truly are the Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott of our time—boasts a runaway-train premise, suggesting they really did spend the entire Taking of Pelham 123 shoot trying to figure out why the train didn't move; and The Town (9/17), another adaptation of a hyperlocal Boston-based crime bestseller from Gone Baby Gone auteur Ben Affleck, further saluting the influence of The Friends of Eddie Coyle with a moody saga of scarily masked bank robbers. (Repertory counterprogramming: Film Forum's Heist Festival, 10/1-10/21.)