While the summer often provides us with the biggest commercial hit movies of the year, the fall is when it really starts to get good. 2014 has been a less than memorable year in terms of movies thus far, and it probably isn’t a good sign for the industry when the real life news has been more suspenseful than anything in film. However, not all hope is lost; autumn often plays host to the greatest artistic achievements in film, and this year is shaping up to be no exception.
While there have been a couple of noteworthy movies in 2014 so far, such as The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson) and Boyhood (Richard Linklater), award season is still a long way off, and the picture is far from set. Below are a few films that are primed to be in contention come award season.
1. Whiplash — From young director Damien Chazelle comes this riveting drama that captures the relationship between a hotheaded young drummer and his music instructor while at conservatory. The film is set to be tense and keep you on the edge of your seat as the young director brings a lot of energy to the screen. The verdict is still out on whether this young director will receive recognition. The movie opens Oct. 10 and stars Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons.
2. Birdman — In a film that appears to be a case of art imitating life (somewhat), Michael Keaton stars as a washed-up actor who is trying to galvanize his stagnant career as the former action-star superhero, Birdman. Keaton tries to land a role on Broadway, competing against a fellow famous actor (played by Edward Norton) while juggling his family and sanity. The movie boasts a star-studded cast including Keaton, Norton and Zack Galifinakis. It opened to extremely positive reception at festivals such as Venice and Telluride and is a lighthearted turn for stoic director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (21 Grams). The film gets a wide release on Oct. 17.
3. Nightcrawler — From Bourne Legacy director Dan Gilroy comes this seedy thriller that stars the seasoned Jake Gyllenhaal as a young videographer who gets involved in the underground world of Los Angeles crime journalism. Gyllenhaal gives a provocative performance, playing a journalist who sells gruesome footage of crimes, such as accidents and murders, to various news outlets. This offensive satire highlights the hypocrisy of what society deems to be entertainment. The film also stars Bill Paxton and opens in theaters on Oct. 17.
4. St. Vincent — This comedy stars Bill Murray as a hedonistic degenerate war veteran who comforts a young boy whose parents have just gotten divorced. Director Theodore Melfi paints Murray’s character as an alcoholic gambling addict who is as affable as he is dysfunctional. The best part? Melissa McCarthy plays the boy’s mother. She pokes around while Murray mentors the young boy and shows him plenty of things he probably shouldn’t (but we laugh at it anyway). St. Vincent gets a wide theatrical release on Oct. 24.
5. Rosewater — From Daily Show host Jon Stewart comes this gripping drama that documents the true story of Iranian journalist Maziar Nahari, who was tortured and jailed for 118 days for his candid reporting on the 2009 presidential election. Stewart is not typically associated with film, but the political satirist explains that he had an intimate fascination with the story. The film gets its title from Bahari’s interrogator, who ostensibly smelled of rosewater. It opens Nov. 7.
6. Inherent Vice — This is innovative filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest effort. Set in Los Angeles in the 1970s, it follows drug consuming detective Doc Sportello as he investigates the disappearance of his former girlfriend. This film stars Joaquin Phoenix as the detective who deals with his own set of issues as he tries to piece together his missing ex-girlfriend’s whereabouts. The film has a star-studded cast including Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon and Benicio Del Toro. It is already being mentioned amongst the whisperings of Oscar conversation and is scheduled to be released on Dec. 12.