Honeyland: A Rare Nature Documentary That's Deeply Personal


Traditional studios have plenty of their own anticipated titles, helping punch back against the notion that streaming media is more accommodating of challenging fare. Fox Searchlight, a frequent Oscar winner eager to demonstrate its clout after its acquisition by Disney, is premiering Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit, which is billed as an anarchic “anti-hate satire” that follows a young Nazi boy (Roman Griffin Davis) who has to contend with the discovery of a Jewish woman (Thomasin McKenzie) whom his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding in the attic. Waititi’s high-energy humor probably won’t be for everyone, but the film is certain to have its fervent fans, thanks to Waititi’s own growing celebrity (he plays an imaginary version of Hitler).

Netflix’s Marriage Story, directed by Noah Baumbach, is a wrenching tragicomedy about a couple (Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson) going through a painful divorce (Netflix)

Another, more serious World War II film is Fox Searchlight’s A Hidden Life, a Terrence Malick epic about Franz Jägerstätter, a conscientious objector from Austria who was persecuted by his country for refusing to fight. Though Malick’s output of late has been too abstract to break through with a wider audience, this movie (which played at this year’s Cannes Film Festival) is powered by a strong, accessible narrative and Malick’s inimitable visual poeticism. Arguably the most enigmatic Fox Searchlight project is Lucy in the Sky, the directorial debut of TV auteur Noah Hawley (Fargo, Legion), which follows Natalie Portman as an astronaut tormented by an affair. The story seems to be powered by the same aesthetic meticulousness that defines Hawley’s small-screen work.

The studio A24, which translated TIFF acclaim into an Oscar win for Moonlight a few years ago, has a trio of intense dramas: Uncut Gems, a New York thriller from the Safdie Brothers (Good Time) that is generating awards chatter for its star, Adam Sandler; The Lighthouse, a nautical two-hander from Robert Eggers (The Witch) starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson; and Waves, a mysterious family drama starring Sterling K. Brown and directed by Trey Edward Shults (It Comes at Night). Major studio entries for the coming months include the rip-roaring true story, Hustlers; Rian Johnson’s whodunnit, Knives Out; John Crowley’s literary adaptation, The Goldfinch; the inspirational legal drama Just Mercy, starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx; and Edward Norton’s long-stewing passion project, Motherless Brooklyn, which he directed and starred in.

One of the newest studio players at the festival is Neon, a distributor founded in 2017 that achieved early success with its Toronto acquisition of I, Tonya. After a lackluster 2018, Neon picked up two award winners at Cannes that will play at Toronto. Céline Sciamma’s romantic period drama Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a breathtakingly beautiful work, a swooning love story deserving of wider attention. But I’m most intrigued by the prospects of Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite, a Korean-language thriller that won Cannes’ Palme D’Or and is the kind of rare delight that can turn its art-film plaudits into bigger financial success. If all goes according to Neon’s plan at Toronto, the film could be on the road to a groundbreaking Oscar victory. The next two weeks will be crucial for Parasite, as well as dozens of other projects, as they look to sustain conversation for the season ahead.

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