From the Marx Brothers to ‘Certain Women,’ Here’s Your Fall Movie Guide

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Critic’s Pick: Sorcerers from film studios of all sizes have long declared autumn as “serious” motion-picture season. But repertory moviegoing in New York is a heady pursuit no matter the month. Metrograph looks back on an especially fertile decade of LGBTQ films with “Queer ’90s” (begins October 5, 7 Ludlow Street, Multiple shades of lavender dominated both the art house and the multiplex during these years, this expansive series reminds us: The retrospective includes not only such New Queer Cinema landmarks as Todd Haynes’s Poison (1991) and Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho (1991) — films that are radical in both form and content — but also low-camp, high-slapstick blockbusters like Mike Nichols’s The Birdcage (1996). Basic Instinct, one of the most divisive titles in the Metrograph program (at least at the time of its 1992 release; both GLAAD and Queer Nation called for protests), can be seen in a different context when it screens alongside the other works of its maker: The Film Society of Lincoln Center mounts “Total Verhoeven” (November 9–23, 65th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue,, a tribute timed to the release of the Dutch provocateur’s latest, Elle, a bewildering rape-revenge movie starring Isabelle Huppert that may prove to be a bigger succès de scandale than the one starring Sharon Stone. Another watershed work from the Nineties, Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust (1991), returns, in a 2K restoration, for a revival run beginning November 18 at Film Forum (209 West Houston Street,, where it first premiered. This dreamlike, sonically and visually lush project about several generations of Gullah women at the turn of the twentieth century inspired Beyoncé, who lovingly salutes it in Lemonade. The film’s rerelease guarantees a new generation of superfans to share her devotion. — Melissa Anderson


‘The Marx Brothers & the Golden Age of Vaudeville’ September 23–29 Considering the plethora of slapstick and talkie comedians who populated screens at the turn of the Thirties, the supremacy of the Marx Brothers seems almost like blind luck. But their four-person act exploited the specific comic stylings of each character — mustachioed and double-entendre-dropping Groucho, sly dimwit Chico, straight man and romantic lead Zeppo, silent prankster Harpo — giving all stripes of audience members a slice of their preferred humor. Film Forum’s one-week celebration of the quartet shows them off in their studio classics (A Night at the Opera, A Day at the Races) while also putting them in the context of the other vaudeville-to-Hollywood stars of the time, as programmer Bruce Goldstein presents additional rarities from this early Vitaphone era. Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street, — Peter Labuza

Henry Hathaway October 3–15 Much of the anticipation for this year’s New York Film Festival centers on the premieres of the fall’s hottest titles, but programmer Kent Jones has also stashed a twelve-film sidebar retrospective of a Hollywood craftsman who doubled as a landscape artist. A contract director at 20th Century Fox for most of his career, Henry Hathaway combined tight narratives of masculine egos on the line with expertly crafted location work. In Niagara (1953), Hathaway turns a Marilyn Monroe–starring domestic nightmare into an epic showcase for the eponymous falls; in Spawn of the North (1938), the brotherhood between George Raft and Henry Fonda becomes dwarfed by Alaskan glaciers falling into the sea. Hathaway’s travelogues ventured from the Ozarks to Tepotzotlán to Lower Manhattan, combining great stories with the spectacle of place. Film Society of Lincoln Center, 65th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue, — Peter Labuza

Certain Women October 14 Kelly Reichardt’s Sundance hit, an intersecting tale of three women in a working-class milieu, moves away from her recent genre-oriented work (Meek’s Cutoff, Night Moves) and back toward the slice-of-contemporary-Americana vein where she made her name. Shot in Montana’s pastoral but harshly arid landscapes in grainy 16mm, Certain Women finds Reichardt adapting — with a cast that includes Laura Dern, Lily Gladstone, and Michelle Williams — three tales from Maile Meloy’s short-story collection Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It. An added bonus is another appearance by beloved thespian Kristen Stewart, here as a lawyer who finds herself untenably drawn to Gladstone’s ranch hand. IFC Films, — Peter Labuza

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back October 21 After an exhausting summer of over-digitized, overserious blockbusters, this back-to-basics Tom Cruise action flick may provide a much-needed lesson in the pleasures of simple ass-kicking. Jack Reacher (2012), though enjoyable, did not exactly cry out for a sequel, but the ever-ebullient Cruise’s return as the superspy — here working alongside Cobie Smulders to uncover a government conspiracy — is hardly an unwelcome proposition. The wild card in this New Orleans–shot production is director Edward Zwick, a capable action craftsman who has often been trapped in historical stories of pointless pomposity. (Including one with Cruise, The Last Samurai.) Perhaps a down-to-earth, bayou-flavored B movie will be the jolt of energy that kick-starts a new chapter in Zwick’s career. Paramount Pictures, — Peter Labuza

Moonlight October 21 Barry Jenkins’s Medicine for Melancholy quietly shook audiences in 2008 with its thought-provoking depiction of a one-day romance between two African Americans. Jenkins’s long-awaited follow-up finally arrives in what aims to be another tale of black identity free of political grandstanding. The focus here is on a young man who struggles with his gay identity in inner-city Miami over three periods of his life, from childhood to adulthood. Jenkins’s patience creates drama out of small moments and elliptical passages (the imagery of Florida heat by director of photography James Laxton looks particularly enticing) that should help humanize a kind of individual all too often missing from our movie screens. A24, — Peter Labuza

’13 Cats’ October 21–November 3 The programmers at BAMcinématek have always found ways to combine the most esoteric of cinematic subgenres into a standalone program, and this season’s Halloween-themed “13 Cats” is no exception. The series offers felines in their most mysterious roles: Some of these will appeal to children, like a pair of works by the Japanese anime master Hayao Miyazaki; others — the Dario Argento–Harvey Keitel short “The Black Cat,” which features numerous Poe references, and Edgar G. Ulmer’s similarly titled The Black Cat, featuring a Karloff-Lugosi pair-up — will require more scream-resistant audiences. Also not to be missed: a chance to see Jacques Tourneur’s and Paul Schrader’s versions of Cat People back to back, each showing off different eras’ masculine response to dangerous womanhood. BAMcinématek, 30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn, — Peter Labuza

Loving November 4 Jeff Nichols has made a career out of genre pictures with a certain Southern specificity. His first 2016 release, Midnight Special, evolved into a science fiction spectacular, after starting from a place and time of dimly lit highway roads, wheezing cars, and motels with darkened drapes. Nichols here strives for something a little less niche by tackling the Loving couple (portrayed by the great character actors Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga), the pair behind the Supreme Court’s 1958 decision to ban anti-miscegenation laws. Nichols is not one for showy, easy dramatics; as the Voice‘s Bilge Ebiri wrote of the movie during his Cannes coverage: “We get no broad cathartic moments — no great breakdowns, or speeches, or confrontations. By the end, though, don’t be surprised if your face is awash in tears.” Focus Features, — Peter Labuza

Manchester by the Sea November 18 After making two of the best contemporary American dramas of the new century — the poignant brother-sister study You Can Count On Me and the sweeping ingénue-in–New York City story Margaret — Kenneth Lonergan is back with a third critical darling. Manchester by the Sea, which features tremendous performances across the board (Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler), spins a yarn of familial strife in New England, drawing much of its power from Lonergan’s knack for intimately detailed dialogue: His words slowly capture moments of grandiosity without relying on pretentious cinematic gestures. Given the broad-strokes prestige projects that are all too common during the fall movie season, Manchester feels like the antidote. Roadside Attractions/Amazon Studios, — Peter Labuza

The Edge of Seventeen November 18 These days, movies about teenage girls coming of age usually involve some sort of fantastic beast or dystopian nightmare. So consider us excited for The Edge of Seventeen, from newcomer writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig and producer James L. Brooks (How Do You Know). Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) stars in this tale of an out-of-place high schooler who finds herself in an identity crisis when her best friend starts dating her older brother; meanwhile, her mother (Kyra Sedgwick) and a mentor teacher (Woody Harrelson) try their best to help her come into her own. The Edge of Seventeen clearly evokes the John Hughes comedies of the Eighties, but the exciting female talent both behind and in front of the camera gives this a chance to make a dated genre feel honest once again. STX Entertainment, — Peter Labuza

Rules Don’t Apply November 23 Whether deservedly or not, Warren Beatty has always positioned himself as a renegade far removed from the studios that made him famous. It only seems right, then, that the writer-director-star would make a big-time return here as none other than the legendary multimillionaire movie mogul (and notorious recluse) Howard Hughes. (The last movie Beatty directed was Bulworth, in 1998.) Beatty’s Hughes fills the antagonist slot in this 1958-set tale about a contract starlet (Lily Collins, who played Snow White in Mirror Mirror) and a limo driver (Alden Ehrenreich, the comic delight of the Coens’ Hail, Caesar!) who fall for each other despite Hughes’s rule against intraoffice relationships. It’s hard to say whether this comeback will result in the work of a master or just plain disaster, but years of critical revisionism have been kind to many of Beatty’s most misguided projects (Ishtar, Dick Tracy), so the weirder, the better. 20th Century Fox, — Peter Labuza

Dino Risi December 14–January 6, 2017 Think of Italy in the Fifties and Sixties and you might find yourself imagining the sick souls of Antonioni’s mansions, the sad faces of Fellini’s streets. But the comedies of Dino Risi were among the most popular with local audiences during this era. MoMA here presents over a dozen new 35mm prints of one of the crucial players in the commedia all’italiana movement. Risi lampooned the powers of postwar Italy, skewering the high and low of every institution with the flashy help of many of the country’s biggest stars. Canonical hits like Poveri ma Belli (Poor, but Handsome, 1956) and Il Sorpasso (The Easy Life, 1962) cast romantic love triangles and battles of egoism underneath sun-drenched Italian vistas, but also look out for the street-life documentaries Risi made just after the war, which put his social critiques in context. Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street,  — Peter Labuza