By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist October 1, 2012 at 3:00PM
7. "The Sessions"
Synopsis: Polio-afflicted writer and poet Mark O'Brien decides, at the age of 38, to lose his virginity, and hires a sex surrogate to help him do so.
Our Verdict: John Hawkes has become a bit of a Sundance favorite over the years, but after two brilliant but deeply sinister turns in a row -- his Oscar-nominated performance in "Winter's Bone" and last year's "Martha Marcy May Marlene" -- he arrived in 2012 with something lighter: the festival's biggest crowd-pleasing hit, "The Sessions." And it looks to put him on track for another Oscar nod, with potential awards season heat for his co-stars Helen Hunt and William H. Macy as well. According to James Rocchi, who saw the film for us at Sundance (when it was still titled "The Surrogate"), all three are terrific, noting the roles are "neither melodramatic nor too underplayed, not without humor and not without gravity." But at the same time, the film is "at best, talky and static," without the imagination of something like "The Diving Bell & the Butterfly." But the film's "intelligence and humanity" means that it should be worth checking out all the same.
Release Date: Oct 19th
Synopsis: A 23-year old artist arrives in LA to stay in a family's pool house as she finishes her movie, but her presence brings out warring impulses in everyone around her.
What You Need To Know: Like some kind of lo-fi indie dream team, "Nobody Walks" is penned by Ry Russo-Young, whose last film "You Won't Miss Me" played Sundance three years ago, and, of course, Lena Dunham, who went supernova this year thanks to her acclaimed HBO series "Girls". With Dunham busy elsewhere, Russo-Young takes the helm, and has definitely upgraded in terms of the kind of cast she's been able to attract, with John Krasinski, Olivia Thirlby, Rosemarie DeWitt and Dylan McDermott among the players. Happily, the film's become something of a Playlist favorite since premiering at Sundance earlier in the year. Leaning in more of a dramatic direction than Dunham's work so far -- our review called it "emotionally complex, acutely observed and sensual," it features terrific work from all the cast -- not least the oft-underused Thirlby -- and suggests that Russo-Young should start catching up to her co-writer in terms of recognition before too long.
When? October 19th
Synopsis: A day in the life of Monsieur Oscar, who travels in a limousine between different lives, from a terrifying homeless monster to a hitman.
What You Need To Know: Bar a segment in 2008's "Tokyo!" alongside Michel Gondry and Bong Joon-ho, filmmaker Leos Carax hasn't made a movie since 1999's controversial "Pola X," and even that came eight years after director's third film, the amazing "The Lovers on the Bridge." As such, news that he was returning for his third film in 20 years (even Terrence Malick has been working faster) would be exciting enough, but the ambition of "Holy Motors" -- a playful, genre-hopping mind-bender totally unlike anything else you'll see this year -- makes it particularly thrilling. Reuniting the director with frequent collaborator Denis Lavant, who gives one of the best performances of the year, along with Edith Scob, Eva Mendes and Kylie Minogue, among others, it didn't quite win over our reviewer in Cannes, who found it "hilarious and dull, fascinating and pretentious... bold and confounding... ultimately sloppy and tremendously bonkers." But other Playlist writers (including myself) count it among their favorites of the year, and at the very least, it's the kind of film that anyone who really loves movies is going to want to have an opinion on.
When? October 17th in New York, rolling out elsewhere from November.
Synopsis: Based on a terrific novel by David Mitchell, “Cloud Atlas” tells six interlocking tales tackling everything from a transpacific voyage in 1850 to a 1970s-set conspiracy thriller to a sci-fi parable set deep in the future (there’s also a bit about self-aware Korean clones and a dusty European period melodrama).
What You Need to Know: The word "unfilmable" is bandied about a lot when discussing difficult, knotty literary source material, but it was always hard to imagine a successful adaptation of David Mitchell's sprawling novel. That didn't deter the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer, who attracted a cast including Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, Ben Whishaw, Keith David, Hugo Weaving, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant and Jim Sturgess in multiple roles that cross race and gender, with some eyebrow-raising new looks for the A-listers (Hanks as an East End gangster! Grant as a face-painted cannibal!). The unveiling of the film at TIFF immediately split critics and audiences into two. Some called it a disaster. Some -- particularly the audiences at Fantastic Fest, where the film played in a secret slot last week -- adored it, calling it one of the films of the year. And some, like our man in Toronto, fell somewhere in between: we praised it for its ambition and technical achievements, but also found it "dull and repetitive," and said that the film has "all the insight of a discounted New Age self-help book." Like the Carax, this is set to inspire debate for months and years to come, and that alone makes it worth seeing more than "Here Comes The Boom"
When? October 26th