It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Not only is Halloween coming up, the weather getting colder, but the annual Philadelphia Film Festival is happening for the 26th time. Every October, over 100 movies grace the silver screens at the Ritz Five, Ritz East, and Prince Theatres, as industry professionals and artists from around the world descend on the city of brotherly love. The festival specializes in a variety of things- while the big fall films that will be in the Oscar discussion are featured, there’s also so, so much more.
Last year was my first, and it was a memorable one. For example, I got to see Asgar Farhadi’s The Salesman, which became a surprise news story when the Iranian Farhadi was unable to attend the Oscars due to Trump’s travel ban. I saw 2017 releases like Personal Shopper or Graduation months ahead of their release. Most of the films playing have already premiered at other bigger festivals like Toronto, Cannes or Sundance- but it’s still brilliantly curated, saves us the trip to those faraway places, and is generally something I have looked forward to all year.
Below you will find ten films I am most excited to see at the festival. There are several big titles in the Centerpieces category I am looking forward to, of course (The Florida Project, Lady Bird, Last Flag Flying), but I will set those aside as obvious choices. Here are ten other ones you may not have heard of, but should be excited about.
At The Drive-In (Dir: Alexandre Monelli)
Competing in the Greater Filmadelphia category, this documentary profiles one of our region’s shrines of cinephilia- the Mahoning Drive-In movie theatre in Lehighton, PA. The Drive-In is an institution of days gone by in American culture- but this film profiles the people who doubled down on investing their time and livelihoods into keeping this place afloat. If you love the time honored tradition of movie going (which you do), you should carve out some room for this one on your busy schedule.
TUESDAY, OCT. 24 / 1:20 PM / RITZ FIVE
SUNDAY, OCT. 29 / 2:15 PM / RITZ FIVE
Chappaquiddick (Dir. John Curran)
Few other subjects have been mined for their cinematic value in recent years as the Kennedy family-at this point, probably too much. Yet here comes a movie with strong buzz out of Toronto that seems to be exploring new aspects of the territory. It is a film about the real life incident where youngest brother Ted Kennedy got into a car accident in 1969, killing a young woman and permanently scarring his political ambitions. In an era where Democrats have gotten themselves once again into a major mess, Chappaquiddick seems like it will be quite relevant for our times. Jason Clarke plays Kennedy, with supporting roles from Ed Helms, Kate Mara and Bruce Dern.
TUESDAY, OCT. 24 / 6:00 PM / PRINCE THEATER
Gemini (Dir. Aaron Katz)
A neo-noir set in modern day Los Angeles, Gemini tells the story of a famous young actress (Zoe Kravitz) and her enmeshed personal assistant (Lola Kirke) whose lives are forever changed by an act of horrific violence. Judging from the trailer, the film seems set in a Los Angeles similar to the vision of Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive, Neon Demon), where the shiny neon nighttime lights cover up a dark underbelly of violence and jealousy.
FRIDAY, OCT. 20 / 4:30 PM / RITZ FIVE
SUNDAY, OCT. 22 / 4:30 PM / RITZ FIVE
In The Fade (Dir. Fatih Akin)
A German language thriller starring Diane Kruger (Inglourious Basterds), where the actress will get to speak in her native tongue for once- In The Fade tells the story of a recently widowed woman (Kruger) who sets out on a mission of revenge against the neo-nazis who killed her family. In a post-Charlottesville world where right wing extremism has proven to have fatal consequences, this seems like it will be awfully topical.
TUESDAY, OCT. 24 / 3:50 PM / RITZ EAST A
WEDNESDAY, OCT. 25 / 6:20 PM / RITZ EAST B
Let The Corpses Tan (Dir. Helene Cattet, Bruno Forzani)
The Graveyard Shift category of films at PFF are always a highlight of the fest, where genre curiosities get to enliven and gross out the late night crowd. This is the new one from the directors of 2014’s Giallo-inspired The Strange Color Of Your Body’s Tears, with the retro focused filmmaking team turning their sites on the Poliziotteschi (my new favorite word) Italian crime films of the 60’s and 70’s. It looks gritty, nasty, violent, and like a ton of stylish fun.
SUNDAY, OCT. 22 / 10:10 PM / RITZ EAST B
MONDAY, OCT. 23 / 8:30 PM / RITZ EAST A
Thelma (Dir. Joachim Trier)
Norwegian auteur (and cousin of Lars) returns with his fourth film in ten years, and it looks like a departure from his norm. Trier (Oslo, August 31st, Reprise, Louder Than Bombs) is an expert cinematic poet of repressed emotions that start bubbling over. This one is Trier’s first foray into the world of genre films, about a young lesbian with some kind of psychic powers. Nevertheless, it still seems to be a continuation of his thematic fascinations. Reactions so far appear to be split- making it a definite must see for yourself.
SATURDAY, OCT. 21 / 5:00 PM / RITZ EAST A
WEDNESDAY, OCT. 25 / 3:50 PM / RITZ EAST B
Thoroughbreds (Dir. Cory Finley)
The debut film from director Cory Finley made a splash at Sundance, looking almost like a Strangers On A Train for Millenials. Starring Anya Taylor Joy, Olivia Cooke, and Anton Yelchin in one of his final screen performances, it’s a mean sounding, devilish looking movie that should offset all those slow burning French movies quite nicely.
FRIDAY, OCT. 20 / 7:20 PM / RITZ EAST B
SUNDAY, OCT. 29 / 4:40 PM / RITZ EAST B
The Ballad Of Lefty Brown (Dir. Jared Moshe)
I’ll always go for a revisionist Western movie, especially one starring Bill Pullman. The increasingly grizzled looking 90’s artifact stars as the titular Lefty, a right hand man to a famous lawman played by Peter Fonda. When his friend is killed, Lefty goes on a mission to avenge his slain pal. Sounds pretty great to me- and if the can’t-miss A24 saw it fit to acquire, then it must be even better still.
SATURDAY, OCT. 21 / 9:10 PM / RITZ EAST B
TUESDAY, OCT. 24 / 3:30 PM / RITZ FIVE
The Endless (Dir. Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead)
This is the third film from the directing pair of Benson & Moorhead (Spring, Resolution), who have solidified themselves as can’t miss creators of re-inventive genre fare. They have made their name by cutting and mashing up genres such as horror, creature features, and romantic dramas into something truly original. This time the directors star as a pair of brothers who return to visit a cult they escaped from many years before. I imagine that things don’t go so well. This made plenty of waves at Fantastic Fest. I can’t wait to see it.
TUESDAY, OCT. 24 / 8:30 PM / RITZ FIVE
THURSDAY, OCT. 26 / 9:30 PM / RITZ FIVE
The Square (Dir. Ruben Ostlund)
The Swedish director Ostlund last made us all squirm with his dark comedy of manners Force Majeure. It looks like he’s back for more of the same with The Square, a film about a museum curator who gets more than he bargained for with the opening of a bizarre and absurdly pretentious new exhibit. Ostlund seems to follow in the lineage of Michael Haneke, another nihilistic European who likes to drag the upper middle class through the razor-laced dirt every chance he gets. Except, Ostlund has a sense of humor. Not only is it his first movie with bigger names like Elisabeth Moss and Dominic West in the mix, it also won the Palme D’Or at Cannes. Come prepared to cringe.
SUNDAY, OCT. 22 / 4:45 PM / RITZ EAST B
THURSDAY, OCT. 26 / 6:50 PM / RITZ EAST B
For more information on how to purchase tickets, please visit Philadelphia Film Festival 2017 online.