Nearly a week ago the Philadelphia Film Festival announced the lineup for its 25th anniversary of bringing Oscar-caliber films to the City of Brotherly Love. I was very pleased as they were able to secure the vast majority of the titles atop my wish-list. The event kicks off of on Thursday October 20th and runs through Sunday October 30th. For more information regarding the full film schedule or how to purchase tickets to this monumental event, you can visit the festival's website. Now, let's take a look at the most notable films appearing at this year's event.
Honorable Mention: Bleed for This, Blue Jay, I, Daniel Blake, Jackie, Lion and Moonlight
Since I have a soft-spot for coming-of-age comedies, Kelly Fremon Craig's The Edge of Seventeen already felt like an intriguing prospect. Yet, after a wildly successful premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival a couple weeks ago, this late entry into the Philadelphia Film Festival (playing Thursday night October 27th only) quickly propelled into my "must-see" list. Woody Harrelson is always brilliant and Hailee Steinfeld has all the makings of a competent leading star, making The Edge of Seventeen a film worth keeping on your radar.
I've always been attracted to dark psychological dramas, especially of the true-story variety. Therefore, Antonio Campos' eerie upcoming release, Christine, is a festival entry I don't plan on missing. The film has enjoyed a successful run on the festival circuit after a debut at Sundance and a strong showing at TIFF. Now, Philadelphia gets to experience the true story of Christine Chubbuck (Rebecca Hall), a 1970s Florida news reporter who spiraled into madness and made television history. As a Spotlight selection at the festival, you'll have two opportunities to catch Christine (either Saturday October 22nd or Wednesday October 26th), so keep your eyes peeled.
After the overwhelming success of last year's thrilling action title, Sicario, director Denis Villeneuve returns in 2016 with a cerebral sci-fi entry that has everyone talking. Amy Adams is primed for a big year and one major contributor is her role as a linguistics expert in Arrival. When a mysterious spacecraft arrives on Earth, the military summons the assistance of Dr. Louise Banks (Adams) to devise a method of communicating with these alien beings in order to prevent a global war The trailer for Arrival reeled me in hook, line and sinker and this Closing Night selection can be viewed one time only on Friday October 28th before its nationwide release this November.
I have a unique way of being consumed by effective emotional dramas. One of the year's most dramatic stories exists in Kenneth Lonergan's Manchester by the Sea. Set in the Northeast, Casey Affleck stars as Lee Chandler, an uncle forced to become the legal guardian of his nephew after the untimely death of his brother. Affleck and co-star Michelle Williams headline a stellar cast that's poised to deliver one of the year's most touching films. Manchester by the Sea has enjoyed a successful run on the festival circuit and it could very well be an Oscar player this year. If you're interested in catching the film at this year's festival, you'll have to purchase tickets for it's lone showing on Saturday night October 22nd.
#1. La La Land
Finally, the easy choice for the most anticipated film at this year's festival is Damien Chazelle's La La Land. After winning over audiences and the Academy with his debut feature, Whiplash, Chazelle returns with an original musical that's been described by early viewers as whimsical and magical. La La Land follows a jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling) and an aspiring actress (Emma Stone) who fall in love while struggling to find success in Los Angeles. The Oscars tend to fawn over musicals, especially if their "that" good. Early word is La La Land could be an early frontrunner for Best Picture and it represents the perfect choice for this year's Philadelphia Film Festival's Opening Night selection (Thursday October 20th).