Oscar contenders from Martin Scorsese, Ang Lee and Ava DuVernay arriving soon

“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” premieres at the New York Film Festival.
“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” premieres at the New York Film Festival.
(Mary Cybulski/Sony-TriStar Pictures)

Welcome to the Gold Standard, the newsletter from the Los Angeles Times that helps guide you through the ins and outs of the awards season leading up to the Oscars.

I’m Glenn Whipp, The Times’ awards columnist and your newsletter host.

The New York Film Festival gets underway Friday, and Times film writer Steven Zeitchik previews the prestigious event here. Festival director Kent Jones notes the presence of several films — “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” “13th” — that “urgently connect to the moment.”

“Billy Lynn,” Ang Lee’s adaptation of Ben Fountain’s best-selling novel, follows the title character (newcomer Joe Alwyn), an Iraq war hero trying to reconcile the hoopla of his homecoming with the trauma he suffered overseas.


The movie has its world premiere at the festival on Oct. 14 and expectations are sky-high. Lee owns two Oscars for his directorial work — “Brokeback Mountain” and “Life of Pi” — and he has assembled a terrific ensemble cast here (Kristen Stewart, Chris Tucker, Garrett Hedlund, Vin Diesel and Steve Martin). The first wave of reviews will arrive then, giving us an idea whether Lee might be in line for a third Oscar as director. (His foreign language film “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” also won an Academy Award).

“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” opens in theaters Nov. 11.

“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” is director Ang Lee’s adaptation of Ben Fountain’s best-selling novel.
"Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" is director Ang Lee’s adaptation of Ben Fountain’s best-selling novel.
(Mary Cybulski/Sony-TriStar Pictures )


Ava DuVernay’s prison doc “13th” also debuts at NYFF

The other high-profile NYFF premiere is “13th,” Ava DuVernay’s race-themed documentary about the American prison industry. The movie will be available on Netflix on Oct. 7.

DuVernay shot the documentary in the summer of 2015, letting it “unfold organically in an exploratory, investigative” manner, she told me last year. The title comes from the 13th Amendment, which, as you probably know, outlawed slavery. The documentary argues that because of racial inequality in the justice system, a significant portion of America’s black population continues to be denied basic liberty.

“Ava has made a film that’s a red-hot historical synthesis,” NYFF’s Jones told The Times. “People will talk about it as a movie. But they’ll also talk about it as a subject.”

And, likely, they will talk about it as a prime contender for this year’s documentary Oscar.

Ava DuVernay’s new film, “13th, explores the inequalities in America’s prison system.
Ava DuVernay's new film, "13th, explores the inequalities in America's prison system.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times )

Martin Scorsese’s ‘Silence’ set to make some noise

Scorsese lovers (at least those in Los Angeles and New York and maybe a few other cities) can circle Dec. 23 on their calendars for the release of the director’s latest movie, “Silence.”


Here’s what I wrote back in March, when I pegged it as a movie to watch this Oscar season: “Martin Scorsese is at the point in his career where Oscar voters will endorse just about anything he directs, be it a family film (“Hugo”) or a profane, manic tale of excess and greed (“The Wolf of Wall Street”). “Silence,” which follows two Portuguese Jesuits traveling to Japan to seek their mentor and spread the gospel, has been in development for a good 25 years. If all that contemplation adds up, it could result in yet another best picture nomination for the revered director. With Andrew Garfield, Liam Neeson and Adam Driver.

I hit the repeat button because, all these months later, we still don’t know anything new about the movie. But given that it’s Scorsese and that five of his last six films have been nominated for best picture (and the one that wasn’t — “Shutter Island” — is arguably the best of the lot), I imagine we’ll be spending a great deal of time parsing the details as they emerge. Stay tuned.

A scene from Martin Scorsese’s upcoming film, “Silence,” shows Liam Neeson.
A scene from Martin Scorsese's upcoming film, "Silence," shows Liam Neeson.
(Paramount Pictures )


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