September means the weather begins to cool down, the kids are back in school, and there’s no more travel until the holidays. Luckily, with the end of big-budget blockbuster season, it’s also the perfect time to start re-exploring what’s in theaters near you. Get ready for some great film openings, NYC-only premieres, and exciting special events to keep you plugged in and screen savvy as summer edges into fall.
Highly Anticipated Releases
I Do…Until I Don’t at Angelika Film Center
What You Should Know: Multihyphenate actress-writer-director Lake Bell helms this relationship comedy, starring Ed Helms, Mary Steenburgen, Paul Reiser, Amber Heard, and Wyatt Cenac as folks who find their marriages tested by a manipulative documentary filmmaker.
Perfect if…you’re looking for a solid date movie or a good laugh.
Skip it if…you didn’t care for Bell’s first film, the indie darling In a World…
It in wide release
What You Should Know: If this is the first you’ve heard about this much-hyped, big-budget adaptation of the classic coming-of-age horror novel by Stephen King, somebody in the marketing department isn’t doing their job. Bill Skarsgård steps into the big floppy shoes of the evil Pennywise, the malevolent clown terrorizing a group of kids in small-town Maine. Reading this massive doorstop of a book was a rite of passage that left a mark on more or less every child of the ’80s; I expect this to be the number-one movie in the country for much of the month.
Perfect if… you and your posse want a scream-at-the-screen night out.
Skip it if… there’s a non-zero percent chance that a movie about killer sewer clowns will require an emergency session with your therapist.
Mother! at BAM Cinematek
What You Should Know: Director Darren Aronofsky’s films slot neatly into the critically beloved (The Wrestler, Black Swan) and the critically reviled (The Fountain, Noah). His newest—starring Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, and Michelle Pfeiffer—looks to be more of the former, though any prognostication on the plot is speculative as Aronofsky is going out of his way to be vague in the promos.
Perfect if…you want to see the probable Oscar nominee that everyone will be talking about.
Skip it if…you find Aronofsky’s work more style than substance.
Another Country at IFC Center
What You Should Know: This 1984 exploration of early-20th-century boarding school life from director Marek Kanievska features a breakout performance from a very young Rupert Everett. This is playing as part of IFC’s Queer|Art|Film series and will be introduced by author Alexander Chee.
Perfect if…you’d like to catch an early and difficult take on growing up young and gay in 1930s Britain.
Skip it if…British historical dramas are a serious turnoff.
See It Big!—The Films of Steven Spielberg at Museum of the Moving Image
What You Should Know: The entertainment-focused museum in Astoria regularly hosts special showings of both new films and old at its in-house Redstone Theater. This collection of Spielberg classics is going to be at the top of any film buff’s must-see-in-the-theater list; it includes Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and War of the Worlds. Ticket purchase also gets you access to the museum’s collections, featuring a sizable video arcade and the new Jim Henson exhibition.
Perfect if…you (or your kids) have never seen Indy on the big screen.
Skip it if…you are a snob with no soul. Seriously, you don’t like Jaws?
Hair at Alamo Drafthouse
What You Should Know: Directed by Oscar winner Milos Forman and choreographed by Twyla Tharp, this 1979 film adaptation of the classic musical Hair is likely best experienced being sung among like-minded fans. Where better to see it than at the often raucous Alamo Drafthouse? Hang out after the show for a Q&A with Orange Is the New Black actress Annie Golden, who made her screen debut in the musical.
Perfect if…the dream of the ’70s is still alive within you.
Skip it if…you think the Age of Aquarius isn’t even a nice place to visit.
Retrospectives and Documentaries
The Films of Jane Campion at Film Society of Lincoln Center
What You Should Know: The Academy Award– nominated director is best known for her visionary, explicitly feminist feature films, including The Piano, In the Cut, and An Angel at My Table. Lincoln Center will be showing the entirety of Campion’s work over a 10-day span, beginning with a Q&A with her on September 8.
Ex Libris: The New York Public Library at Film Forum
What You Should Know: Honorary Oscar-winning director Frederick Wiseman has been making long-form, deep-dive observational documentaries since before it was cool, dating back to 1967’s oft-censored Titicut Follies, set in an asylum for the criminally insane. Since then, Wiseman has made more than 40 such films, always without narration and almost always providing insight into the day-to-day lives of complex institutions. In the last 10 years alone, he’s incisively laid bare the Ballet de l’Opéra de Paris, a Texas boxing gym, UC Berkeley, and the community of Jackson Heights. His latest explores the current role and history of New York’s public library system. Wiseman himself will be on hand to introduce the film on September 13 and 14.
Perfect if…you love Wiseman and you love the NYPL.
Skip it if…the idea of a three-hour film about a library sounds like torture.
Powerfully Observant—The Films of Kelly Reichardt at Museum of Modern Art
What You Should Know: The writer-director builds slow and thoughtful dramas that often force her audience to work toward better understandings of peripheral character’s perspectives. This mid-career retrospective offers an excellent chance to better explore Reichardt’s filmography, including her many collaborations with muse Michelle Williams: Wendy and Lucy, Meek’s Cutoff, and Certain Women.
Perfect if…you want to tackle the oeuvre of one of America’s most subtle and perceptive filmmakers.
Skip it if…movies without fast-moving plots or explicit morals leave you nonplussed.
Spettacolo at Quad Cinema
What You Should Know: Director Jeff Malmberg amazed me with his first documentary, the equally difficult to pronounce Marwencol. His newest—codirected with partner Chris Shellen—explores the rural Italian town of Montichiello, whose 130 or so inhabitants have staged a yearly play (the spettacolo of the title) addressing local issues and gossip for almost half a century. As Americans look for new ways to have their voices heard, this tradition seems ever more pertinent.
Perfect if…you’re looking for new ways to address public problems within your own community.
Skip it if…the combination of subtitles, civic action, and documentary film sounds more like homework than a night out.
Victoria & Abdul at Paris Theater
What You Should Know: Following up The Queen, Victoria & Abdul is UK director Stephen Frears’s return to tales of the British monarchy. Octogenarian Judi Dench takes on the role of Queen Victoria in this historical drama about the Queen’s late-in-life friendship with her Indian servant, Abdul Karim, played by Bollywood leading man (and Furious 7 costar) Ali Fazal.
Perfect if… your mom or aunt or grandma is looking for something to see with you while she’s in town.
Skip it if…“Judi Dench as Queen Victoria” sounds like two hours you’ll never get back.
The Unknown Girl at IFC Center
What You Should Know: French directors-writers-producers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne have been major stars in the art-film world and on the festival circuit since the late 1980s. Their spectacular 2014 film Two Days, One Night even scored Marion Cotillard an Oscar nomination. The Dardenne brothers’ newest film is a procedural thriller, with Adèle Haenel searching for a killer.
Perfect if…you’re looking for a smart movie from proven directors.
Skip it if…subtitles make you break out in hives.