Five Essential Fall Films

The problem with most seasonal movie previews is their annoying tendency to cram every random title into a finite amount of space, thereby doing an injustice to the films most worthy of a discriminating moviegoers' attention. Certainly anyone who genuinely cares about the motion picture as an art form doesn't give a flying fuck that Saw 6 is set to open on October 23, or that somebody had the really terrible idea to remake Joe Ruben's 1987 cult classic The Stepfather (Oct. 16) starring Dylan Walsh from Nip/Tuck in the Terry O'Quinn role. And unless you have rugrats in the house, CGI ’toons like Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (Sept. 18), Astro Boy (Oct. 23) and Planet 51 (Nov. 20) probably won't send your heart a-racing either. And don't even get me started on A Christmas Carol (Nov. 6), Robert Zemeckis' latest performance-capture horror show. Those dead eyes that Jim Carrey's Ebenezer Scrooge sports in the Disney film's trailer are already giving me the willies. Of course, kid flicks by grown-up auteurs like Spike Jonze and Wes Anderson are another matter entirely. So think of the following as five essential fall films.

1. Muckraking documentary filmmaker Michael Moore tackles the global financial crisis in his latest non-fiction fusillade with Capitalism: A Love Story (Oct. 2). Look for Wall Street fat cats to take it on the chin just like G.W. Bush did in Fahrenheit 9/11.

2. The early reviews haven't been kind and its release was delayed for an entire year, but it will still be interesting to see what Australian visionary John Hillcoat (The Proposition) does with The Road (Oct. 16), Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic best-seller. Viggo Mortensen plays "The Man."

3. Where the Wild Things Are (Oct. 16), Maurice Sendak's 1963 kid-lit classic finally makes it to the big screen in Spike Jonze's (Being John Malkovich) CGI-lite live-action adaptation. Jonze's indie cred helped him cast a bunch of cool actors (Catherine Keener, Mark Ruffalo, James Gandolfini) not normally associated with family entertainment.

4. Don't let the Oprah or Tyler Perry imprimatur scare you off, Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire (Nov. 20), a magical realist-inflected urban melodrama about a put-upon Harlem teen (Gabourney Sidibe) won both the Grand Jury and Audience awards at Sundance this January. As the girl's unstable mother, plus-sized sitcom diva Mo'Nique gives a performance that's already generating beaucoup Oscar talk. So is the film itself.

5. George Clooney and Meryl Streep provide the voices for Mr. and Mrs. Fox in Fantastic Mr. Fox (Nov. 25), fabulist extraordinaire Wes Anderson's stop-motion-animated film based on Roald Dahl's 1970 children's novel. The early buzz has been, no pun intended, fantastic indeed.