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Studios dial back on summer blockbusters to make way for year-end Oscar fodder 

The best is yet to come

What a terrible summer! We saw unabashed hate speech, institutional tyranny, and tin-hat conspiracy theories collide to create an almost complete disintegration of the American social fabric. And that was just people tweeting about Ghostbusters!

Thankfully, we're almost past the superhero cape-strewn dog days of summer and into awards season, where most films are forced to project at least a pretense of quality. In order to prepare you for the change in seasons, here are the five most-anticipated films of the next few months, as well as five favorites of the year so far.

Sully (Sept. 9)

click to enlarge Sully
  • Sully

After J. Edgar, Jersey Boys and American Sniper, this is the fourth Clint Eastwood-directed film in a row that deals with the myth of an American legend (or the legend of an American myth, if you prefer). Having already tackled the government, celebrity and the military, Sully concerns itself with civilian heroism, covering the 2009 "Miracle on the Hudson" incident in which airline pilot "Sully" Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) safely landed a malfunctioning aircraft on the river.

Manchester by the Sea (Nov. 18)

This drama starring Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams garnered a lot of critical buzz coming out of Sundance, but all I care about is that Manchester by the Sea is the first film directed by Kenneth Lonergan since his doomed but brilliant Margaret. The 135-minute running time of Manchester is less imposing than the three-hour-long Margaret, but Lonergan's gift for unsparing emotional honesty and novel-like construction will almost certainly remain intact.

La La Land (Dec. 16)

Whiplash director Damien Chazelle returns with this unapologetic movie musical starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, playing young creatives brought together by struggle and torn apart by success. The film is also supposed to be a love letter to Los Angeles (fans have spent the past year slavering over a still of Gosling and Stone jitterbugging through Griffith Park), so hopefully Chazelle can invest La La Land with an exuberant melancholy reminiscent of early Alan Rudolph.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Dec. 16)

click to enlarge Star Wars Rogue One
  • Star Wars Rogue One

One year ago, barely a decade removed from the hell of the prequels, I couldn't imagine ever wanting even one more Star Wars movie, let alone one a year until the end of time. But that's the magic of J.J. Abrams' generally acceptable The Force Awakens — it hit the reset button while still forging strong connections with the original three, yet didn't set a bar too high for subsequent films to clear. Godzilla director Gareth Edwards helms this side story, set between Episodes III and IV.

Silence (Wide release date TBA)

click to enlarge Silence - KERRY BROWN
  • Kerry Brown
  • Silence

This pick rides on a wing and a prayer, since Martin Scorsese's reportedly 195-minute epic — starring Liam Neeson and Andrew Garfield as Jesuit missionaries in 17th-century Japan — probably hasn't locked in a final cut yet. (The film was originally slated for a 2015 awards season release.) But when a long-gestating passion project from the greatest living director is at stake, it can't hurt to hope for a Christmas miracle.

  • The best is yet to come

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