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From the first black woman to win a comedy Emmy to the trans actor tipped for Oscars glory, here are the 40 names virtually assured of success in the coming 12 months

In September, Lena Waithe became the first black woman to win an Emmy for comedy writing, for the “Thanksgiving” episode of Master of None, based on her own coming-out story. Her upbringing on the southside of Chicago also informs new TV drama The Chi, which she wrote, produced and stars in. Look out for her, too, in dystopian sci-fi Ready Player One.

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An audaciously assembled film , made up entirely of Russian state news clips and user-generated videos, is a fascinating and necessary curio

Russian-American director Maxim Pozdorovkin delivers a sly slow-burning oddity in this documentary about Russia’s love for Donald Trump, made up entirely of state news clips and bizarre user-generated videos. It’ll annoy many with its refusal to take a stance beyond the absurdity of it all, but that lack of easy outrage makes it a true original. An important documentary for our times too, taking us deep into the heart of a bubble far from our own.

Related: Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind review – loving documentary misses bigger picture

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African-American comic book characters are finally stepping up from sidekicks

After five decades as sidekicks, secondary characters and niche titles, the black superhero’s time has finally come.

Next month Marvel releases its eagerly awaited Black Panther movie, centred on a young African king who doubles as a clawed, catsuit-clad crimefighter. Last week CW and Netflix unveiled Black Lightning, an African-American educator with electrical superpowers. Add in Netflix’s Luke Cage and that’s three African-American-led superhero titles in 18 months – a situation previously unimaginable.

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The success of Mudbound and a string of fine documentaries must surely convince the Academy that the streaming giant deserves a little love

Oscar nominations are unveiled next week, and away from the fluffier speculation over who will win what, many in the industry will be perusing the list with a longer-term question in mind: will this be the year that Netflix finally breaks through? The streaming giant has been buzzing around the awards race for a couple of years now, though the Academy has hitherto mostly swatted it away – loth to give its blessing to films uploaded directly online, give or take a minor cinema release for the sake of form. Two years ago, their complete shut-out of Beasts of No Nation – Netflix’s first narrative original, scooped fresh from an acclaimed festival run – seemed a pointed vote in favour of traditional distribution models, notwithstanding the film’s recognition from Bafta and assorted industry guilds.

Several fine Netflix documentaries (The Square, Virunga, Winter on Fire, What Happened, Miss Simone?, Ava DuVernay’s 13th) have broken past the old-school bias. It stands to reason that members of the Academy’s doc branch, hip to the challenges of getting audiences to see their movies at all, are less likely to romanticise the big-screen experience. That should continue this year, with Netflix behind four of the 15 films already longlisted for the documentary Oscar: Yance Ford’s superb, politically charged grief memoir Strong Island, previously spotlit in...

Steven Spielberg’s urgent 70s-set thriller stars Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep in a timely lesson on the need for a vigilant press

“We can’t have an administration dictating to us our coverage just because they don’t like what we print about them in our newspaper…” At a time when Donald Trump’s White House has declared war not merely on the media but on “truth” itself, there’s something almost quaint about the spectre of a corrupt US president attempting to quash a story, rather than the entire fourth estate.

Playing like a prequel to All the President’s Men (the final coda nods towards the opening of Alan J Pakula’s masterpiece), Steven Spielberg’s Vietnam-era thriller recalls the 1971 revelations of the Pentagon Papers – a devastating internal report that detailed how “the White House has been lying about the war”. While Nixon (making a creepy voice-cameo appearance) seethes about “treasonable action”, newspaper editors head to the supreme court, asserting their constitutional right to speak truth to power. Meanwhile, a behind-the-scenes battle of the sexes rages, as the Washington Post balances the demands of its investors with the awful truth that “the only way to protect the right to publish is to publish!”

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The sorcery saga is relocating to a new city with each film, but which destinations should be on its itinerary: Shanghai, Berlin ... or Wakefield?

The big draw of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – at least for me – was that it injected some American pizazz into the stultifyingly British world of Harry Potter. Switching from the anonymous mundanity of Privet Drive for the soaring bustle of 1920s New York was a masterstroke. But it wasn’t to last.

For this year’s sequel, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, the franchise is upping sticks again and moving to Paris. And don’t assume that this is a one-off deal – director David Yates has revealed that every Fantastic Beasts sequel will be set in a different city. Luckily for all involved, I have some suggestions on where it should go next.

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Marina Zenovich’s look at the late comedy legend is filled with genuine affection and remarkable archive footage, but there’s a frustrating hesitance to go deeper

Marina Zenovich has become a specialist in biographical documentaries, following her excellent films on Roman Polanski and Richard Pryor with this new film on the much-missed Robin Williams. The difference this time is that whereas her previous work allowed for significant critique of their subject, Zenovich appears to be coming only from a place of deep love and respect for Williams. This desire to pull punches in presenting his darker side beyond occasional lip service makes for a viewing experience where we often feel we aren’t getting the whole picture for fear of offending the recently deceased.

Related: Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot review – Van Sant's disability drama misses the mark

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Hollywood star who won an Oscar for her role in Written on the Wind and appeared in the TV soap Peyton Place

Although the Hollywood star Dorothy Malone, who has died aged 93, appeared in only a handful of works of distinction in a fairly lengthy career, they were good enough to secure her place in film history. On those occasions when the role permitted, most notably in two flamboyant melodramas directed by Douglas Sirk, Written on the Wind (1956) and The Tarnished Angels (1957), Malone revealed what a talented performer she could be, one capable of projecting a potent blend of cynicism, sexuality and intelligence. However, she was probably most familiar to the general public as Constance MacKenzie in Peyton Place (1964-68), one of the first primetime TV soap operas.

In Written on the Wind, Malone played Marylee, an oil heiress, sister of an alcoholic playboy Kyle Hadley (Robert Stack). She’s in love with Kyle’s best friend Mitch (Rock Hudson), but he’s in love with Kyle’s pregnant wife Lucy (Lauren Bacall). Jealous, Marylee convinces Kyle that Lucy’s baby really belongs to Mitch. Her wild erotic dance to a loud mambo beat, intercut with scenes of her father’s fatal heart attack, is one of the great sequences of 1950s Hollywood melodrama. “It was a miracle that I got her to do the scene,” Sirk recalled. “She was very prudish ... I even had to watch my language. If I said, ‘This scene needs more balls’, she’d walk off the set.” Malone,...

Liam Neeson plays a salesman asked to find a fellow passenger in a film lacking a coherent narrative

In its hideously edited opening montage, The Commuter takes great pains to communicate that, yes, as per the film’s title, Liam Neeson’s cop turned insurance salesman has taken the commuter train to Manhattan every single day for the past 10 years. Unexpectedly, he is made redundant (“I’m 60 years of age, Frank!” he tells his boss), and his bad luck takes a turn for the worse when a mysterious woman (Vera Farmiga) chats him up on the commute home and asks if, hypothetically, he’d locate a passenger in exchange for a hefty wad of cash – or else she’ll have his family killed. Would you do it? That’s what she wants to know. As a thought experiment it’s kind of interesting. As the plot of a film? Frankly, it’s bonkers, and though it starts as a film about the financial crisis and America’s squeezed middle, it quickly turns into Murder on the Orient Express.

As far as storytelling is concerned, The Commuter is wildly inefficient, lacking basic narrative logic. Yet it’s hard not to derive some pleasure from watching Neeson fling himself about a rickety commuter train (and, in one set piece, precariously close to some train tracks), throwing insults at Goldman Sachs “on behalf of the American middle class”.

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An aspiring musician looks for his ancestor in the Land of the Dead in a Pixar film that makes light work of complex ideas

With its catchy, singalong soundtrack and feelgood family-values message, Pixar’s latest project is a glittering return to non-franchise form after 2015’s lacklustre The Good Dinosaur. Twelve-year-old Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) wants to be a musician, so it’s pity that in his family of enterprising shoemakers, music is banned. Family folklore has it that his great great-great-grandmother, Mamá Imelda, had her heart smashed to smithereens by a selfish guitarist who abandoned his family to pursue music and so not a semiquaver is to be played or listened to in the house.

It wouldn’t be a Pixar film, though, if our pre-teen protagonist weren’t also a rule-breaking scamp, so against the strictest orders of his guitar-smashing granny (Renee Victor), he sets about entering the town’s annual Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) talent show. Hypothesising that deceased pop star Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt) might in fact be related to him, Miguel sneaks into his tomb, borrows his guitar and finds himself transported to the Land of the Dead. With the help of a skinny, lolloping dog named Dante and a ragtag vagabond voiced by Gael García Bernal, Miguel must find his family (or, at least, the skeleton versions of them) and secure their blessing to return home.

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Posthumous memoir by Garland’s ex-husband Sid Luft claims teenage star was groped by actors on set

In the key scene in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, Judy Garland skips down the yellow brick road with her dog Toto and hundreds of helpful munchkins. But the reality of the shoot was far less happy, according to a newly discovered memoir by Garland’s former husband.

“They would make Judy’s life miserable on set by putting their hands under her dress,” wrote Sid Luft in the forthcoming posthumous book, Judy and I: My Life With Judy Garland. “The men were 40 or more years old. They thought they could get away with anything because they were so small.”

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Ahead of the official Academy nominations on Tuesday, Guardian and Observer critics pick their own shortlists

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The rising star began filming opposite her triple-Oscar-winning co-star having only met him once. It was, she says, as intense as it looks

When Vicky Krieps falls in love with Daniel Day-Lewis on screen, it is a moment that seems unrehearsed in its intensity – and that’s because it was. Day-Lewis insisted that Krieps, a barely known actor from Luxembourg, meet him for the first time in character in Paul Thomas Anderson’s breathtaking new film Phantom Thread. Preparing his role as Reynolds Woodcock, a London couturier, Day-Lewis – with his habitual method-actor zeal – learned to think like Balenciaga, sewed 100 buttonholes and kept Krieps at bay. When Krieps’s Alma walks into the breakfast room of a Yorkshire hotel with sea views, she looks as shy as a Raphael Madonna, but in a waitress’s uniform (the film is set in the 50s). When she asks, in her lilting German accent: “What would you like to order?” Woodcock starts to reel off almost everything on the menu. And Krieps blushes – for Alma and herself. For the audience, there is never any doubt that Woodcock’s appetite – and this is a film about appetite – is not for what is on the menu but for this young woman who will become his muse. Last summer, Day-Lewis announced that the film would be his swansong. For Krieps, it is the most extraordinary beginning.

The New York Times critic AO Scott has described Krieps as, in every way, a match for Day-Lewis, an...

A precociously five-year-old is discovered by pre-school teacher Maggie Gyllenhaal in a wonderfully sensitive American remake of an Israeli original

Nadiv Lapid’s Hebrew-language The Kindergarten Teacher was one of the more unshakable films of 2015, with its wonderfully inscrutable nature,. One of the most important things that writer-director Sara Colangelo has done in her American remake is keep the central mystery intact. There is a list of small changes, some tweaks to the characters, a few added jokes, but this is very much the same movie told a second time. Is that necessary? Sure, why the hell not, especially when either version is so great. Moreover, it’s a chance to see Maggie Gyllenhaal give one of the best performances of her career.

When we first meet Lisa Spinelli she’s a caring, patient kindergarten teacher in Staten Island who takes a weekly poetry class in Manhattan. (If you are fuzzy on your geography, this means crossing the mighty New York harbor in a huge and highly photogenic orange ferry.) By the end she’s a, well … I don’t want to spoil it, but let’s just call her a social vigilante. One of her young students, Jimmy (Parker Sevak) behaves like a regular five year-old most of the time, but now and again he goes into something of a trance-like state and starts reciting poetry. His syntax and vocabulary are clearly coming from “somewhere else,” and while a lesser film would go down some sort of supernatural possession route, what drives Lisa...

Jackman plays 19th century PT Barnum in a crowd-pleasing if middle-of-the-road film that paints the circus impresario as a body-positive evangelist for diversity

Hugh Jackman is at his most relatable here in this cheerful fantasy musical, so mainstream it is at the exact centre of the road as if placed there by some impossibly sophisticated scientific implement. The film succeeds in being cheesy and sugary at the same time, and is very loosely based on the life of the legendary showman and inveterate crowd-pleaser Phineas T Barnum, the man who in the 19th century possibly invented entertainment as we know it today.

Another type of movie might seek to draw parallels between the cheeky impresario Barnum – frantically promoting fake or at any rate unreliable news about giants, bearded ladies etc – and another questionable American celebrity of the present day. But this is a Barnum we can all get behind. He’s an entrepreneur, a dreamer, a family man, an idealist, an underdog, a proto-modern evangelist for diversity (he has circus turns of all shapes and sizes) and he’s someone for whom the template for conventional white body image is not the be-all and end-all.

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Ridley Scott’s drama about the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III looked sunk after allegations were made against the actor, but Christopher Plummer excels as his last-minute replacement

‘The rich are different from you and me,” said F Scott Fitzgerald, to which Ernest Hemingway is famously alleged to have replied: “Yes, they have more money.” This film suggests they also have more fear of their own children – fear that they will parasitically suck away energy that should be devoted to building up riches and status; that they will fail to be worthy inheritors of it, or waste it, or cause it to be catastrophically mortgaged to their own pampered weakness. This fear is the driving force of Ridley Scott’s raucous pedal-to-the-metal thriller about the ageing and super-rich oil tycoon J Paul Getty, freely adapted by screenwriter David Scarpa from the 1995 page-turner Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortune and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J Paul Getty by veteran true-crime author John Pearson. It is directed by the 80-year-old Ridley Scott with gleeful energy and riotous attack. The old guy is always the most interesting character on screen, and that can hardly be an accident.

In 1973, cantankerous Getty refused to pay the kidnap ransom demanded after his 16-year-old grandson John Paul Getty III was snatched by Calabrian mobsters from the streets of Rome. And why? Because he didn’t want to set a precedent and reward crime? Because he suspected this wastrel boy had cooked up a...

The Black Panther roars, Matt Damon shrinks, Aardman go stone age and Jennifer Lawrence takes spying into a new dimension – we preview the best cinema of the new year

Dir. Ridley Scott
Veteran Ridley Scott took his place in the history of #MeToo by firing Kevin Spacey from this film and replacing him with Christopher Plummer, who plays ageing oil tycoon J Paul Getty in this true story from the 70s. Getty refused to pay a kidnappers’ ransom for his abducted grandson and instead hired a former CIA tough guy (played here by Mark Wahlberg) to get him free. Read the full review.
• Released on 5 January in the UK; out in US.

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Women tell the Guardian that unmasking of abusive men is overdue in industry that shames and undermines victims

The casting director had one hand pressed to the phone at his ear; the other, according to a police complaint, he rested on Reena Saini’s thigh.

“He was casting for TV serials,” Saini, 26, recalls. “One day he called me for an audition. And when I reached the place he said, come into my car and talk, I’m in a hurry.”

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Tonya Harding’s difficult life, filled with domestic violence and struggle, is played for laughs in an uneven biopic that never really scratches the surface

Long before Frozen, those of us who were American girls in the mid-90s lived and breathed a different icebound battle of good and evil. Every morning in the winter of seventh grade, I was hungry to read the newspaper for more details in the war between Nancy Kerrigan, America’s smooth-haired brunette sweetheart and her frizzier blonde nemesis, Tonya Harding.

Related: I, Tonya review – scattershot skating biopic offers flawed, foul-mouthed fun

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Joaquin Phoenix excels as paralysed cartoonist John Callaghan in Gus Van Sant’s biopic, which otherwise proves to be a patchy work by a major director

When Joaquin Phoenix starts collecting lifetime achievement awards at the end of his career, the image of him as John Callahan zooming down sidewalks in a motorized wheelchair with a Nicholson-esque smirk will surely make the highlight reel. It’s a great visual, one that director Gus Van Sant leans on it so many times that you wonder what he’s patching over.

This is indicative of the central problem with Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot. There are plenty of great moments, but they jump out amid a jumble of strangely flat scenes. This doesn’t feel like the work of a great master; it’s a discordant brew that just doesn’t blend right.

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