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The 15 Best Movies of the Fall Film Festivals

Over the span of just a couple weeks, more than 300 new movies are launched into the world via the Venice, Telluride and Toronto film festivals — a trio of events that collectively kick off award season and tease what moviegoers can expect to discover in theaters over the year ahead. To help make sense of all those new offerings, Variety sends a dozen critics to the three events, sifting through the overwhelming lineups, looking for the proverbial wheat among so much chaff. Here, chief critics Owen Gleiberman and Peter Debruge identify the 15 films that impressed them most

Hugh Jackman has become an audacious actor, and he brings an enticing real-world sneakiness to this fact-based drama built around the figure of Frank Tassone — the superintendent of the Roslyn, Long Island, school district, who gets ensnared in a singular scandal. The year is 2002, and Tassone’s assistant, played with uncaricatured moxie by Allison Janney, is revealed to have embedded a ton of personal expenses — including massive home-renovation costs — in the school-system payroll. A crime, to be sure, but is there a movie in that? As demonstrated by director Cory Finley, working from a script by Mike Makowsky (who went to high school in Roslyn), there’s a sensational movie in it: a kind of grubby Lawn Guyland white-collar-crime noir, in which the audience is placed in the position of watching a whirlpool of immorality churn deeper and wider. “Bad Education” tweaks how the obsession with quality schools, in an era of squeezed opportunity, has become both desperate and corrupting. Jackman plays Tassone as an idealistic public servant who’s also an impeccable walking mystery — a fallen missionary living a mirage of a life. This is an enthralling drama by a wizardly young filmmaker, featuring one of the most bracing actors we have going. — OG

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