It's that time of year when studios bring out all their Oscar bait movies. You know, serious subjects, tour de force (or desperate) performances, grand adaptations of serious novels, biopics, epic romances, plain epics, lush costumes, and period pieces. A few popcorn movies and kids' movies get thrown in to make money as well. So I always like to do a little rundown of what we can look forward to during this "please give us an award" time of year.
By the way, I say December movies, but the Serious Season really starts in November, or even October, so I'll drop in some movies that come before December. We'll need that extra boost of November movies, by the way; there are less films being released this year for a variety of reasons--the last echoes of the writers' strike a few years ago, a slow economy that made studios pull back a bit on buying and distributing festival award winning indies, and an increasing risk aversion with studios so cherry picking the release dates of films that if they even see the slightest bit of competition, they'll pull a movie off a weekend and hold it for a few months or even until the following November/December season, if it has awards promise.
So here we go--selected titles that will be coming soon to a theater near you!
"The Men Who Stare at Goats" - Inept parapsychology and crackpot theories as interpreted by lots of likable actors? I'm in...mostly. This looks more like a "I'll wait for video" than a shell-out my $12.50 for the theater experience.
"Fantastic Mr. Fox" - I usually find Wes Anderson's movies annoyingly precious (with the huge exception of "Rushmore," the saddest comedy I've ever seen), but I'm a sucker for foxes, especially cute little stop motion ones. Though again, this might be a candidate for video.
"Precious: Based on the novel 'Push' by Sapphire" - This won lots of awards on the festival circuit, has huge Oscar buzz, mostly good reviews (though with some serious detractors), and has performed much better at the box office than anyone expected. That said, this looks way too depressing for me. Yes, I know this makes me a bad film person. I might as well just go buy my ticket for "Couples Retreat" and sink further into the abyss.
"Uncertainty" - Joseph Gordon-Levitt, one of my favorite young actors, in the always reliable "choose your own adventure" plotline (what are the results if we walk this way? what are the results if we walk that way?). I didn't know anything about it until I read a review. It sounded intriguing, but not intriguing enough to pay full freight (have I mentioned I'm a little financially challenged right now?). Another Netflix option.
"The Twilight Saga: New Moon" - I have zero desire to see this. I haven't read the books and didn't see the first one. You know, I've just never been particularly interested in vampires. I just don't get the appeal. Is there something wrong with me? But I just thought I'd mention because it's going to be a huge hit.
"The Blind Side" - Aahh, the story of how the left tackle position became one of the most sought after and highly paid in football, turned into a heartwarming Sandra Bullock vehicle (though, yes, of course, the Michael Lewis book does include the heartwarming story of how a wealthy white southern family pulled a black kid from the streets and helped turn him into a highly paid left tackle). I include this mainly because this movie got made so easily and meanwhile, the attempt to adapt Lewis's better known "Moneyball" has turned into a Hollywood chaos story that Lewis might want to tackle in another book someday).
"Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans" - This one isn't for me, but I sort of weirdly admire Werner Herzog's audacity in remaking the relatively recent original "Bad Lieutenant," and giving Nicolas Cage a chance to chew through more scenery. I also am impressed by their choice of setting the film in New Orleans which I'm sure had absolutely nothing to do with the tax breaks Louisiana hands out to production companies like the house you trick or treat at around 9:30 on Halloween night (you know, the people who aren't going to be answering the door anymore and have bags of leftover candy that they just pour into your pillow case saying, "Here kid, I just want to get rid of it.").
"The Road" - Sigh. Again, this has all the hallmarks of a Movie You Should See. It is based on a prestigious source, stars accomplished actors, and is about important serious subject matter. But despite my love for Viggo and Guy Pearce, I just can't picture myself racing off to buy a ticket to see this one on Thanksgiving Day (an excellent moviegoing day, by the way, though Christmas is even better). Someone would have to be enormously persuasive to get me there. If I want to see people trudging around in raggedy clothes after the apocalypse I'd just as soon see "The Road Warrior." I know, take my Film Studies degree right now.
"Me and Orson Welles" - Usually I love anything to do with Welles and the Federal Theater Project, and Richard Linklater is a pretty reliable director. I appreciate the fact that they cast a theater actor as Welles, but as for the rest of the cast? Claire Danes and Zac Efron both seem to be able to bore me just by looking at them. They'll make me skip this one, I'm sorry to say. Different actors and maybe I'd be there.
"Brothers" - Considering my seeming aversion for serious subject matter, it might seem surprising that I'd be interested in seeing this one. I guess I can't give any more deep reason than I just always have liked Tobey Maguire (except in "Seabiscuit"--don't even get me started on that disaster of a film). This might be a wait until video choice, though.
"Up in the Air" - An adaptation of an acclaimed novel, an excellent cast and serious subject matter--so why do I find that a problem with "The Road" but in this case, absolutely want to see this movie? Well, the raggedy clothes and wandering around after the apocalypse thing is the problem (I swear I don't base my movie choices on people wearing raggedy clothes--I'm up for any impoverished Victorian family or medieval film. Just wait until you see the costume design for the Charlemagne biopic I'll someday make). I guess as down as the topic is here (people being fired), there seems to be some comedy and charm. And on a minor note, I appreciate the fact that the accomplished Vera Farmiga is cast as George Clooney's love interest here, rather than the nineteen year old Barbie Doll starlet of the moment. I hope I get to see this one in a theater.
"Invictus" - The reliable Clint's annual entry. Rugby as a healing force. Bringing people together. Matt Damon doing an accent. I'm sure it all comes together, but I'm having trouble getting excited about this.
"The Lovely Bones" - I didn't read the book so I don't have an attachment to how it is or isn't interpreted. Peter Jackson made what I consider the all-time best movie about being a teenage girl, "Heavenly Creatures," so I have faith in him. What I don't have faith in is the way this film (or book) seems to be so self-consciously uplifting. Do I make any sense? I complain about some movies being too serious, then another for being uplifting. But you know what I mean--not just uplifting, but UPLIFTING!! Heaven and all that.
"A Single Man" - Great reviews and Julianne Moore is one of my heroes, but I don't know if that's enough for me to carve out a trip to the local art house to see this one.
"Avatar" - It seems like James Cameron has been in production on this one for about ten years, and it's surely one of the most anticipated movies of the year. Yet I have found the previews astonishingly boring. I believe I am in the minority on this.
"Nine" - Rob Marshall's adaptation of the mildly successful Broadway musical. I say "mildly successful" because I've never met anyone who has said this is one of their favorite shows, or who would list it amongst the greats (and trust me, I know people who can sit and discuss all the actresses who've played Mama Rose, what was cut during the out of town tryouts of "A Chorus Line" and what's wrong with the second act of "Camelot). I've personally never cared much for it, and I admit to being a little irritated by the way the film casts all these nonsinging and dancing movie stars in the women's roles, who will then get acclaim for their "singing and dancing" which will mostly be a product of the recording studio and the editing room (seriously, I would be surprised if any one of them could give even a representative effort standing in an audition room, without a microphone and with only bare piano accompaniment; your average Broadway chorus member could blow away any person in this cast). But my bitterness aside--I am alway awed by Daniel Day-Lewis, and I was really impressed by Marshall's work on "Chicago." So maybe I'll give this a try...if I can put that nasty bitterness aside, of course.
"The Young Victoria" - Ahh, the stately period biopic. This will have to have tremendous reviews to get me interested. To be honest, I'd rather read a book about The Young Victoria.
"It's Complicated" - I love you, Meryl, but I've never liked anything made by director Nancy Meyers, and this doesn't seem likely to break that streak.
"Sherlock Holmes" - I could not be more excited. Please let this one be as good as I hope it will be, just this once...