E: Friends, it’s that time of year! A lot of small but important movies will open in the next 6 weeks, and if you’re not vigilant, they might disappear before you can see them, leaving you scratching your head when they get nominated for an Oscar next February. Star Trek is safely out on video – and yes, in a year with 10 Best Picture slots, Star Trek actually enters into Oscar calculus. (C: Just as long as New Moon or Transformers 2 doesn’t…) Bright Star you probably missed already (too bad, because it was good). (500) Days of Summer, District 9, Julie and Julia, and Inglorious Basterds seem like good shots to make it to video in time. Who knows about The Informant! (good thing it’s a long shot for Matt Damon – he’ll have a much higher profile role out closer to nominating time). The Hurt Locker might – I hope, ’cause I missed it! – be out on video before the Oscars air, but most of the stuff that’s in theaters now, or is just about to arrive, won’t be. So see these while you have the chance! Here’s a quick list:
A Single Man: Colin Firth, Julianne Moore. A fabulous gay man and his glamorous female best friend in the swinging 60s. Is there any era of clothing Moore doesn’t look stunning in? No, didn’t think so. Fashion designer Tom Ford directs.
A Serious Man: Can you count out the Coen brothers from Oscar consideration? No. No, you cannot. This movie has something to do with their memories of their dad. Hmmm. Seems to be about a professor whose life is a mess. Doesn’t sound amazing on the face of it, but the buzz has it that this one could come back to haunt us if we miss it.
An Education: Carey Mulligan, Alfred Molina, Emma Thompson, Peter Saarsgard and Olivia Wilde star in the story of a precocious teen. I feel a bit smug about this one. When all these entertainment reporters and Oscar prognosticators stand amazed at Miss Mulligan springing fully formed as if from the head of Zeus, fans (like me) of the 2005 Pride and Prejudice, Bleak House, and arguably the best episode of Doctor Who ever, “Blink”, will know that she’s deserved their attention all along. I am thrilled at her big break in this little movie, even if the premise (precocious teen seduced by sophisticated adult) creeps me out. Still, am happy for Mulligan (and Molina, who might finally get himself invited to the big dance) and interested in seeing it.
Precious: Gabore Sidibe, Mo’Nique and Mariah Carey in a film about an abused teen struggling to step into the light. What, you don’t associate those names with award caliber films? I know you are not going to think I’m serious, and this is exactly why you will miss this movie and then waked up shocked on nomination morning. But see, I’m going to save you the trouble. When your coworkers are aghast at Mo’Nique being nominated for an Oscar – and heaven forfend the outcry if Mariah Carey is – you can act cool and say sure, I knew about that. She’s a front-runner. This movie has Oprah power, Tyler Perry in its corner, and won both Sundance and the Toronto Film Festivals. Last year’s Toronto winner? A little movie called Slumdog Millionaire.
Crazy Heart: Jeff Bridges is the It man of the month. Folks are calling his hard-living country singer the role of his career. Maggie Gylenhaal is getting some raves, too (but puh-leeze tell me she plays his daughter and not his love interest!).
Thoughts on the less obscure stuff after the jump:
Bigger Things, which are less likely to disappear:
Up In The Air: George Clooney! A guy who fires people for a living finds love, and perhaps a better life! This sounds so promising. Seriously, it does. Apparently there’s awards talk around one Anna Kendrick, who also plays Jessica in the Twilight Saga. And around Clooney, of course.
Avatar: Anyone wondering what James Cameron has been doing since he made Titanic? Working on this. For EVER. And it’s finally done. It looks neat, though so much in the manner of a video game I can’t believe it’s an original script. I don’t know if this movie will make anything more than the technical categories, but you never know.
Not Sure Where They Fall:
The Young Victoria: Emily Blunt in a costumed love story. Yay! There was a pretty decent miniseries on the subject made by the BBC a few years ago, but I don’t mind if they repeat themselves. (C: I’m so there for this one.)
It’s Complicated: Though you can never count out a Meryl Streep movie for awards consideration, Julie and Julia is definitely her horse this season. I’d be surprised if this Nancy Meyers comedy scores more than Golden Globe nominations, but considering Streep costars with Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin, anything really is possible.
The Road: Viggo Mortensen brings to life Cormac McCarthy’s bleak novel of a post-apocalyptic future, asking what a man will do to survive, to keep his son alive, and to remain who he is. This is awards bait, no question, but is it a blockbuster? Now there’s a question for you. This was supposed to come out LAST year, which makes me nervous about. Or maybe I mean happy, because this is one I might rather skip.
Invictus: If it’s true that you can’t count out the Coen brothers, it’s more true that you can’t ignore Clint Eastwood. He directs Morgan Freeman (and last time he did that, they both won Oscars) as Nelson Mandela, and Matt Damon as a rugby player determined to bring home the World Cup to unite South Africa. That seems unlikely, and I’m very interested in seeing how the idea plays out.
Nine: This may or may not be a box office smash, but it seems likely to hit the big time, if for no other reason than there are ten slots this year for Best Picture instead of the normal 5. We can also call this the musical version of Oscar bait (as well as being the musical version of Fellini’s 8 1/2), as it features performances by winners Daniel Day Lewis, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Marion Cotillard, Sophia Loren and Judi Dench, as well as nominee Kate Hudson and . I’m hard pressed to think of a movie that boasts more Oscar winners in its cast. Might Rob Marshall get on the director’s list this time? That might be the bigger question.
The Lovely Bones: By rights this Peter Jackson adaptation of the best selling novel should be a blockbuster, and perhaps it will be, but early screenings haven’t been too well received. Still, the story of a young murder victim and her family is undeniably haunting. Saorise Ronan is a terrific actress, and the fantastic Stanley Tucci is said to have turned in some of his best work as well. (C: Oscar does like to nominate creepy killer roles…)
Other films to look for – Broken Embraces (Pedro Almodovar directs Penelope Cruz again), Whatever Works (featuring the always fabulous Patricia Clarkson), Everybody’s Fine (I know he’s Robert Deniro, but this film looks toothless to me), The Messenger (long shots Woody Harrelson, Ben Foster and Samantha Morton), The Maid (for an unknown named Catalina Saavedra), The Damned United (love you, Michael Sheen!) and Helen Mirren’s The Last Station. Zach Galifianakis is being bandied about for The Hangover, if you can believe that. Or you can always rent certain nominee Up, if you’re in the mood for a new animated classic. The Fantastic Mr. Fox and Where the Wild Things Are could even figure into the mix. We’ll see what even more obscure others (and there are more – there are always more) start showing up as the awards season starts chugging in. Meanwhile, keep the first five movies I mentioned in mind when you get a chance to go to the theater! I think most stuff on this list is going to be good, but those are the underdogs you might be rooting for in a few months time. So take some time off from Christmas shopping and enjoy!