And here we are at the end of a year that began well, middled terrifically, and now… well, it’s the most crowedest time of the year, with films being pitched out in the mad hope that they’ll have awards glory, or make huge sums of cash over the holidays, or both. And as has been the case from just about the beginning, I’ve found very little to look forward to in this year’s slate of awards hopefuls or wannabe blockbusters. So forgive me if I look at the enormous number of titles coming out in the next thirty days, and on virtually no counts come up with more than a sour “is that all?”
A limited release to start things off: Wild, in which Reese Witherspoon plays the Emile Hirsch character from Into the Wild, from the director of Dallas Buyers Club, and there is seriously not one single proper noun in the sentence I just wrote that makes this sound even borderline tolerable. If nothing else, the awful bourgeois overtones of the whole “find yourself in nature” shtick should be more satisfying with a woman on the verge of 40 instead of a twentyish man in the lead.
And now, a wide release, but only by the barest definition: The Pyramid, whose concept gives me the worst flashbacks to As Above, So Below. Oh, December horror. The month is already scary enough without your sad attempts at breaking out.
Amazing to think that directors Ridley Scott and Chris Rock could be facing off and the latter would appear to have, by far, the better film coming out (also that the phrase “director Chris Rock” could be casually dropped like that). Between Rock’s character-driven comedy Top Five, with its rapturous reviews, and Scott’s new attempt at a big-ass ancient world epic, Exodus: Gods and Kings, it’s easy for me to say which one looks more appealing. Especially since the “Bible story as CG adventure” slot for the year was already filled by Noah, which seems to be coming from a more artistically rigorous place than this.
Limited: Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, and given that I’m already pretty lukewarm on his filmography, the thought of having to deal with a PTA picture getting mixed reviews is not a pretty thought, not at all.
Just like that, only 800 hours after it started, Peter Jackson brings his adaptation of the slender children’s book The Hobbit to a close with The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. Why not, I saw the first two.
Just from the trailers, the metallic autotune and shrieking caricature of humanity played by Cameron Diaz were enough to make the new modern-dress version of Annie look more like punishment than entertainment, and now word comes from those what have pirated the film in the wake of what Sony badly wants to pretend is an attack by North Korea that no, it’s actually worse than it looks. Sadly, word is not out yet on whether or not Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb is any worse than it looks, but I do appreciate that the race for the year’s worst theatrically-released family film is coming down to the wire like this.
Meanwhile, Mike Leigh’s latest, Mr. Turner, comes out, and look well, because it is the only thing coming out between now and Christmas that I’m actually looking forward to in any significant way.
What says Christmas Eve like a woman desperately fighting to save her job? Nothing at all, says the Belgian Two Days, One Night, which I have already seen and loved. But a long, emotionally rough biopic of 18th Century writers is festive too, argues the German Beloved Sisters, which I’ve seen and liked.
Six big new movies, though luckily, you only have to pick between three of them if you live anywhere but New York and Los Angeles. There’s the big heaving sincerity of the obvious Oscar play Unbroken, or the smutty bro comedy of The Interview; I imagine both will be fine exemplars of genres I don’t like, but the Brayton family movie for Christmas Day will likely be Into the Woods for reasons of Sondheim loyalty. And also a trailer that gives me a hope-like substance? Even though Rob Marshall is responsible? And then I remember that Chicago, which I didn’t care for much at all, had a killer trailer, and I get depressed.
The little releases include Selma, which ought to be the break-out film for Ava DuVernay, and how great will it be to have a black female director in the awards season mix? Also Big Eyes, the most un-Tim Burtony looking Tim Burton movie in decades, and American Sniper, a Clint Eastwood picture that will be getting favorable reviews simply by virtue of not being Jersey Boys. I love the thought that there will be families arguing about whether to watch the movie about the prolific killer or the movie about the political protests after their Christmas dinner.
In under the wire for awards consideration, a pair of films by directors I’m predisposed to like: it will be perhaps weeks later that I finally see Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan or J.C. Chandor’s A Most Violent Year, but oh how I anticipate both: my favorite Russian filmmaker alive on the one hand, a great director of actors working with Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac on the other. Not a bad way to wrap up a year.