November is always kind of a weird movie month: unlike December, where you get a whole bunch of Oscary prestige pictures and a couple big crowd-pleasers with a nice family sheen to them, the awards bait in November tends to be more tentative and focused more on acting contenders than actual Best Picture hopefuls, while the crowd-pleasers usually have the feel of orphans left over from summer. That is to say, the month is full of big and crass things, but always unusually weird big and crass things. And so it always feels, to me at least, like there are Possibilities: nothing seems so unlikably pre-sold as it does in the other big release months. On top of which, this particular November is host to one of the absolute biggest Must-See pictures of the rest of the year, and that is always a nice thing.
Did I say “crass”? Well, here you go, with Tower Heist, a fucking caper movie by the inordinately distasteful Brett Ratner, with a plot that seems to go like this: “White people hire a black man to teach them how to be criminals”. At least it shows that Gabby Sidibe can keep getting jobs in movies, though I despair a little that this is the one she got.
In comparison, A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas looks almost refined, although I can’t shake the feeling that it’s at least a full year too late for a movie whose sole purpose, judging from the trailer, is mocking the trashiness of pointless 3-D movies. Also, not to call into question the tastes of stoner movie fans, but I feel like the H&K formula was completely spent by the end of the last one.
A couple of limited-release films of note: The Son of No One, which is supposed to be kind of lousy, but it has a nicely-stocked cast, and Young Goethe in Love, arguably the face-palmiest biopic of the calendar year.
Immortals is going to be awful, and it really causes me pain that Immortals is going to be awful, because it’s the third film by Tarsem Singh, after The Cell and The Fall, both of which I pretty much love all the way down to my toes. Setting aside the fact that it’s a 300 knock-off, I pray that it will be easy on the eyes, at least. Something that will not be true of Jack and Jill, in which Adam Sandler plays both of the title characters. Yes, it’s the Adam Sandler drag movie we’ve all been waiting for. Yes, it’s directed by Dennis Dugan. Yes, I’m going to commit suicide if it goes to #1 and I have to actually go see it.
The month gets its first wide-release Oscarbait, in Clint Eastwood’s biopic J. Edgar, boasting what surely does look to be one of the laziest Leonardo DiCaprio performances in years, with an accent even worse than the one he sported in Blood Diamond. I don’t know that I have ever been this anti-excited for an Eastwood movie.
And lots more prestige stuff in limited release, all of it the kind of weirdly art film-ish prestige stuff that is usually too good for awards notice: Werner Herzog’s documentary about the human relationship with death, Into the Abyss, Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, which looks so ethereal and beautiful in the stills and trailer that it’s even able to overcome my native hatred of von Trier, and Elite Squad 2, which is by all accounts the movie that the overheated first Elite Squad thought it was.
Alexander Payne returns, hopefully triumphantly, with The Descendants, though all the trailer says to me is that Fox Searchlight just wants to make absolutely certain that George Clooney gets a Best Actor nomination on their watch.
I kind of loved Happy Feet, and I’m not at all ashamed to say it, and George Miller has in his life directed two absolutely brilliant sequels in the form of The Road Warrior and Babe: Pig in the City. All of which are, combined, almost enough to get me excited for Happy Feet Two, but something just feels off about it, and I can’t figure out what it is. But still, dancing CGI penguins are all that really needs to be said. I’m not made of goddamn stone, you know.
You know who is made of goddamn stone? The goddamn vampires in goddamn Twilight. And here we are with the penultimate film in their epic tale, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1, which is going to assuredly be the better of the wildly unnecessary two-part final movie, given that the only plot point in the entire 700+ page book is allegedly going to show up right before the cliffhanger of this one. It is also, by far, the best single incident in the entire series, and to be done right, it needs to have NC-17 levels of violence, which means that BD1 is going to be largely pointless with its hobbled PG-13 rating, though not as pointless as next year’s Breaking Dawn – Part 2.
Thanksgiving Weekend! And that means a clusterbomb of family movies: Arthur Christmas, in which Aardman tries CGI again after the, let’s be honest, middling Flushed Away; and Hugo, in which Martin Scorsese embraces 3-D for the first time while making his very first kids’ movies; and most importantly, The Muppets, which has a solid 15 years of bad memories to wipe away, but by all evidence (i.e. the single best ad campaign of 2011), Jason Segel and company have captured the essence of Jim Henson’s sweet-natured anarchism. Since I basically, at this point, need it to be the best film of the whole year, I expect to be let down, but hopefully only by a little.
Then it’s a trio of limited-release awards hopefuls, of which the one likeliest to make a killing with both critics and the golden trophy folks is undoubtedly The Artist, a love-letter to silent cinema; I happen to have seen it and I happen to know it’s outstanding, and I look forward very much to seeing it again. Next up: My Week with Marilyn, which I’ve also seen, and it’s… not good. Mostly by being the most obvious possible treatment of the Marilyn Monroe legend, with a Michelle Williams performance that should have been better than it is. Kenneth Branagh’s Laurence Olivier is, at any rate, delightfully bitchy. Finally, A Dangerous Method, in which David Cronenberg tells a non-body horror tale of sexual psychosis, with the aid of Michael Fassbender and Viggo Mortensen as Jung and Freud. This one I have not seen, and reviews are unhelpfully mixed, but Cronenberg always makes for essential viewing.