No matter what else happens, 2013’s Prestigious Drama Season has already paid its dues, to a degree that is virtually unprecedented in recent years. The biggest question is whether anything for the rest of the year will be able to top the 1-2-3 punch of Gravity, Captain Phillips, and 12 Years a Slave, a trio hitting that rarest sweet spot of being terrific cinema that’s also mainstream enough to win consensus approval. I rather doubt it; it’s a treat to get just one movie in the heat of Oscar season that turns out that well, three is flat-out astonishing, and to hope for more would be greedy.
Besides, November seems to be, this year, a clearing ground for year-end popcorn movies, and the less exciting-on-paper awards hopefuls. Not all of which are equally unappealing, though it seems like a month heavier on question marks than sure things.
A couple of things I am sure of, though: there are no gems hiding in plain sight to open the month. The wide releases are a dire lot, indeed: the best one, I imagine, is likely to be the decades-awaited YA sci-fi adaptation Ender’s Game, and that’s even if the thing ends up looking as glossy and plastic as the ads suggest. That’s still enough to push it over Last Vegas, in which old men are wacky and horny and old, and the deeply unpleasant-looking Free Birds, an animated time travel comedy about turkeys sabotaging Thanksgiving, about which all available evidence suggests that “intolerable” will be a particularly generous evaluation.
Among the limited releases, we have at least Dallas Buyers Club, which has the unmistakable tang of being a Serious Film on Important Themes, but looks to have good acting on top of it; also Le Week-End, which I’ll vouch for (it’s getting one of those invisible Oscar-qualifying runs). The flipside is Diana, a biopic that was more or less laughed right out of England. Can’t lie, that actually makes me more interested.
A light weekend. About Time, an inordinately concept-heavy romantic comedy, goes wide after a single week in the platform release trenches; and then the elephantine Thor: The Dark World, which I gather people are looking forward to. Personally, the increasingly airbrushed Marvel house style has become sufficiently charmless to me that I wouldn’t be anticipating this one even if it wasn’t the sequel to my least-favorite entry in the Avengers universe thus far.
Glancing over the limited releases, none of them seem interesting. Move along.
Making a sequel 14 years later is a sign of either madness or creative inspiration, certainly not of mercenary concerns, so on the face of it, I’m intrigued by The Best Man Holiday, and the fact that it’s the only wide release of the weekend pretty much seals the deal.
Back among the awards-qualifying runs, Alexander Payne’s Nebraska hits the States after receiving uncertain reviews and awards at Cannes, and I’m honestly not prepared to start liking him again after The Descendants, not just yet. Also: after two years, Aleksandr Sokurov’s Faust finally tours North America! Which is a long damn delay, but for Sokurov, I will carry that torch.
The Hunger Games was many wonderful things; exciting, vibrant cinema wasn’t one of them. And it was based on the best book of its trilogy. So I am personally adopting a very defensive posture towards The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (shitty title, by the way), while admitting that Michael Arndt being involved with the screenplay seems like a good reason for something in the general wheelhouse of optimism (swapping the director of Seasbiscuit out for the director of Constantine seems like more of a push).
Also, a sperm donor feel-good comedy called Delivery Man. It’s a remake of a Canadian film, during the trailer for which a friend and I snarkily predicted who would be the lead in a U.S. remake. I am pleased to say that we weren’t craven enough to come up with Vince Vaughn, and are thus better people than the producers of Delivery Man.
Ah, Thanksgiving Wednesday, when everything suddenly opens all at once and you go mad trying to keep on top of it. Speaking privately, I hold out the most hope for Black Nativity, owing to its apparent oddness and to lingering affection for director Kasi Lemmons, though of course the biggest deal around these parts is going to be Frozen, the 53rd feature from Walt Disney Animation Studios, and a film whose godawful trailers have not yet suggested that it isn’t just Tangled in the Snow, on the level of plot, character, or aesthetic. On the other hand, Tangled itself was so vastly different than the ads promised, it’s hard not to hold out hope.
Meanwhile, the year’s most fascinating, counter-intuitive marriage of director and script finds Spike Lee remaking Oldboy. Lastly, Jason Statham and James Franco star in a home invasion thriller scripted by Sylvester Stallone, Homefront, and that’s much too weird a collision of names for me to not at least be intrigued.
The traditional home of quietly releasing films for Oscar purposes, Thanksgiving Friday this year witnesses the Judi Dench sad mama film Philomena, and urgently-titled biopic Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, possibly the only moment in all of history where you’ll get me to acknowledge the possibility that Idris Elba might have been miscast in something.