November tends to be a bloated month for movies – family releases, Oscar hopefuls, and the beginning of Blockbuster Season 2.0 all jockeying for space – but this year seems especially so, and with a really peculiar mix of movies, too. I don’t even know how to make a meta-narrative out of this, so let’s just jump straight into it.
Speaking of bloat, the first weekend of the month is the weirdest damn grab-bag of stuff, all the way from lowbrow comedy to unabashed art cinema. In the latter category, we have the Netflix premiere of the new Orson Welles film – the new Orson Welles film, which is still a completely insane thing to say or think – The Other Side of the Wind, a staggering experiment in anti-cinema that I was lucky to see with a packed audience a couple of weeks ago in a real movie theater; it is a hell of a lot of movie, and I’m almost as eager to re-watch it as I was to watch it the first time. Which was a whole lot.
In theatrical release, it’s a three-way battle for prominence between the Freddie Mercury music biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, which is apparently as perfunctory and shallow as it looks; the Disney family fantasy The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, which has apparently concluded that everybody loved the 2010 Alice in Wonderland a lot and also that children still read E.T.A. Hoffmann; and Tyler Perry’s latest broad comedy, with Tiffany Haddish being encouraged to hold absolutely nothing back, Nobody’s Fool. In limited release, we find one of the year’s big Oscar plays, and one of Carrie’s most-anticipated films of the fall, Boy Erased, about which I have heard some absolutely terribly things from people I trust. Add in the not-very-wide expansions of Beautiful Boy and Suspiria, and we have before us quite an expansive range of things to see, though the odds of most of them being at least a little bad seems pretty high, especially the three wide releases, which all look utterly dreadful.
But anyway, the point is: there is a new Orson Welles movie.
For U.S. election day, former Oscar hopeful-turned-critics’ punching bag The Front Runner gets a rare Tuesday release, and if anybody on Earth cares, I don’t know who they are.
After the clutter of the previous weekend, we have a nice, tidy trio of wide releases and not much else. The Girl in the Spider’s Web is the clear loser here, an attempt to revive the Dragon Tattoo universe several years too late, and without any interesting filmmakers involved. The other film targeting adults is Overlord, a “mad science in WWII” movie produced by J.J. Abrams whose trailer looks deeply dull, but WWII is a good setting for mad science, and I wish to remain provisionally optimistic.
Both films still look better to me than The Grinch, Illumination Entertainment’s attempt to make another feature-length film out of Dr. Seuss’s picture book. The 2000 live-action version is one of my least-favorite films of all time, so I’m sure this won’t be that bad, but it still looks like a big ol’ piece of shit.
Fans of Chris Pine’s penis, Netflix has you covered with Outlaw King.
Making me all nostalgic-like for the early 2000s, when November meant Harry Potter movies, here comes Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, which among other things has the most fans-only title of any franchise picture since The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Also, whatever charms 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them had – and there were more than a few – I do not think they are going to be replicated here.
Elsewhere among the wide releases, we find Widows, the fourth feature by the so-far unfailing Steve McQueen, and the first one that looks to be more interested in crowd-pleasing genre storytelling than punishing artistry. Plus it has a terrific cast, headlined by Viola Davis. All the way around on the other side of things is Instant Family, a Very Nice Movie with Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne that looks like absolute garbage.
Netflix keeps the hits coming with The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, the new film by Joel & Ethan Coen. I have the promise that it’s very good from no less an authority than David Bordwell, which is sure as hell more than enough for me (not enough for you? Conrado wrote a little bit about it for us a couple of weeks ago).
Thanksgiving Wednesday brings, as it often does, a pairing of a big family movie with a big “for the dads” movie. The former, this time around, is Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2, a movie whose existence depresses me on every level, for multiple reasons, and that’s all I want to talk about until I inevitably drag my sorry ass to see it opening day because “I do animation”. The dad movie – attested to by our own resident dad Rob, in fact – is Creed II, which seems like it’s just taunting fate, but I don’t know, I like Michael B. Jordan.
Going a bit further afield from big crowdpleasers comes the year’s “big crowdpleaser” among pandering awards bait, Green Book. The pitch seems to have been “race-swapped Driving Miss Daisy“, which makes me feel ill, and it seems at this moment in time to be one of only two films that can win the Best Picture Oscar, which makes me feel even worse.
And then out here in the hinterlands is this damn new Robin Hood, a movie with absolutely no obvious target audience, a movie that seems have seen the Guy Ritchie King Arthur and asked, “but what if it was even more weird on tone?”, a movie that has, as far as I can tell, literally no reason whatsoever to exist. Poor little loveless bastard.
A very special Thanksgiving present from Netflix: want to see Kurt Russell as Santa Claus? Well now you can with The Christmas Chronicles, you weirdo.
Thanksgiving Friday, that most “we’re just releasing this for Oscar qualification, pay no mind” date of the calendar. This year, it’s a pair of really swell-looking movies, too: Yorgos Lanthimos’s apparently very warped period drama The Favourite (which Conrado touched on here) and Kore-eda Hirokazu’s Palme d’Or winner Shoplifters. I am particularly excited to see the latter when it comes around to Madison sometime in the second quarter of 2019.
With such an early Thanksgiving, the traditional early December dead zone is two weeks long this year. The only scheduled wide release at the moment is a wholly generic-looking horror movie with the wholly generic title The Possession of Hannah Grace. There’s a little more room for hope among the limited releases: Anna and the Apocalypse is a zombie fantasy comedy musical set at Christmas, and even if it’s completely fucking terrible – which, let’s be honest, sounds likely – that’s at least a whole lot of ambition. And then there’s yet another tony Oscar hopefully from Best Picture-winning director Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk, which Conrado didn’t love – as someone relatively agnostic on Moonlight, I have my doubts as well – but the trailer at least suggests that it looks completely gorgeous.