I mean, it’s still a preview to me, even if we’re already into the month’s first weekend. Anyway, the release calendar is starting to get fully back on track, to go along with the steady improvement in the box office, and while surely not all of these will be equally good, there is at least a nice wide mixture of things coming out, big and small
As we bear witness to the first-ever Officially Rotten film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Eternals, I have begun to entertain an amusing thought; amusing to me anyways. What if, right as critics are finally turning on the sprawling, box office-consuming megafranchise, I really like this one? It’s not probable – not only am I irritated by the whole MCU thing, I have no enthusiasm for newly-anointed Best Director winner Chloé Zhao whatsoever, so it’s kind of like combining two of your least-favorite flavors and hoping for the combination to confuse your tongue – but one of the thoughts I keep seeing in reviews it that it feels like a Zack Snyder film set in the MCU, and I am on good terms with Snyder’s superhero movies at the moment. Just an idle thought.
You know what I do expect to really like, though, is Spencer, the second film in director Pablo Larraín’s apparently ongoing series of films about a few days in the life of a world-famous woman who was well-known as both a humanitarian and a fashion icon, as she deals with some great personal grief. Given how much I adored Jackie back in 2016, his first trip to this well, it feels like a pretty safe bet.
Beloved children’s book figure Clifford the Big Red Dog makes his big screen debut, and I think all that needs to be said is, have you seen the trailer? The most deranged phantasies of a 19th Century opium fiend couldn’t come up with a more terrifying hellbeast.
We’re fully into awards season now: Kenneth Branagh directs a black-and-white story of a childhood not unlike his own in 1960s Belfast.
Somehow, that inordinately uninteresting prospect is the week’s only schedule wide release, but on the subject of films for which I am not in any sense the target audience, we do have a couple of other films that will make some people extremely happy, coming in around the edges. Getting a brief theatrical release before it shows up on Netflix a week later, Tick, Tick… Boom! finds Lin-Manuel Miranda adapting the late Jonathan Larsen’s stage musical that isn’t Rent for the movies. And some people I know love Miranda and/or Larsen! But some people, to quote a musical I actually do love, ain’t me. Meanwhile, not even getting the fig leaf of a four-walled theatrical engagement, Home Sweet Home Alone hits Disney+, and in so doing I believe officially becomes the first time that Disney has raided the 20th Century Fox vaults to produce one of its horrible nostalgia exercises.
And another “quick theatrical stopover before Netflix” release, but this one is among the most exciting films of 2021 to viewers of my particular persuasion: Jane Campion returns to feature filmmaking with The Power of the Dog. It’s a mere two weeks till it shows up online on the first of December, but surely a revisionist Western from one of our most important living filmmakers deserves the big screen?
So far this month we’ve had craven Oscarbait; we’ve have nostalgia properties; we’ve had big-budget tentpoles; now we get them all simultaneously. The nostalgia pandering and blockbuster picture are the same thing: Ghostbusters: Afterlife, which is very obviously targeting a type of viewer whose relationship to the 1984 Ghostbusters is not like my own: to me, the strengths of that film are entirely a function of Bill Murray deciding not to take Dan Aykroyd’s screenplay seriously at all, and transforming it into a sarcastic hang-out movie solely through his own strength of will. Afterlife looks very much like what happens if you have Aykroyd and no Murray, but do have the ability to unimaginatively copy Stranger Things.
The Oscarbait finds Will Smith gunning hard for his first acting Oscar as Venus and Serena Williams’s dad in King Richard; setting aside whether not he’ll get that award or not, isn’t the real-life Richard Williams a giant asshole with a generally hostile relationship with his daughters? I don’t know much from tennis, but that’s what I’ve picked up. And I guess there’s a chance that the movie will touch on that, but it seems pretty generically uplifting and inspirational from what I’ve seen.
And just to round things off with a bit of art cinema I’m very excited for: Radu Jude’s Berlinale winner Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn starts its tour of whatever tiny number of heaters it’s going to hit, and if “Berlinale winner” didn’t get me in the door, “the next film from the director of “I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians”” certainly would.
Thanksgiving Wednesday brings along the widest-ranging collection of movies all month. For familes, we have Encanto, which is another Lin-Manuel Miranda project; this time he’s writing the songs rather than directing, which is probably a trade up (I’m not a Miranda fan, but he’s better than Larsen). The big selling point, though, is that this is an animated feature from the Walt Disney Animation Studio, and not just any feature, Official Disney Feature #60. So I am both professionally and nostalgically obligated to check it out ASAP.
Some more Oscarbait, this time with an immaculate pedigree: House of Gucci has the kind of trailer where we see the phrases “Academy Award Nominee” or “Academy Award Winner” about a dozen times as it runs through the cast and crew (which, for the record, is led by Ridley Scott, with his second of two prestige films this fall). It’s also the kind of trailer that plays a dramatically remixed version of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” and showcases a real murderer’s row of “Wotsamatta you, hey, who ordered-a dis-a pizza pie?” style accents from the likes of Lady Gaga and Jared Leto, so I absolutely cannot and will not be convinced it’s camp: hopefully glorious camp, maybe disastrous camp. But no way am I expected to take this seriously, I refuse to believe it.
And then for people who just want some good honest trash, the month’s sole example is Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City. It is, we are told, a more accurate adaptation of the video game series than the previous run of movies were, and that’s potentially a good thing for people with more investment in the games than I have; I have an investment in Milla Jovovich, and her absence from this freshly-rebooted incarnation of the franchise makes it awfully hard for me to give a shit.
Historically, the Friday after Thanksgiving is home to one of the biggest year-end awards contenders making its New York & Los Angeles qualifying run, and that tradition picks back up this year with the new film by Paul Thomas Anderson, Licorice Pizza, which looks kind of like if Once Upon a Time …in Hollywood had been made by a director I don’t care about on themes I find uninteresting. But I know PTA is much beloved in some quarters, so there you go.