Along with the festive holiday decorations that surround us everywhere these days comes the annual Movie Awards Brigade, a time when the most hyped Oscar bait doesn’t always deliver the goods, but the long shots do and jockeys to the front of the line.
The studios have checked their lists twice (or more) and by the end of the year will be releasing would-be Oscar nominees with twinkles in their eyes and dreams of year-end awards in their hearts.
Already, a few “sure things” have to clear the baggage of a mediocre pre-release hype, such as Sam Mendes’ “Empire of Light,” out December 9th. Meanwhile, a few outsiders demand our attention, including Vicky Krieps as a suffocating real-life empress in Corsage, out December 30; Jim Parsons and Ben Aldridge as lovers facing an unhappy future in “Spoiler Alert” (Dec. 2); and Naomi Ackie as tragic singer Whitney Houston in I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Dec. 23).
After all, when it comes to Hollywood and the holiday prizes, anything can happen.
But before we spotlight the newcomers, let’s revisit some of the standout early risers who have already made their points but may have escaped your notice.
After a brief release, Amazon Prime is relaunching its heartwarming Mars rover odyssey, Good Night Oppy, on November 23. It is ideal for the holiday screening and a nice film about science.
Meanwhile, the bloody feud between Irish enemies, Banshees of Inisherin will be a strong contender and still playing in cinemas; as does Todd Field’s bold creative statement “Tár,” with a volcanic performance from Cate Blanchett, a front-runner for best actress. And don’t neglect Robert Eggers’ gruff, violent Viking epic The Northman (available to stream now). It could be a sleeper. Also in the mix are Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (particularly Angela Bassett’s savage portrayal of Queen Ramonda) and Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s insanely creative Everything Everywhere All at Once, one of the best films of the year.
But now it’s time to look ahead.
To get into the spirit of the season, we’ve rounded up The 12 Films of the Awards Season – releases through the end of the year to keep Oscar watchers watching.
Okay, we just cheated a bit by squeezing in a movie that opens in the Bay Area in January. Don’t be Scrooge, it happens every year.
Here is our summary.
“The Fable Men”
If there’s a Best Picture nomination, it’s this one — Steven Spielberg’s deep dive into the semi-autobiographical nostalgia that centers around a child who falls in love with movies and then decides to make films of his own. Sound familiar? Early rumor has it that Spielberg and co-writing partner Tony Kushner have created another hilarious gem, with a highly respected veteran cast that includes Michelle Williams and Paul Dano as the bickering parents of new filmmaker Sammy (Mateo Zoryon Francis-DeFord and Gabriel LaBelle) belong. Since this is a Spielberg production, expect the tears to flow and flow.
Details: In theatres.
‘bones and all’
While I question the sanity of anyone who thought it was a good idea to release a film about cannibalism around Thanksgiving, the presence of actors Taylor Russell and Timothée Chalamet, coupled with the quirky storytelling of the “Call Me By Your Name” filmmaker Luca Guadagnino, it might nudge this into a few award categories.
Details: In theatres
“Avatar: The Way of Water”
Ridiculed by some, cherished by others, James Cameron’s 2009 special effects extravaganza Avatar earned nine Oscar nominations and took home three. Cameron may be a divisive filmmaker, but he’s always a dependable Hollywood showman, a technical wizard who knows how to deliver the visual wows. Expect a split decision nonetheless, and the 3+ hour runtime already has us squirming in our seats.
Details: In theaters December 16th.
Indie director/writer Sarah Polley offers another of her adventurous, colorful and insightful conversation starters. It is a literal speaker, adapted from Miriam Toews’ novel of the same name, about faith and recovery from sexual abuse and trauma within a Mennonite community. Its ensemble cast (Jessie Buckley, Claire Foy, Frances McDormand, Rooney Mara, Judith Ivey, Ben Whishaw, among others) makes it a prestige film with a strong pedigree and equally strong voice and sense of purpose. It will be an award magnet.
Details: In theaters December 2nd.
“The Slap” Will Smith nailed Chris Rock to at the 2022 Oscars still feels raw, to the point where many of us don’t want to see either of them at the next ceremony. But what can’t be missed is Smith’s presence in this, his latest epic drama, which is teeming with interest. Director Antoine Fuqua has a patchy record (“Infinite,” starring Mark Wahlberg, was a stunning disaster), but the impressive trailer suggests it could catapult him into awards orbit. It is based on a true story about a slave who was nearly beaten to death and later joins the Union Army. Smith is both a star and a co-producer.
Details: In select theaters December 2nd, on Apple TV+ December 9th.
“Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio”
Earlier this year, Disney+ released Robert Zemeckis/’ wooden live-action adaptation of his 1940 animated classic. Now Carlo Collodis’ intricate fable about a doll who wants to be real is being reimagined by one of the few filmmakers to give the story the depth, texture and dimension it deserves. At least visually, this Netflix release looks unique and compelling.
Details: Available on Netflix December 11, after a short run in select theaters.
Brendan Fraser’s stunning tour de force performance here could be the one to beat in the upcoming awards season, in part because it’s being touted as the comeback of the year for a likeable actor who’s seen his share of ups and downs. That being said, Fraser deserves credit for this achievement on his own terms. Darren Aronofsky’s 2012 adaptation of Samuel D. Hunter’s stage play is a hard-hitting, heartbreaking odyssey as it ticks off the hours and days she spent with the 600-pound, caged Charlie, caught even deeper in his own grief . You won’t forget either the performance or the film itself.
Details: In theaters December 9th
‘Glass onion: knife out’
I know, I know. Director/writer Rian Johnson’s oh-so-clever, star-studded crime thriller set on a Greek island where someone has plots to kill goes a long way toward making screen time. Oscar rarely gives his greatest credit to a humble comedy. But when it comes to entertaining the Dickens of us, few 2022 releases can match this one. Consider that this sequel is even better than the original. It finds the divine detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) tracking down rats and secrets among new suspects (Kate Hudson is a hoot). It could well bring Johnson a screenplay award.
Details: In theaters; on Netflix on December 23.
If Damien Chazelle’s glossy lollapalooza of a movie offers even a tenth of the Red Bull-esque adrenaline rush experienced in its wild trailer, then we’re in for something grandiose and over the top; in the best possible way. The creator of “La La Land” returns to his favorite spot in Hollywood as Big Dreamers plunge into harsh reality in 1920’s Tinseltown. Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt and Tobey Maguire are just a few of the stars polishing it up. We’re in, but we’re concerned that this might be far too rampant.
Details: Theatrical release on December 23.
Lukas Dhont’s wise and beautiful tearjerker might not be on your radar, but it should and deserves a shower of awards. A deep friendship between two 13-year-old boys in the Belgian countryside is dissolved after a blissful summer comes to an end and they return to school. This is a film full of pain, understanding and compassion. It’s filmmaking glory with two incredibly young performances from Eden Dambrine and Gustav De Waele.
Details: Expected to be in cinemas in December.
Anyone who has the audacity to even attempt to adapt one of author Don DeLillo’s stunning works into a film deserves respect. Noah Baumbach takes on the daunting task of directing and writing this Netflix production based on DeLillo’s award-winning 1985 novel that changed the genre. At first glance, “Noise” is a portrait of a family suffering from a toxic waste disaster, but true to DeLillo’s cast, it covers much more. In this adaptation, we’re here to peel off the layers and discuss what they all mean. The main roles are played by Adam Driver, Greta Gerwig, Don Cheadle and Jodie Turner-Smith.
Details: In select theaters December 2; on Netflix on December 30th.
This reimagining of Akira Kurosawa’s existential tearjerker “Ikiru” isn’t coming to the Bay Area until January 6, but it’s worth the wait. A clever script by Kazuo Ishiguro and a classic performance by Bill Nighy ensure that Oliver Hermanus’ wistful 1950s drama about an uptight British civil servant confronted with his mortality reminds us of the need to paint outside the borders and to experience life to its fullest.
Details: In theaters January 6th.
Contact Randy Myers at [email protected]