Way back in 1932 filmmaker Josef von Sternberg resigned from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, noting it had “nothing to do with art and even less to do with science.” While it’s likely that this was in part the result of constantly losing potential awards to lesser talents, it was not without its truth. And every year they reinforce his statement by holding the Oscar awards—something that most of us approach with a strange mixture of apathy and addiction. We don’t take them seriously really — especially now that every half-assed, semi-credible organization has awards — but we seem to be compelled to follow them and watch them through some kind of Pavlovian effect.
Here at last are our picks for the ten best films of the year — and they’re sure to be the cause for much wailing and gnashing of teeth. One notable omission is sure to raise eyebrows and even hackles. I mean everybody is supposed to have 12 Years a Slave on his or her list, right? Here’s the thing (and I think I can speak for Mr. Souther, too), I have the utmost respect and admiration for the film. I think it is brilliant. I am cheering for Chiwetel Ejiofor to win that Best Actor Oscar, and I’ll be cool with it if 12 Years a Slave takes Best Picture. I think it’s a fine film and a powerful one, but something about the film feels just a little at arm’s length and keeps it from engaging me fully on an emotional level. That aside, here are the lists
I know I promised you something really tasty this week. Actually, I promised it to you two weeks ago. Well, it — The Great Beauty — has been moved back again. (I had nothing to do with this.) Will it open next week? Maybe. And that’s as far as I’m committing myself at this point. In its stead, we do have four movies of the mainstream variety. There’s one pretty fair possibility and three long shots. You may want to consider movies that are still playing — or some of the awards contenders that are making encore appearances.
I promised you a better week and here it is — though it’s shy one title I was expecting. That said, we get five new movies this week, and three of them have merit. One of them has a lot of merit. The other two — well, you can’t have everything. Just remember that this pretty much washes up the 2013 holdovers (apart from the one that didn’t open). And that means it’s probably lean times ahead. Get your movies while the getting’s good.
OK, so only one of the Christmas Day openings was worth seeing. That’s still one more than this week promises. There are two bright sides to this. First of all, you can catch up with all the good movies you still haven’t seen. Second, next week, a pretty strong blast of movies you’ve been waiting to see finally make it to the provinces — including one terrific movie you don’t even know you’re waiting on.
Christmas is upon us and it comes bearing Martin Scorsese, Keanu Reeves, Robert DeNiro, Sylvester Stallone, Ben Stiller (as director) and Ben Stiller (as star). At least the first of those is a good thing. One of them is OK. The rest represent what we call an unknown quantity. It is also a quantity of which I am deeply skeptical. Since at least some of these are in my future, I put on my Christmas cheer face and hope for the best. (Yeah, I’m not fooling myself either.)
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. This week we get three pretty darn terrific — and wildly diverse — new films. It’s also that time of year where the line between art and mainstream blurs to a degree we don’t see at any other time of the year. This is both pleasant and mildly distressing, since the big-box theater chains get into the picture. Regardless, we have three choice movies this week — and a couple of others.
Last week wasn’t very much fun, was it? There we were gathered together— gloomy and despondent — huddled around a single, meager mainstream release and a documentary no one cared about. (The situation was so bad from my perspective that I opted to make the Weekly Pick one of the Special Showings.) This week is somewhat more promising — in its way. (What we’re really waiting for are the next two weeks.) Exactly how promising you will find it depends a great deal on how much you are jazzed about yet another Hobbit movie — that and your Tyler Perry tolerance.
I’m not going to mince words, gloss things over or put a brave face on it. This week is pathetic. There are two movies opening — one of limited audience appeal (it’s a documentary) and one about which there is cause for some skepticism. It’s a good thing that there’s still a large quantity of good things that are still playing. That’s the most comfort I can give. I can’t even bring myself to use an image from this week’s crop and have settled on a movie from 10 years ago, which is a special screening this week.
Since it has been authoritatively proved that a significant portion of the American public can only survive an entire day with their family if at least two or three hours of that day are spent in a darkened movie theater — offering the illusion of togetherness without actual interaction — it is my civic responsibility to enlighten you on your options. This year — filling that space between the turkey and the Alka Seltzer — we have a fairly pleasing variety of diversions at our disposal.
While Hollywood sits around trying to figure out how a film nobody thought would make a nickel almost stole Thor’s thunder last weekend, the rest of us are poised to try to withstand the arrival of The Next Big Thing this week — and it’s an almost surefire juggernaut. It will easily rake in a few trillion bucks before the weekend is out and restore the status quo that was briefly disturbed by last weekend’s fluke. And there’s more than that heading our way.
The studios seem to be taking the week off. We get exactly one movie that could be called mainstream — and it’s a borderline case that no one is expecting anything out of, and not everyone is bothering to book at all. On the other hand, we do get two new art titles of a certain interest — one of them bordering on the notorious.
It looks like awards season is upon us, since two of the heaviest hitters are opening this week. There’s also a third art title for our viewing, a sort of mainstream/art hybrid and a big-budget blockbuster that’s already conquered most of the rest of the world. Actually, life looks pretty good this week — cinematically speaking.
While civilization attempts to recover from the embarrassing fact that Bad Grandpa is the number one movie in the country, we find ourselves faced with something of a slight week as concerns new movies hitting town (next week is slated to be a very different proposition, I assure you). This week we get three mainstream titles, one art title and a sort-of-art title.
If you take a look at the Upcomers in the print edition, the week looks pretty crowded, but three of those titles are part of the second edition of The Carolina’s “Music Madness” mini-festival. Not to minimize those — there’s some choice stuff in this second set — but that only leaves us with three full openings: two mainstream and one art title. (There was supposed to be one more, but the distributors changed their minds.)
This is an odd week in a number of ways. First of all, there’s something unusual in terms of approach with a collection of music films. Then we have one art title — an unusually fine documentary — and three mainstream ones, which is no shock. But on top of that those happy Weinstein pranksters have hit us with another of those curious, out-of-nowhere split bills.
This is quite a week — at least in terms of quantity. We’re looking at two art/indie titles (one of which blindsided me) and three mainstream ones. What to make of it all is another question.
What started off as a simple week of two art titles and two mainstream ones permitted itself the luxury of becoming more complicated. The truth, however, is that the complication of three additional films isn’t likely to make much impact on very many moviegoing plans. I will explain.
There is certainly no shortage of movies hitting town this week. There are, in fact, seven of the things. Seven, mind you. You could make a movie about Snow White with those. The question is whether this is an embarrassment of riches, or merely an embarrassment.
All in all, we’re looking at a pretty good week — and it’s not particularly overcrowded. We have two art titles that have things to recommend them, and two mainstream offerings, one of which stands a good chance of being genuinely worth your while. The other is another matter.
Well, this is certainly tastier than last week, which produced the absolute worst grosses I’ve seen in … well, a very long time. This week looks better. I say that based on both things I’ve seen and my level of interest in at least one thing unseen. This is also one of those weeks in which there are, I fear, more art titles than the market will bear.