Along with the festive decorations that surround us everywhere we go these days comes the annual Film Awards Brigade, a time when that hottest Oscar bait doesn’t always deliver the goods, but that long shot does, and jockeys at the front of the line.
The studios have checked their lists twice (or more) and through the end of the year they’ll be releasing budding Oscar contenders with a gleam in their eyes and year-end award dreams in their hearts. .
Already, a few “sure things” have to overcome the baggage of not-so-advanced buzz, namely Sam Mendes’ “Empire of Light,” which hits theaters Dec. 9. Meanwhile, a few outsiders demand our attention, including Vicky Krieps as a sultry empress in “Corsage,” out December 30; Jim Parsons and Ben Aldridge as lovers facing an unhappy future in “Spoiler Alert” (December 2); and Naomi Ackie as tragic singer Whitney Houston in “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” (December 23).
Anything can happen, after all, when it comes to Hollywood and the holiday awards season.
But before we shine a light on the newbies hitting the block, let’s reconsider a few of the early risers that might have escaped your notice. After a smash of release, Amazon Prime is relaunching its heartwarming Mars rover odyssey “Good Night Oppy” on November 23. It’s great for holiday viewing, and it’s a great science movie.
Meanwhile, the bloody feud between Irish foes, ‘Banshees of Inisherin’ is going to be a strong contender and is still playing in theaters; as did Todd Field’s bold creative statement “Tár,” with a volcanic performance from Cate Blanchett, who is a favorite for Best Actress. And don’t overlook Robert Eggers’ gruff and violent Viking epic, “The Northman” (now available to stream). It could be a sleeper.
But now it’s time to look to the future.
To get into the spirit of the season, we’ve cooked up The 12 Movies of Awards Season – releases through the end of the year that Oscar watchers should watch.
OK, we cheated just a little bit by sticking in a movie hitting the Bay Area in January. Don’t be a Scrooge about it, it happens every year.
Here is our roundup.
If there’s a shoo-in for Best Picture nomination, it’s this one – Steven Spielberg’s deep dive into semi-autobiographical nostalgia that centers on a kid who falls in love with movies and then decides to do his. Sound familiar? The early buzz is that the Spielberg and his co-writing partner Tony Kushner have created another witty gem, with a much-loved veteran cast that includes Michelle Williams and Paul Dano hitting all the right notes. They play the bickering parents of neophyte filmmaker Sammy (Mateo Zoryon Francis-DeFord and Gabriel LaBelle). Since this is a Spielberg production, expect tears to flow and flow.
Details: In theaters November 23.
“Bones and All”
While I question the sanity of anyone who thought releasing a movie about cannibalism around Thanksgiving was a good idea, the presence of actors Taylor Russell and Timothée Chalamet, coupled with the quirkiness of the filmmaker’s narration of “Call Me By Your Name” Luca Guadagnino, could push this into a few award categories.
Details: In theaters November 23.
“Avatar: The Way of the Water”
Mocked by some, cherished by others, James Cameron’s 2009 special effects show “Avatar” garnered nine Oscar nominations and won three. Cameron may be a divisive filmmaker, but still a dependable Hollywood showman, a technical wizard who knows how to deliver the stunning visuals. Expect a split decision on this one though, and its 3-plus hour runtime already has us squirming in our seats.
Details: In theaters December 16.
Independent director/screenwriter Sarah Polley offers another one of her adventurous, scintillating, and revealing conversation starters. It is a literal discourse, adapted from the novel by Miriam Toews, 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 for a prestige film with a solid pedigree and an equally strong voice and meaning. It will be a rewards magnet.
Details: In theaters December 2.
“The Slap” that Will Smith put on Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscars still seems raw, to the point that many of us don’t want to see either of those two at the next ceremony. But what’s impossible to ignore is Smith’s presence and this latest epic drama buzzing with interest. Director Antoine Fuqua has a spotty record (“Infinite” starring Mark Wahlberg was a mind-numbing 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 beaten nearly to death and later joined the Union Army. Smith is both star and co-producer.
Details: In select theaters December 2, on Apple TV+ December 9.
Pinocchio by Guillermo del Toro
Earlier this year, Disney+ released Robert Zemeckis’ live-action wooden adaptation of its 1940 animated classic. Now Carlo Collodi’s convoluted fable about a puppet wanting to be real is being remade by one of the few filmmakers who could give the story the depth, texture and dimension it deserves. Visually, at least, this Netflix release looks unique and compelling.
Details: Available December 11 on Netflix, after a short run in select theaters.
Brendan Fraser’s harrowing tour de force here might just be the one to beat this awards season, in part because it’s being billed as the comeback of the year for a likable actor who’s had his share of ups and downs. from bottom. All that aside, Fraser deserves recognition for this performance on his own terms. Darren Aronofsky’s adaptation of Samuel D. Hunter’s 2012 play is a difficult and heartbreaking odyssey as it marks the hours and days spent with a locked-up 600-pound Charlie, who is trapped even deeper by his own sorrow. You won’t forget the performance, nor the film itself.
Details: In theaters December 9
‘Glass Onion: At loggerheads’
I know I know. Director/screenwriter Rian Johnson’s oh-so-clever star-studded mystery set on a Greek island where murder is on someone’s mind is a long shot come best picture time. Oscar rarely bestows its highest honor on humble comedy. But when it comes to entertaining us, few 2022 releases can match this one. Factor in that this sequel is even better than the original. He finds divine detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) unearthing rats and secrets among new suspects (Kate Hudson is a scream). That just might land Johnson a screenplay honor.
Details: In theaters November 23; on Netflix on December 23.
If the high-gloss lollapalooza of a Damien Chazelle film delivers even a tenth of the adrenaline rush Red Bull experienced in its wild trailer, we’re in for something grand and over the top; in the best possible way. The ‘La La Land’ creator returns to his Hollywood lair as Big Dreamers crashes into the harsh reality of Tinseltown in the 1920s. Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt and Tobey Maguire are just a few of the stars who cast him pack. We agree, but we fear that this is too complacent.
Details: Released in theaters on December 23.
Lukas Dhont’s wise and tearfully handsome may not be on your radar, but he should be and deserves a shower of accolades. A close friendship between two 13-year-old boys in the Belgian countryside comes undone after the end of a beautiful summer and they return to school. It is a film full of pain, understanding and compassion. It’s glorious cinema with two incredible young performances by Eden Dabrine and Gustav De Waele.
Details: Expected in theaters in December.
Anyone who has the audacity to even try to condense one of author Don DeLillo’s mind-blowing works into a movie deserves respect. Noah Baumbach takes on that difficult task here, serving as director and writer for this Netflix production based on DeLillo’s award-winning 1985 novel. Apparently, “Noise” is a portrait of a family suffering from a toxic waste disaster, but true to DeLillo form, he covers so much more than that. In this adaptation, we’re here to peel back the layers and then discuss what they all mean. Adam Driver, Greta Gerwig, Don Cheadle and Jodie Turner-Smith star. Details: In select theaters December 2; on Netflix on December 30.
This revamp of Akira Kurosawa’s tearful existential “Ikiru” doesn’t arrive in the Bay Area until January 6, but it’s worth the wait. A clever screenplay by Kazuo Ishiguro and a classic performance by Bill Nighy ensure that Oliver Hermanus’ nostalgic 1950s drama about a British civil servant strained by his mortality reminds us of the need to color outside the lines and live life to its maximum.
Details: In theaters January 6.
Contact Randy Myers at [email protected]