In order for a film to qualify for the Academy Awards, it must be released theatrically before December 31st of a given year. So December is when the drama train comes through after the pipe bomb explosion of summer blockbusters. This year in particular, there is a lot to look forward to.
:note: Films listed as limited are those being released in New York City, L.A., and possibly Chicago. This allows the film to receive exposure in the major markets and if it does well, get rolled out to other cities.
Black Swan (limited)
Far and away one of the films I’m dying to see this month. Aronofsky’s track record (Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain, The Wrestler) speaks for itself and though it probably won’t be a pleasant experience, Black Swan is sure to be memorable.
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (limited)
A movie in which Santa Clauses are wild animals to be captured by Finnish hunters and shipped around the world? Awesome concept with a strong enough budget to move beyond straight-to-DVD goofiness.
Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader
After struggles to finance the third film in the Chronicles of Narnia series, it remains to be seen if the rest of the films will get made. If Dawn Treader can re-ignite interest, the other films could have a future.
This just looks stunning. With the array of noteworthy cast members (Helen Mirren, Alfred Molina, Chris Cooper), it could be great – or a bloated POS.
The King’s Speech
This one has already garnered a ton of Oscar buzz, but to me it looks like a bunch of over dramatic claptrap. Seriously, I’m supposed to care about a monarch with a stutter?
The Fighter (limited)
Starring Christian Bale (emaciated once again) and Mark Wahlberg, the trailer makes it out to be Cinderella Man: 2010 which is probably the point (remind people of that other Oscar bait they liked). Though Bale has lost some credibility due to his involvement with the easily forgettable Terminator Salvation, his filmography is a testament to his acting abilities (The Prestige) and picking the right projects (American Psycho). Not to mention it’s directed by David O. Russell who did the philosophically hilarious I Heart Huckabees and Three Kings. In other words: don’t let the trailer fool you, this should be pretty good.
The Company Men
Readers with good memories may recall this being mentioned back in October as a film in limited release. Now, December 10 seems to be the official wide release. As previously mentioned:
“With a film that stars Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper, Kevin Costner, and Ben Affleck (before you snicker, have you seen The Town?), why wouldn’t I want to see it? Looks to be following the social relevance of last year’s Up In the Air as three men grapple with being fired.”
Here is a film that is ripe for CGI usage without it being obnoxious and a soundtrack by Daft Punk doesn’t hurt either. The ultimate question is whether it will mix art and entertainment à la Christopher Nolan, or if it will be a forgettable piece of blockbuster flash.
Rabbit Hole (limited)
All I need to know is that it’s directed by John Cameron Mitchell and I’m sold. For those not in the loop, he brought us more sexuality and rock and roll than The Rocky Horror Picture Show in his debut film Hedwig and the Angry Inch, followed by the thoughtful sexual drama Shortbus. Having Mitchell try a more commercial venture should be interesting and Aaron Eckhart has yet to fail me.
After seeing what the Coen Brothers could do with the Western setting in No Country for Old Men, this re-make of John Wayne’s original True Grit has a lot of promise: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and Josh Brolin. Nothing to sneeze at.
Sophia Coppola’s Lost in Translation represented a revival for Bill Murray in no small part due to Coppola’s virtuosity at conveying the existential malaise. It is hard to recall films focused on father-daughter relationships (most of the time it’s father-son it seems), so it’s intriguing right off the bat to have that as the central storyline. Maybe this will shake my only impression of Stephen Dorff: as the bad guy from Blade.
The Illusionist (limited)
I have already seen and reviewed this animated film from Sylvain Chomet (The Triplets of Belleville) and it’s stunning. Don’t expect childish fare, this is quality drama.
The latest from Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel, 21 Grams) and starring Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men). I don’t need to know anything else, I’ll watch it.
Directed by Mike Leigh, who did the charming and introspective Happy-Go-Lucky, he knows how to portray relationships in vivid detail; which makes him well suited for a film about four seasons in the life of a happily married couple as they interact with their miserable friends and family.
Full disclosure: I have a man crush on Ryan Gosling. From an addicted high school teacher Ryan Dunn in Half Nelson to a Jewish Nazi in Believer, he commits himself to a role with the same tenacity as Nicolas Cage, sans the crazy. So his part in a film about a devolving relationship (Michelle Williams co-stars) sounds emotionally devastating, but damn will it be good. Let’s just hope the NC-17 rating from the MPAA doesn’t keep it out of theaters (Williams, Gosling, and director Derek Cianfance have all appealed the MPAA’s rating).
I’ll definitely be checking out every movie on this list with the sole exception of Chronicles of Narnia. Wasn’t a big fan of the first one, haven’t seen the second one, so I definitely won’t be seeing the third. I’d also add The Way Back to this list, as I’ve heard amazing things about it and have been anxiously anticipating it for over a year.
And in response to your comment about Aaron Eckhart never failing you, you obviously haven’t seen “The Core.”