With the end of the summer blockbuster season, moviegoers can now turn their attention to the film world’s Fall Classic – the steady stream of Hollywood’s Oscar-bound babies and arthouse cinema underdogs. The big-name films now scheduled for release are all noticeable in their own right, but some have generated more buzz than others, garnering a plethora of pre-season awards and savaging critic prediction lists.
The following is a closer look at some of these upcoming award-chasers.
Starting last weekend, cinema officially began the Oscars push with George Clooney’s timely political thriller, “The Ides of March.” The film, which follows a young, naive campaign staffer as he’s suddenly confronted by the dark side of American politics, has received middling to positive reviews. The country’s current climate, amidst election season, has certainly contributed to the talk surrounding this film. But timely or not, never underestimate a political movie in the Oscars race, especially if Clooney plays one of the major roles.
He also has “The Descendants” on the release block. Due out in November, this comedy-drama appears to suffer from the same tropes that have afflicted Oscar nominations for years: an aging rich man reconnects with his family, this time set to the beautiful Hawaiian backdrop. But you can always bet that an Alexander Payne-directed picture will grab a nomination. (I’m strictly acknowledging his work on “Sideways” and “About Schmidt” for the purposes of this generalization. Let’s forget that “Jurassic Park III” ever happened.)
But the film world has much more in store for us than Clooney and Payne – there are biopics galore!
“J. Edgar,” centered on the life of the FBI’s most infamous leader, will surely earn nominations on the basis of its director’s and lead actor’s names alone (Clint Eastwood and Leonardo DiCaprio, respectively). Or if you want an older subject, you can try Roland Emmerich’s “Anonymous,” which imaginatively (to put it lightly) examines the Shakespeare authorship question. (It’s earned a few decent reviews, but in all honesty, Yale Professor David Kastan’s verbal boycott of the film is probably more Oscar-worthy than the actual movie itself.) And there’s also Viggo Mortenson as Sigmund Freud in “A Dangerous Method,” a film that traces the rocky relationship between the father of psychoanalysis and Carl Jung.
Filmgoers are also due for a healthy dose of war and international conflict in their possible Oscar contenders.
Steven Spielberg’s “War Horse,” a film about a young man’s quest to retrieve his beloved horses from the trenches of World War I, promises to be a particular heart-wringer. And “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” has especially ravaged critics’ lists. Based on the bestselling Jonathan Safran Foer novel, this Stephen Daldry-directed picture traces a 10-year-old’s poignant journey across post-9/11 New York to find a lockbox his deceased father has left him.
And, as per usual, the international features have done some serious Oscar-work. Accolades and praise have followed “The Artist,” a French silent film about a silent film star, from Cannes to Toronto to the States. The same is true of Britain’s “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” a movie about the search for a Soviet double agent at the top of the British secret service.
There are, of course, many other titles due out in the next couple of months that people seem to have forgotten about as well. For instance, Lars von Trier’s “Melancholia,” starring Kirsten Dunst of all people (Yeah. I forgot about her too!), was considered a likely Cannes winner before the director’s poorly-received Hitler joke on the red carpet. And don’t be surprised if David Fincher’s adaptation of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” gets a nomination. (Fincher has secretly evolved into an Oscar groupie.)
As such, this year’s Oscar pull appears to involve the same ingredients that have enticed voters for decades: gripping stories and stellar performances. Both are out in droves this time of season, and cinephiles everywhere are already rejoicing. But for everyone else?
Well, Piranha 3DD might be good.