A friend recently asked my opinion about what films the Academy might nominate for Best Picture this year.
“Uh, I have no idea,” I responded.
It's pretty late in the year to be saying that, but, of course, I rarely think about the Oscars until I absolutely have to. Then there's the fact that few of the films released so far this year seem to possess what typically piques the Academy's interest (note that anywhere from five to 10 films can now be nominated). —-
Civil Rights-era drama The Help, which I've yet to see, seems a likely candidate, as does Moneyball, a reasonably effective sports movie that's really about our current economic zeitgeist: trying to survive amid an economically unfair playing field. Moneyball also has a strong performance from Brad Pitt, one of our few legitimate movie stars (it also doesn't hurt that he's been on an uncommonly robust promotional blitz in support of it).
Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris would seem a strong possibility, especially since it's his best effort in nearly 20 years and his most successful ever at the box office. Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life probably has an outside chance in no small part because it features Pitt and Oscar fave Sean Penn. But have enough voters seen it? And is it too obtuse for the typically more accessible-leaning Oscar crowd?
What else is there that's already been released? George Clooney's The Ides of March? Doubtful. Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive? Highly doubtful. Lars von Trier's Melancholia (which is my favorite film of the year so far, and which is unlikely to get a Cincinnati release; it's currently available on demand via some local cable providers)? Not a chance in hell.
That brings us to the various films to be released between now and the end of the year — a list that includes new efforts from such high-profile directors as Stephen Daldry (Extremely Close and Incredibly Loud), Clint Eastwood (J. Edgar), David Fincher (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Alexander Payne (The Descendants), Steven Spielberg (The Adventures of Tin Tin) and Martin Scorsese (Hugo). I suspect that at least a couple of those will get some Oscar love come January, when the nominations are announced.
As for this week's releases, none look to be Oscar contenders.
ANONYMOUS — Having spent most of his career destroying the world in grand computer-generated fashion, German writer-producer-director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, 2012) apparently is ready to transition into a new filmmaking phase, as he sets his sights on ripping apart the notion that William Shakespeare was the actual author of the titles ascribed to his name. (Read full review here.) (Opens wide today.) — tt stern-enzi (Rated PG-13.) Grade: C
IN TIME — Andrew Niccol — whose last film was the entertaining Lord of War back in 2005, and whose resume also includes the writer-director duties on Gattaca and the screenplay for The Truman Show — returns with this futuristic thriller about a man on the run in a world where the rich live forever and the poor die at 25. (Read full review here.) (Opens wide today.) — tts (Rated PG-13.) Grade: D+
PUSS IN BOOTS — Spun off from the finally adjourned Shrek franchise, Puss in Boots is a well-crafted DreamWorks animated movie that succeeds in spite of the aid of its extraneous 3-D treatment. Although the story hits a few thematic snags, its adult-directed jokes are sufficiently masked to make for comfortable family viewing. (Read full review here.) (Opens wide today.) — Cole Smithey (Rated PG.) Grade: B-
THE RUM DIARY — Loosely based on Hunter S. Thompson’s early years as a journalist circa 1960, The Rum Diary casts Johnny Depp once again as Thompson’s surrogate (following 1998's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), this time a young writer named Paul Kemp. (Read full review here.) (Opens wide today.) — Scott Renshaw (Rated R.) Grade: B