It’s weird to think that movie releases are still loaded into “seasons” based on attendance. But they are, though not for long as the theater system is in its death throes. But as “Oscar season” kicks into what a lazier writer would call “high gear” I feel it’s my duty to let you know about the worthwhile films hitting cinemas near you in this, 2015’s penultimate month.
Room – Brie Larson has been on the cusp of taking a giant leap onto the A-list for a while now, particularly since Short Term 12 (2013). This may be her moment, with a drama that’s been earning her rave reviews. It’s about a mother and her son who have been raised in captivity by a lunatic, much in the manner of the real-life situation of Jaycee Dugard, who are finally released into the world and must grapple with assimilation. Stars Brie Larson, Sean Bridgers, Jacob Tremblay, and Joan Allen; directed by Lenny Abrahamson.
Trumbo – The trials and tribulations of arguably the greatest screenwriter who ever lived, the legendary Dalton Trumbo, get the lavish, star-riddled treatment they deserve with this affair. I am concerned about Jay Roach in the director’s chair—his track record leaves something to be desired—but Cranston as Trumbo is a mortal lock for a Best Actor nomination and is the front-runner for the win as far as I’m concerned. Stars Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Helen Mirren, and John Goodman; directed by Jay Roach.
James White – This dark drama has been blowing away audiences on the festival circuit and boasts just the right mix of star power and rising talent that the Academy loves. About a young man dealing with self-destructive behavior in the face of his mother’s illness. Stars Christopher Abbott, Cynthia Nixon, and Scott Mescudi (Kid Cudi); directed by Josh Mond.
Spotlight – A definite side effect of the current craze for documentary film is that we now also crave a certain documentary aesthetic in basically all our “serious film.” The Academy over proportionally recognizes biopics and spotlights on historical events that haven’t already been done to death. And so Spotlight, about the journalists who broke open a molestation scandal in the Boston Archdiocese, will certainly be on the tips of people’s tongues come Oscar season. It doesn’t hurt that it looks great. Stars Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, and Rachel McAddams; directed by Tom McCarthy.
Carol – This one sort of is the exact opposite of what I just said, but a definite exception to the docu-realism craze would be the LGBT theme trend. This romantic drama about a young lady in the 1950s who falls in love with an older married woman, based on a novel by the great Patricia Highsmith, just looks amazing. It’s got acting pedigree like no tomorrow, and one of the most talented directors of the 90s and 2000s in Todd Haynes. There’s no way this won’t be great, and Blanchett will get her obligatory nomination, if not the award. Stars Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Kyle Chandler, and Carrie Brownstein; directed by Todd Haynes.
The Good Dinosaur – I can’t tell you how much I’d pay to have an animated movie not involve talking animals or anthropomorphized inanimate objects/intangible concepts. The last time that happened was… oh yeah, The Incredibles. And it was GD magic. Okay, I’m playing a little fast and loose with history, skipping over Brave and The Croods, but you get my point. Still, hopes are sky-high for this Pixar offering, which does sport an interesting voice cast, but will no doubt be out-Pixared by Pixar’s summer smash Inside Out. This would mark the first time Pixar went up against itself in the best animated picture category that it wins nearly every year. Stars Jeffrey Wright, Steve Zahn, and Sam Elliott; directed by Peter Sohn.
The Danish Girl – This is it, my final thesis! Biopic meets LGBT-themed drama! Starring last year’s Oscar darling, Eddie Redmayne, and directed by past darling Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech), this film not only looks great, but is already booking its producers their table near the front for the Academy Awards ceremony. Guaranteed to get nods for acting, directing, and best picture. About the life of artist Lili Elbe, considered a pioneer in the transgender movement. Stars Alicia Vikander, Eddie Redmayne, and Ben Whishaw; directed by Tom Hooper.
By Ygal Kaufman