Here’s the second part of my preview of the films screening in December that will be talked about come April. Christmas Day in particular will host one of the best days of film premieres in years. Happy holidays.
December 23 The Big Short – The cast is too stacked to not be in contention. This could be Austin Powers 7: Thunderfail and with this cast it would still be in Oscar contention. It’s based on the Michael Lewis (The Blind Side, Moneyball) book about a bunch of renegades during the financial crisis of 2007. Stars Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling Melissa Leo, Marissa Tomei, Rafe Spall, and Brad Pitt, directed by Adam McKay.
Where to Invade Next – Are Michael Moore films still a big deal? Judging by the cacophonous silence and lack of marketing surrounding this, his first film since 2009’s Capitalism: A Love Story, not really. This politically provocative documentary features Moore exploring what could be gained by the US invading a host of countries we’re not currently in. Stars Michael Moore, directed by Michael Moore.
December 25 Joy – In what has become an almost yearly occurrence, the great David O. Russell has a new movie with Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert DeNiro that looks fantastic and will be a wrecking ball at awards time. This time around, Lawrence is Joy Mangano, the real life inventor of the Miracle Mop. I know, sounds weird, but it looks great. Stars Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert DeNiro, Edgar Ramirez, and Isabella Rossellini.
The Hateful Eight – Do I need to tell you anything about this one? It’s Quentin Tarantino’s new film. Love him or hate him, to not appreciate his talent is itself a hipster affectation. He’s simply one of the best to ever do it. The new one is about eight gnarled strangers in the Wild West who get holed up during a blizzard. Violent hijinks undoubtedly ensue. Stars Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bruce Dern, Tim Roth, Demian Bichir, Walton Goggins, and Michael Madsen.
Concussion – Whoa, look at the dramatic chops on Will Smith. In the trailers that conspicuously ran all day Sunday during football games the last couple weeks, Smith looks like he’s flexing every last acting muscle in this tense drama about the NFL’s still-brewing head injury scandal. According to the much publicized leaked documents from a hack last year, the NFL was able to successfully lobby Sony to soften the edge of the film, making it less damning on the sports giant. If this is the softened look, the original must have been baa-ad. Stars Will Smith, Luke Wilson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Alec Baldwin.
The Revenant – Following up on his towering achievement with last year’s Best Picture winner Birdman, Iñárritu steps up the insanity with this true tale of pioneer survival that is quite literally unbelievable. Seriously. Go google Hugh Glass and see if you believe his story. Either way, the movie looks phenomenal and glorious and is a sure bet to be in the mix come Oscar time. The whole thing was filmed with natural light, which is an experiment of insane artistic skill on its own. Stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, and Domhnall Gleeson, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu.
December 30 Anomalisa – Not many animated films will find themselves legitimately in the Best Picture nomination talk. This one could be one of the rare exceptions. Written and co-directed by one of the greatest filmmaking geniuses of our time, Charlie Kaufman, Anomalisa is the story of a man living a sad and mundane life who has his worldview turned on its ear by a chance encounter with a stranger. I know, sounds terrible. But I have faith. Early reviews out of Telluride, where it premiered in September, call it an instant classic. Stars David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Tom Noonan, directed by Charlie Kaufman.