Paul Giamatti stars in this adaptation of a popular Canadian novel of the same name. “Barney” is an ornery television producer who has a disastrous personal life. He’s irascible, boozy, foul-mouthed and generally unpleasant. Yet Barney is also an incurable romantic, which is the source of most of his troubles. Womanizing, profane Barney shouldn’t be likeable, but in Giamatti’s capable hands he is a sympathetic figure. Dustin Hoffman also stars as Barney’s father (is that even biologically possible?).
Oscar Hopefulness: 5 – Even Steven. Giamatti has received a lot of good notice for his performance and his recent Golden Globe nomination throws him into the middle of the already competitive Best Actor race.
Frankie and Alice
Halle Berry hasn’t been in a movie in ages, right? Doesn’t it just feel like forever since she’s been in anything? It has been like three years. Berry returns in Frankie and Alice, starring as a victim of childhood abuse who has a dissociative identity disorder. “Frankie Murdoch” struggles with her childhood trauma, the repression of which resulted in her identity issues, as well as the racist aspect of her alter ego. Stellan Skarsgard and Phylicia Rashad also star.
Oscar qualifying New York/LA run, expanding in February 2011.
Oscar Hopefulness: 5 – Like Paul Giamatti, Berry benefits from her Golden Globe nomination, gaining some traction in a crowded field.
How Do You Know
Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd AND Jack Nicholson in one movie? Can’t miss right? Right… This looks like a mess. In two minutes the trailer manages to show me two different movies. One is a comedy about a guy (Rudd) in some dire straits involving an indictment and his emotionally distant father (Nicholson). The other is a pretty standard looking romcom about a commitment shy couple (Witherspoon and Wilson). Love & Other Drugs and Wall Street 2 both suffered from multiple personality disorder and both were worse off for it. I see the same thing happening here.
Oscar Hopefulness: 0 – Yeah right. Reese wishes.
I’ll admit it. The trailer alone made me choke up. Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart star in this adaption of David Lindsay-Abaire’s Pultizer Prize-winning play (Lindsay-Abaire adapted it himself) about a couple devastated by grief when their child dies. I often find myself wondering how people cope in such untenable circumstances and Rabbit Hole promises to be a thorough examination of such a circumstance. I dread depressing movies but I’ll sit through Rabbit Hole—if the trailer can make me cry, I will sit through your soul-crushing movie.
Oscar Hopefulness: 7 – Blue skies are here again. Kidman is virtually a lock for a Best Actress nod, though it’s less certain that anyone else picks up a nomination. The buzz about Rabbit Hole has been all about Kidman and her newly mobile face.
I originally thought this would be a pretty easy (and big) holiday win for Disney and make about $60M on opening weekend, but now, with a mediocre-to-bad reviews coming in steadily, I’m downgrading it to a $40M opening. TRON: Legacy is the sequel to 1982’s TRON, the first-ever CGI movie (looks like Pong). Jeff Bridges, star of the original, returns as “Kevin Flynn” but the action now centers on his son, “Sam” (Garrett Hedlund, also of Country Strong). Michael Sheen—who apparently will be in anything if you give him a fun costume—and Olivia Wilde (House) also star.
Oscar Hopefulness: 1 – You forgot the milk! Much has been made of the score by Daft Punk as well as the visuals. Maybe some technical awards are possible, but nothing serious is happening for TRON: Legacy.
Pedobear: The Movie. Starring Dan Aykroyd’s lack of shame and Justin Timberlake as the voices of Yogi and Boo Boo, respectively. Also starring TV’s Tom Cavanagh (Ed) and Anna Faris (Observe and Report, The House Bunny) as actors beaten down by years of struggling to break off the C list. This is a wretched movie determined to shit all over a beloved children’s cartoon.
Oscar Hopefulness: Negative eleventy billion. The Academy disqualified it already because it sucks so hard. Actually it’s because the CGI-to-live-action ratio didn’t meet the requirement for the Best Animated Feature category. And also, it sucks.
Instead of the trailer, here is the stellar “Assassination of Yogi Bear” alternate ending parody:
Gwyneth Paltrow does her best Faith Hill impression in this movie about a country star fresh out of rehab trying to regain her place atop the charts and in fans’ hearts. Does that sound saccharine? Good, it should. Country Strong is being sold as “Crazy Heart for women” but it doesn’t seem to have the same gravitas or depth as Crazy Heart. It does, however, seem perfectly enjoyable and mostly harmless. Gwyneth can be good in roles like this (and by all accounts, she is good in this role), but it remains to be seen how she copes with the performance scenes. She wasn’t terribly convincing at the CMA Awards, but then, she didn’t totally suck either.
Oscar Hopefulness: 3 – Down and out. Country Strong’s best shot is in the Best Original Song category but even that isn’t a slam dunk.
Installment #3 in “Ben Stiller takes all the money”. Do we really need a third Fockers movie? Were people really clamoring for this? Is anyone going to see this? Unfortunately, probably yes, to the last one. I bet a lot of dumbass people go see this.
Oscar Hopefulness: 0 – Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen. Despite a roster of Oscar-friendly names like Dustin Hoffman, Robert DeNiro and Barbra Streisand, there’s nothing doing for this unfunny threequel.
The trailer for Somewhere is good. Really good. So good, in fact, that I wonder why we need a feature-length film. Somewhere is the story of “Johnny Marco” (Stephen Dorff, resurrected from the dead), a famous Hollywood actor who pretty much lives at the infamous Chateau Marmont. One day Johnny discovers his young daughter, “Cleo” (Elle Fanning, Reservation Road) has been dropped off and left in his care. He then attempts to integrate Cleo into his Hollywood party lifestyle. All of this from the two-minute trailer! Why then, an entire feature? This is usually my problem with director Sofia Coppola.
Oscar Hopefulness: 2 – Not quite dead yet. There’s been some chatter for Dorff but the lead actor race is so competitive that it would take more than just, “Hey, you’re not dead!” talk to get the job done this year. Fanning may have a chance in the more fluid Supporting Actress race, but I think the “youth vote” goes to True Grit’s Hailee Steinfeld. The best bet for Somewhere lies with Coppola and another Original Screenplay nod.
I don’t think we really needed a remake of the 1969 John Wayne classic, but if we have to have one, then the Coen Brothers might as well make it. Their version features Jeff Bridges in the Wayne role of “Rooster Cogburn” and also stars Matt Damon, Josh Brolin and newbie Hailee Steinfeld. The story follows “Mattie Ross” as she, along with Cogburn and a Texas Ranger (Damon), attempts to find the man who killed her father, Tom Chaney (Brolin). It’s a “true Western”, though the Coen’s 2007 No Country for Old Men had a lot in common with the genre.
Oscar Hopefulness: 8 – Smooth sailing. I’ve been saying for months that True Grit was going to come along and fuck up the Oscar race and sure enough, it has. Steinfeld has been getting a LOT of buzz for Supporting Actress, and right now I’d give the Oscar to her. Bridges also seems good for a back-to-back nomination though he won’t win. And Damon is rising up the ranks in the Supporting Actor race, though I don’t think he gets nominated, he will shake up the voting enough to mess up that category. The Coens are likely to show up in their usual categories—Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay—and since it’s a period piece, I’ll give it the artistic categories, too.
Jack Black stars in this abomination upon Jonathan Swift’s classic tale. Somehow he managed to drag Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) down with him. Like Yogi Bear, this isn’t a movie so much as two hours of programming designed to make your child resent you.
Oscar Hopefulness: -3. Staring into the abyss. This got moved off its original summer opening date, hoping to make it in the family-friendly holiday box office. Oscar doesn’t like quitters!
This is a wonderful cartoon by Sylvain Chomet about a French illusionist (the original title was L’illusionniste) who travels to Scotland and has an adventure with a woman. Did you like The Triplets of Belleville? You’ll like The Illusionist—Chomet directed both.
Oscar Hopefulness: 2 – Cast into the pit of despair. The Academy’s lame qualifying rules mean that only three animated features are getting nominated this year, which will be entries from Pixar, Dreamworks and Disney. The oddball cartoons like The Illusionist are SOL this year.
Tom (Jim Broadbent, Harry Potter’s Horace Slughorn) and Gerri (Ruth Sheen, Vera Drake) are a happily married couple in their golden years. Over the course of one year they are confronted with the realities of their unhappy friends and family and the challenges this presents in their own lives. Written and directed by Mike Leigh (Happy-Go-Lucky, Vera Drake), Another Year is one of those fine, well-crafted British movies the art house crowd usually goes crazy for.
Oscar Hopefulness: 3 – Down on your luck. Another Year’s best chance at a nomination lies with Lesly Manville (Vera Drake), though no one can seem to decide if she should be nominated as a lead or supporting actress.
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Babel, Amores Perros) brings us another morally complicated tale of good people struggling under awful circumstances. This time Javier Bardem stars as “Uxbal”, a father recently diagnosed with cancer who manages a web of street merchants and illegal workers in Barcelona. Uxbal struggles to balance his family life against the demands of his street life and the moral implications of seeing after the needs of exploited workers he profits from. Nobody does these kind of politically charged, moral quagmire films as well as Inarritu.
Oscar Hopefulness: 6 – Fair game. Biutiful isn’t tracking too high right now with Academy voters but if any film this year could pull surprise nominations, it would be this one.
The Way Back
Ed Harris, Colin Farrel and Jim Sturgess star in Peter Weir’s (Master and Commander, The Truman Show) film about World War II soldiers who escape from a Siberian gulag. Some critics have called this movie “harrowing” and “hard to watch” for its uber-realistic portrayal of the escapees’ plight and have wondered how this may impact its chances at finding an audience.
One week, LA-only run for Oscar qualification, goes wide January 21, 2011.
Oscar Hopefulness: 3 – Slightly sunny with a chance of rain. Most of the buzz about The Way Back has been about how hard it is to watch, and not in that fun, “well now I have to see it” way like 127 Hours, but more like that “oh man, maybe I really don’t want to see this” way.
Derek Cianfrance’s uber-hipster tale of a young couple, “Dean” and “Cindy”, who fall in and out of love over a period of years has attracted attention on two fronts. First, stars Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams have been winning praise left and right for their performances as Dean and Cindy, and second for that brouhaha with the MPAA over the rating. This has been one of the most popular movies on the festival circuit this year. Hopefully that translate to solid art house box office.
Oscar Hopefulness: 5 – Even odds. Blue Valentine is being distributed by The Weinstein Company, who is also distributing The King’s Speech, which is an early Oscar favorite. Harvey Weinstein won’t want to jeopardize TWC votes by drawing too much attention to the other horse in the stable, which is affecting Blue Valentine’s ability to draw attention in such a crowded dramatic field. Nominations for Gosling and Williams have been hit or miss, but both of them did get Golden Globes nods, which helps their case. Blue Valentine is the last Oscar contender to be released this year, so it could gain some ground in a couple weeks as audiences begin seeing it.