It's already November? It seems like it just yesterday that The Hurt Locker took home a surprising (and much deserved) Best Picture win. We're now entering the stretch drive of the fall movie season, a period laden with the big studios' “prestige” films — those they believe have the best chance to grab awards love (thus bigger box-office numbers and the media attention that follows), none more important than that shown by the Academy.
I usually could care less about Oscar talk — largely because, The Hurt Locker aside, it's almost never an accurate barometer for what has truly been the year's best — but I recently stumbled across some Academy Awards predictions on a Web site appropriately dubbed Oscar Frenzy. Only four of its 10 Best Picture predictions have so far opened in Cincinnati. Two are worthy of such positioning (Lee Unkrich's Toy Story 3 and David Fincher's The Social Network), one is not (Anton Corbin's The American) and one I've yet to catch but doubt its placement (Clint Eastwood's Hereafter).
Curiously, several of the six remaining films on Oscar Frenzy's crystal-ball list are among my most anticipated of the final two months, including Sofia Coppola's Somewhere (which unfortunately didn't screen at the Toronto Film Festival after winning the big prize at the Venice Film Festival); the Coen brothers' True Grit, which looks like a return to the darker themes of No Country for Old Men; and Terrence Malick's typically long-delayed The Tree of Life (which, as far as I can tell, is not set to open until Spring 2011).
The most unexpected omission was Christopher Nolan's Inception, a well-crafted but flawed sci-fi summer blockbuster that most consider a lock to grab one of the 10 nominations — especially after the Academy's snubbing of Nolan's wildly popular The Dark Knight.
Which brings us to this week's new releases, none of which, for one reason or another, seem destined
for Oscar glory.
DUE DATE — Director Todd Phillips’ (The Hangover) brings us the story of Type-A architect Peter (Robert Downey Jr.) and spacey, would-be actor Ethan (Zach Galifianakis) forced by improbable circumstances to share a car ride from Atlanta to Los Angeles in time for the scheduled C-section birth of Peter’s first child. It’s a bit of a disappointment that Due Date can’t build to a more effective climax, but what happens on the way to that ending proves that odd couplings are still comedy gold. (Read full review here.) (Opens wide today.) — Scott Renshaw (Rated R.) Grade: B
THE ELEPHANT IN THE LIVING ROOM — Dayton filmmaker Michael Webber makes his directorial debut with this compelling, refreshingly restrained documentary about people who possess exotic animals as pets and the various issues that arise in such cases — everything from the ethical dilemma of caging “wild” animals to the increasingly more acute problem of public safety when they escape. (Read full review here; read tt stern-enzi's interview with Webber here.) (Opens today at Rave West Chester.) — Jason Gargano (Not Rated.) Grade: B
FOR COLORED GIRLS — Tyler Perry adapts Ntozake Shange's groundbreaking stage play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf, which delves into various issues that impact women, specifically women of color. Perry's high-profile ensemble cast includes Janet Jackson, Thandie Newton, Whoopi Goldberg, Kerry Washington, Kimberly Elise Loretta Divine and Phylicia Rashad. (Opens wide today.) — JG (Rated R.) Review coming soon.
MEGAMIND — While the animated story of a criminal mastermind who stumbles off the beaten track and onto the path of heroic fame and glory (and for the chance to win the love of a woman) might seem a bit familiar to audiences, Megamind devotes more time to turning the Superman mythos on its ear to hilarious effect. (Read full review here.) (Opens wide today.) — tt stern-enzi (Rated PG.) Grade: A-
MESRINE: KILLER INSTINCT — The compelling, ever-charismatic Vincent Cassel stars as Jacques Mesrine, a notorious French gangster who lived on the edge, taking a number of game women (played here by Elena Anaya, Cécile de France and Ludivine Sagnier) with him along the way. The epic story — which The New York Times' Stephen Holden says “evokes a Gallic Scarface without the drugs” — is split into two parts: Killer Instinct, which opens today at The Esquire, and Public Enemy No. 1, which will presumably open at the Esquire on a not-so-distant future date. Jean-Francois Richet directs a script by Abdel Raouf Dafri, who adapted Mesrine's own autobiographical novel. (Opens today at Esquire.) — JG (Rated R.) Review coming soon.