If your Thanksgiving is going anything like mine, you're realizing with a mix of excitement and dread that the movie year is almost over, and there's a lot left to catch up on. Without even digging into movies that are on DVD, there are a ton of films out in theaters right now or on VOD that at least deserve awards consideration-- and if you're a critic or a voter on any awards, the pressure is seriously on. Between now and Christmas Academy and guild members will be swamped with screeners and invitations to special screenings, with every studio hoping their film will rise above the fray and get noticed in time to be mentioned on ballots.
Some movies will have no trouble-- both Argo and Lincoln have already nailed the crucial combination of critical raves and box office success that means they automatically get considered, and it's hard to imagine the Best Picture lineup without either of them. And this weekend several films are aiming for the same success, with Life of Pi opening wide and selling itself as an inspiring and dazzling family film, Silver Linings Playbook rolling out in limited release with a massive marketing campaign, and films like Anna Karenina and The Sessions attempting to build on limited release appeal as they expand to more theaters. Thanskgiving is a great time to put yourself out there and appeal to audiences sick of spending time with their families, and for fans of films with awards potential, there's a whole lot to choose from.
You can click here for our very own guide of what's worth catching, but as ever, the thing to keep an eye on this weekend is box office. There's still time for critics to swoop in in a few weeks and pick up movies they love that didn't quite sail with audiences or were released a while ago-- The Master is poised to make a major comeback, as could Beasts of the Southern Wild and Moonrise Kingdom-- but when it comes to the films jostling in the crowded holiday marketplace, box office can determine a lot. And that could apply especially this year, as there's still no No Country for Old Men-style steamroller frontrunner, and there's room for a late release like Les Miserables or even Django Unchained to arrive, take over, and ride audience appeal all the way to the Oscars.
The Weinstein Company seems to think Silver Linings Playbook can do that, despite the seeming uncertainty of the canceled-at-the-last-minute wide release; there's definitely room for a Juno-style, rough-edged indie hit this year, and I think if people actually see the movie, they'll love it the way audiences have at festivals. I'm less certain about Life of Pi, which is visually stunning but not necessarily as entertaining or all-ages-appealing as the movie it's constantly being compared to, Avatar. Each of them are major Best Picture contenders (unlike my beloved Anna Karenina, sadly, or the soon-to-open Rust and Bone and Hitchcock) and after the holiday we should know a lot more about where each of them stand.
In the meantime, though, we'll dig into the charts, where there's more tightening happening in all of the categories, and I finally come to terms with the juggernaut that Lincoln has been all along.
Alright, fine-- Lincoln is a Mortal Lock. I knew it last week and hesitated for no good reason. Elsewhere I've bumped Flight up to Likely Contender, since its $61 million at the box office so far promises significant staying power, and I've let go of This is 40 and Killing Them Softly as Outside Chances, since-- despite some warm reviews for both-- they're clearly not going to be on the Academy radar. Next week some critics will have finally seen Les Miserables and Zero Dark Thirty, so we'll finally be able to gauge these based on more than just a hunch that they'll be in the conversation.
STILL IN THE RUNNING