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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

So, I'm pretty close to done caring about the year - the big glut of Oscar-begging releases in December never appeals to me simply because my taste and the Academy's overlap so very little, and this year seems especially dire on that front. Even the films that "should" seem exciting just really aren't. On the other hand, 2012 is shaping up very pretty in a lot of ways, so pushing through the last month of a generally flat but never outright hateful year doesn't seem like that big of a deal.


Something you don't see everyday- not one single new wide release. But of the tiny releases, one that I am especially thrilled to finally see is Shame, the sophomore effort from director Steve McQueen, whose debut Hunger was absolutely phenomenal and one of the best first features of the '00s. And hey, it even brings back Hunger star Michael Fassbender!


Also, if this is what wide releases look like, they're welcome to keep them: New Year's Eve, which takes the Valentine's Day/Love Actually concept of a big cast of moderate stars in a bunch of little romcom plots and takes it well beyond the point that it should have stopped. Also The Sitter, an R-rated comedy with Jonah Hill that was apparently the best thing David Gordon Green could think to do after hitting what was apparently not a career low with Your Highness.

Thankfully, there are limited releases enough to make up for it: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which has a lot to live up to, but the talent to do it; Young Adult, with re-teams Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman in a pairing that is hopefully going to be good for both of them after the terrible things that happened when they parted ways; and hell, let's even throw in W.E. since even though I cannot imagine how a costume drama directed by Madonna can possibly be good, I am desperately curious.


I didn't like Guy Ritchie's edgy steampunk Sherlock Holmes, and would ordinarily say that its sequel, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, seems like an awful idea, but I am still desperately hoping that it wins the weekend box office and I have to go see it. Because if it doesn't, then I'll have to go see Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, which is undoubtedly the saddest thought that I've been plagued by all year, and coming up to it is like nearing the date of your death sentence.

Five days before its actual wide release, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol makes an IMAX-exclusive run; nothing about the film seems like it can possibly be compelling (the franchise was never truly great to start with, and Tom Cruise just keeps getting older), but shit, live-action Brad Bird. That's me in the seats the second I can possibly get there.

Limited: Roman Polanksi's apparently just kinda OK adaptation of the much-loved play Carnage. So much for a post-Ghost Writer career renaissance.


The pokiness of the month generally is resoundling answered with one of the fullest release weeks of the whole year, split between three days. Besides M:I-GP breaking big, there is also The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which is undoubtedly going to improve on the middling Swedish original, though I am not certain that there is a masterpiece to be carved out of this material; nor am I thrilled that ordinarily-slow director David Fincher has cranked out a second movie in hardly more than a year. But the teaser trailer was one of the best things of 2011, so that's that.

Far, far more promising, by my lights, is The Adventures of Tintin, which is in one breath Steven Spielberg's first animated film, first mo-cap film,and first 3-D movie; and deep down inside, I think that the fact I am excited for those three things does not actually change the fact that I am not actually excited by Tintin itself, especially being that I am an American and thus have no real attachment to the character.


Saddled with an uncertain release date in the middle of nowhere, We Bought a Zoo looks to bring Cameron Crowe back into the world, apparently by replacing tyrannical quirkiness with uncut schmaltz, but maybe the trailers are just desperate to attract a family audience.


I'll tell you what says Christmas to me: a sci-fi horror thriller, like The Darkest Hour. Shit, can anything be more horrible than being the Christmas Day counter-programming?

The real players are two of the biggest likely Oscar players of the year, assuming they both don't suck: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, the fourth feature by three-time Best Director nominee Stephen Daldry, whose best film was a tepidly charming British dramedy, and who's worst was The Reader, one of the absolute worst Best Picture nominees of all time. I am prepared to be let down. The actual wide release film is War Horse, the second Spielberg movie in four days. It is undoubtedly going to be so damn sentimental that it will hurt, but I'm more excited for this one than Tintin anyway; heck, I'm probably more excited for this than any other December film, which says more about the month than anything. But I have never been much averse to letting my emotions be ruthlessly played by Steven Spielberg.


A lousy release date for a mini-budget indie, but I have it on good authority that Pariah is damn fine, and if the best it could get was a Hail Mary qualifying run, then so be it.


And so the year ends with Meryl Streep playing a nice version of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady.

Oh, and one of the most wildly praised films of the year released anywhere in the world is crapped out to make a desperate bid at the Oscars: Iranian director Asghar Farhadi's political firebomb A Separation. Hope y'all live in a tiny segment of either LA or New York if you want to see this presumptive masterwork! Also, fuck you, Sony Pictures Classics.


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