Arts & Entertainment | Neely Swanson
Holiday Movie Releases to Watch For: Part One of Two
From funny to sad, sunny to dark, intellectual to mindless, there’s something for everyone during this Holiday season.
From funny to sad, sunny to dark, intellectual to mindless, there’s something for everyone during this Holiday season. Part One of this series takes a look at November releases. Part Two will feature December debuts.
In its own way, the movie releases of 2022 have followed the pattern of the pre-pandemic years but in a more muted way in terms of the grosses. Some of this is because studios are still trying to figure out the balance between theatrical release, Video on Demand (VOD), and streaming. The total number of films released in the United States so far this year that have grossed at least $10M domestically is 70. Keep in mind that in the past a $10M gross for a movie on its opening weekend was considered a bad result. I’m betting you’d be hard pressed to name more than 10 of this year’s films, and certainly few if any at the bottom of the list, although that’s where you’ll find overlooked gems like “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris,” “See How They Run,” and “Bros.”
HOW ARE FILMS RELEASED
In harsh terms, films coming out in January, February, and, to a certain extent, March are being dumped on the market by their studios either because those films didn’t live up to expectations or because of a recognition that they aren’t marketable. This past winter saw the release of “The 355,” “Jackass Forever,” and the surprisingly popular but critically reviled “Uncharted.” You just never know.
April is something of an anomaly because movies for younger children appear, like “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” and “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore,” both of which made money, buckets of it in the case of “Sonic.” Adult films like “Ambulance’’ and “Memory” came out and plummeted, leading one to wonder if they, too, fell into the “what are we supposed to do with them?” category. Both arrived on Amazon Prime shortly thereafter.
May is the beginning of tentpole season. This is the time when studios put out what they think will be their blockbusters, especially their superhero movies aimed at teenagers who are out of school with nothing to do but see the same movie over and over. Seven of the top 10 grossing films of the year (and there is little doubt that they’ll stay in those positions) premiered between May and July, led by “Top Gun: Maverick” in May. That particular film has given the studios hope that there may still be people out there who are willing to buy tickets and popcorn and travel to theaters to see movies on big screens in the dark.
Much like the spring openings, premieres in September and early October are a grab bag of excellent films and headscratchers. They are spotty releases, some of which equaled or surpassed the hopes of their distributors like “The Woman King,” and the sleeper hit “Smile.” And others disappointed, like “Don’t Worry Darling,” which seemed to be torpedoed by behind the scenes gossip (and bad reviews), and “Bros” that for some reason vastly underperformed given the great critical and audience reviews. As the late, great screenwriter William Goldman said, “Nobody knows anything.”
So now we come to the case in hand: films released in November and December. In general, these are the prestige releases. There will be a few tentpoles, some family favorites, lots of foreign films, and perhaps most importantly the major Oscar contenders. While a few (and believe me not many) Best Picture Oscar contenders will have been previously released, most will come out between now and the end of the year. The reason that studios release their Oscar contenders at this time is all about impact and memory. In most cases, films that premiered before October are long forgotten, no matter how good they were. There have been exceptions in the past, one of them being last year’s winner “Coda,” released in August 2021 among much bigger films and little fanfare.
Oscar qualification rules are very specific. In the period between January 1, 2022 and December 31, 2022, a film must receive a theatrical opening of seven consecutive days in the same commercial theater (a minimum of three screenings per day) in one of the following metropolitan areas: Los Angeles County; City of New York; the San Francisco Bay Area; Chicago; Miami; and Atlanta. And most importantly, any release receiving its first public exhibition outside a theatrical showing will not be eligible. This includes VOD, Pay per View (PPV), DVD, airing on Broadcast or Cable television, or by internet transmission (i.e., streaming). Films premiering the day of or after the theatrical release remain eligible, a major concession over pre-pandemic rules.
So on with the show. Here are the films to watch out for.
“Good Night Oppy,” an inspirational documentary about the rover named Opportunity (Oppy) that was sent to Mars on a 90-day mission and ended up surviving for 15 years. It not only tracks the incredible footage and scientific information Oppy sent back, but it also reveals the close bond that Oppy’s human handlers formed with this little robot millions of miles away.
“Armageddon Time,” a coming of age story from writer/director James Gray with a powerhouse cast including Anthony Hopkins and Anne Hathaway.
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is the much-anticipated follow-up to “Black Panther,” that was the rare Marvel film that crossed over into well-written and acted drama. “Wakanda” takes place after the death of King T’Challa (the late Chadwick Boseman). Whether this repeats as one of the few tentpole movies to be nominated for Best Picture, it will still be exciting to see the next chapter.
“Spirited,” a clever musical take on “A Christmas Carol” from the standpoint of the ghosts, may not win any major awards but it should be a family hit, especially with stars like Will Ferrell as the Ghost of the Present, and Ryan Reynolds as the stand-in for the Scrooge. Streaming 11/18 on Apple+.
“She Said” is the story that helped break open the Harvey Weinstein assault cases and propel the #MeToo movement. It is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, starring Zoe Kazan and Cary Mulligan.
“The Inspection” is based on the true story of Elegance Bratton who, as a young, Black, gay man rejected by his mother finds success and acceptance and support with a group of comrades in a most unlikely and prejudiced arena, the Marines.
“The Menu” is a delicious (and I mean that in all sorts of ways) comedy/horror film about a surprising dinner at an exclusive restaurant on a remote island. It is stuffed with stars like Ralph Fiennes as the chef.
“EO” is the quirky and charming film directed by famed Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski about the life of a donkey who escapes his Polish circus and gradually makes his way to France. Poland’s submission to the Oscars, it won the Jury Prize at Cannes.
“Bones and All” will be a limited release for those with a taste for the ghoulish. Starring Timothée Chalamet, who seems of late to be attracted to the more bizarre aspects of life, it is something of a cannibal love story. Perhaps not to my taste.
“The Fabelmans.” This much anticipated film directed by Steven Spielberg and written by him with Tony Kushner is his own, very personal coming of age story starring Michelle Williams and Paul Dano. Spielberg exposes himself more than he has in the past, although it will probably still not be enough for some people.
“Strange World” is a Disney animated action adventure fantasy sure to please the kids and not bore their parents. It may even cross over to older teens.
“Nanny” is a psychological horror tale about a recent immigrant who has been hired to care for the child of a rich couple in New York City. The family dynamics and the nanny’s increasing sense of instability are a volatile mixture. Streaming on Amazon December 16.
“Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” is the sequel to “Knives Out.” This time it sports a new mystery, a sunny Greek island, and a new starry ensemble of suspects and victims, all led by Daniel Craig, the inscrutable detective with the funny accent. Streaming on Netflix December 23.
“White Noise,” adapted and directed by Noah Baumbach, is based on the celebrated novel by Don DeLillo. Streaming on Netflix December 30.
November is full of interesting releases, but December ramps things up for Oscar consideration. Look for Part Two of this series in the Nov. 25 issue of the Courier. Until then, happy viewing!