Hollywood's Golden Season
A sneak peek at 10 new films that are already generating Oscar buzz
Leah Rozen, a former film critic for People magazine, is a freelance writer for The New York Times, More and Parade.
A Late Quartet opens Nov. 2.
All the good movies, it seems, open in November and December. That’s because Hollywood saves up most of the prestige films it thinks stand a chance of garnering Oscar nominations and other awards then releases them in the final months of the year so they’ll be fresh in the minds of voters.
It happens this way every year. Sure, there are a few notable films during the winter, spring, summer and early months of fall (Trouble With the Curve and Argo are worth seeing now), but now comes the deluge.
In anticipation of the approaching onslaught, here’s a cheat sheet offering a quick look at 10 November and December titles that, because of their subject matter or cast, are likely to appeal to the academy and boomers alike (click on title to watch trailer):
A Late Quartet (opens Nov. 2): This complex drama is about longtime members of a classical music quartet and the changes in their relationships as the illness of one member threatens the group’s continuing existence. Christopher Walken gives a standout performance as the senior member of the quartet, with equally fine work by Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener and Mark Ivanir as his fellow musicians.
Flight (Nov. 2): Director Robert Zemeckis’ first non-animated film since Castaway (2000), this adult drama is aimed at grownup moviegoers. Denzel Washington, an actor who can coax subtext out of the reading of a grocery list, delivers yet again as a commercial airline pilot hailed as a national hero after performing an emergency landing — although he isn’t at all sure that he deserves the praise.
Lincoln (Nov. 9): English actor Daniel Day-Lewis, notoriously picky about his roles, portrays America’s 16th president during the waning days of the Civil War. This historical drama is directed by Steven Spielberg and scripted by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner, who last teamed on Munich (2005).
Hitchcock (Nov. 23): Sir Anthony Hopkins and Dame Helen Mirren, a couple of Oscar-winning veterans who both know how to walk the fine line between bravura and ham, play legendary director Alfred Hitchcock and his supportive missus in a biopic about the making of his 1960 masterpiece, Psycho. Scarlett Johansson portrays star Janet Leigh.
Hyde Park on the Hudson (Dec. 7): Some are calling this historical drama a mash-up of Sunrise at Campobello and The King’s Speech because it’s set during the weekend in 1939 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt entertained England’s King George VI at his mother’s home in Hyde Park, N.Y. Bill Murray has a fine time playing FDR, with Laura Linney co-starring as a distant cousin with whom, the movie contends, the president was romantically involved. Roger Michell (Notting Hill) directed.
Not Fade Away (Dec. 21): The Sopranos’ James Gandolfini reunites with David Chase, the creative leader behind the HBO mob series, for this nostalgic, coming-of-age drama about a New Jersey youth (John Magaro) who joins a rock band in the mid-1960s. (Gandolfini plays the young man’s disapproving father.) The soundtrack, full of old Beatles, Rolling Stones and John Mayall tunes, will resonate with a generation that grew up during the era of long hair and ankle boots.
Amour (Dec. 21): A long-married Parisian couple, both retired music teachers, struggle to cope as the wife sinks into illness, disability and, eventually, dementia in this moving drama from writer-director Michael Haneke (The White Ribbon). The film stars French movie veterans Jean-Louis Trintignant (A Man and a Woman), now 81, and Emanuelle Riva (Hiroshima Mon Amour), now 85. The movie won the top prize at this year's Cannes Film Festival.
The Guilt Trip (Dec. 28): Barbra Streisand, who has gone from Funny Girl to Funny Near-Geezer, is Seth Rogan’s widowed mom in a road trip comedy. He plays an inventor trying to hawk his latest product and she joins him for a cross-country drive that includes a stop at the Grand Canyon and a visit to a strip bar. What can I say? The trailer made me laugh out loud.
Parental Guidance (Dec. 28): This exceedingly broad family comedy stars Billy Crystal and Bette Midler as grandparents who agree to help look after their trio of rambunctious grandkids when their daughter’s husband heads off on a work-related trip. “You know what grandparenting is?” Midler asks Crystal in the movie. “A second chance.”
Quartet (Dec. 28): Hot on the arthritis-ridden heels of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel comes this British retirement home comedy starring the ever fabulous Dame Maggie Smith, who was also in Hotel. Here, Smith plays a retired opera diva who moves to a residence for elderly musicians, including her ex-husband (Tom Courtenay). Scottish funnyman Billy Connolly and Pauline Collins (Sarah in the original Upstairs, Downstairs) co-star. The film marks the directorial debut of Dustin Hoffman, who takes on the new challenge at age 75.