Oscar season was supposed to get started with David O. Russell's Amsterdam that came out two weekends ago. It cost $80 million dollars to make and it will be lucky to bring in $20 million. It's tracking at 33% among critics on Rotten Tomatoes. So, it looks like we'll need a new movie to get Oscar season started.
Here are the five movies coming out before the end of the year that I am most looking forward to seeing.
Thirteen Lives (November 18)
I'm of the opinion that of 1970's TV stars becoming directors, Rob Reiner is underrated but Ron Howard is overrated. Other than Cinderella Man, Frost/Nixon, Ransom and Splash, Howard movies miss more than they hit for me. This movie has some really strong buzz around it. It was supposed to come out in April but when the audience test scores showed the highest results in studio history, they pushed Thirteen Lives to November to complete for Oscars. Colin Farrell (who was great in both After Yang and Batman from this year) and Viggo Mortensen lead a movie that seems to be shot with a cold surgical style that is unique to Howard.
The Fabelmans (November 23)
As great as it is to see Steven Spielberg tell an original story again, I am nervous because it's HIS story. Some directors can tell autobiographical stories on screen like Bob Fosse did with the brilliant All That Jazz but can Spielberg do the same thing? That this takes place when he was a kid and focuses on his parents make me nervous that he'll play it safe but this looks like a great cast with Carey Mulligan, Paul Dano and Seth Rogan. Spielberg is 75 years old. Is this his last great movie?
The Son (November 25)
Florian Zeller's The Father was one of the best movies I saw in 2020. I know it was unpopular that Anthony Hopkins defeated Chadwick Boseman for the Oscar but Hopkins deserved it. It was a terrifying performance that I still think about. Zeller directing Hopkins again makes me excited for this one but reviews have been mixed so far.
Avatar: The Way of the Water (December 16)
I don't know if I am excited to see this or just excited for it to come out already so I don't have to hear about Avatar anymore. But then, I remember that there are already two more Avatar movies scheduled to come out every other year until 2026. I didn't like the first one and I can't imagine this will be good BUT James Cameron did already make a sequel that was better than the original with Terminator 2. I'll give James Cameron a chance but I can't think of a blockbuster that people became so uninterested so quickly after coming out.
Babylon (December 25)
Damian Chazelle's trying to fix a trend with this movie. With Whiplash, La La Land and then First Man, his movies have been getting progressively worse with each one. This one might be his most risky with it taking place in 1920 and focused much more on comedy than drama (or at least that's how the trailer made it seem). The cast looks great though with Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie and Tobey Maguire. This is the first movie Chazelle has written in six years so maybe this will turn that trend around.
I am not a big Marvel fan but any list of upcoming movies has to include the biggest box office draw. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever which is due out on November 11th. Marvel hit huge box office numbers when Spider-Man: No Way Home came out last December but other than that, Marvel movies haven't hit the numbers they've wanted of late but people are expecting more Spider-numbers with this one than Eternals totals. Considering the original is the 6th biggest movie of all-time, guessing that won't be a problem.
I wouldn't say I'm super impressed with the Fall slate. Last year at this time, I had both Belfast and Licorice Pizza to look forward to (and I liked both of them a lot). But there are always movies you don't expect this time of year that exceed expectations. For me last year that was The Worst Person In The World. But keep an eye on The Menu, The Whale and A Man Called Otto. They could all be better than they initially look.