Creed is that one movie that can sometimes come along and land in the Oscar race with absolutely no warning. It comes with an interesting Oscar story, one not unlike its subject, and its subject’s first film. Rocky is a story of an underdog and Creed has to be seen as one of this year’s underdogs, without a doubt. It wasn’t ushered in as an “Oscar movie,” and doesn’t seem to have much in the way of Oscar ads or fancy q&as, not yet anyway. It was a film that could have gone either way – but it landed like a champ. An A Cinemascore, maybe looking at a 35 – 40 million opening weekend, and hitting the sweet spot at Rotten Tomatoes with 93% puts Creed very much “in the conversation.” And if it isn’t then there is something very very wrong with Oscar season.
Creed is what my dearly departed friend David Carr would call a “movie movie” and is another example of how this year might really might be — or certainly could be — dominated by big studio movies for the first time in years. It’s too soon to know, of course, how the whole thing will settle. We won’t really know for a few more weeks at least. Joy and The Hateful Eight are still to be seen.
In looking over last year’s predictions around this time we were still caught up in movies that hadn’t yet played and/or been rejected, so Unbroken was still riding high, as was Interstellar, even though it had been seen. See, we don’t really “know” anything. We’re just guessing. And last year, even the best of them weren’t on target. Anne Thompson, Thelma Adams and Tim Grey were the only ones who had 7 out of 8 right. The rest of us had 6 out 8 right, which still isn’t that bad. Overall, the Gurus had 6 out 8 right on Thanksgiving weekend, as did Gold Derby.
Like last year, we were messed up because of the late breaking films that embargo reviews until after voting for so many of the critics awards, like the New York Film Critics or National Board of Review. Such is the case once again with The Revenant and Joy at least. Therefore, even if we think they might not be/or might be Oscar nominees, we can’t get that confirmed until the movies get reviewed, seen, talked about. Thus, we’re in a bit of a vacuum even now.
Given that Hayou Miyazaki sent a shockwave through American animation and the way Pixar and Disney have been influenced by him, it’s a little silly to think there could be any more movement in the animation genre here. But over the years, there has been. Some of it has been noticed, but some hasn’t. How many people even saw The Congress where Ari Folman blended animation with live action for a crazy kind of abstract vision of the future. The Congress went mostly ignored by ticket-buyers but what it was aiming for was interesting.
Inside Out is that rare film that hits both the snooty critics and mainstream audiences. It has earned $356 million. As a Pixar movie. With a female protag. All of that talk about how animated films with female characters could not connect. (Doubts already dispelled by last Frozen two years ago). The thing about gender, though, is that our ideas about it are shifting ever so slightly. Most of us adults aren’t really paying attention to how fluid the notion of gender is becoming to younger generations, so that you can’t really be certain about those “rules” that say there has to be a male lead. More than that, by making Riley female, it adds a kind of complexity you could only have if your male character could be a little more flexible with gender. For instance, Riley plays hockey. She isn’t a typical “girly girl” although that’s very much a part of her inner world too – sparkly ponies, hot teen idols, rainbows and imaginary friends all occupy various parts of her inner world. The creators of Inside Out also gave her traces of “anger” usually reserved for boys, and didn’t just populate her inner emotions with female personas. Sure, her Joy and her Sadness are notably different kinds of females but there is so much else going on inside that young girl’s head clearly the writers were freer with how they set about defining that inside.
Ex-Machina, Testament of Youth, The Man From U.N.C.L.E, Burnt and The Danish Girl all have one actress in common, Alica Vikander. The actress has had a whirlwind year and got to visit the White House for the first time. She’s just returned from D.C and I manage to sit down with the actress who leads me into her “little lounge” that overlooks Sunset Boulevard. Vikander is dressed in a long skirt, her dark hair slicked back, she’s about to head to Chateau Marmont for a cocktail reception celebrating her latest movie, The Danish Girl.
Awards Daily: Wow! What a year for you and what a weekend.
Alicia Vikander: Yeah, it’s been busy and fun. We had the premiere three days ago, I can’t even remember. I was in D.C yesterday, so I’m a bit, “I don’t know what day it is.” It was my first time ever going there, and then I’m going back to shoot in six days.
Sight & Sound names 20 top movies of the year, as chosen by 168 critics from around the world. On the terrific S&S site you’re able to browse all the votes and comments with links to S&S reviews. It was pointed out on Twitter than the top three films feature female leads. I’m not sure that’s altogether true of The Assassin. I remember going in thinking it would be about a woman fighter but then not seeing so much of her – except as an incredibly beautiful figure in an incredibly beautiful movie. A couple of really great choices on here but I’m not sure it’s representative of the year of film. Rather, it seems a little reactionary to Oscar season overall – picking and choosing the films that are anything but Oscar favorites. Maybe it comes down to those critics not having seen many of the films people are talking about here. Probably those movies haven’t yet been released in various countries, and certainly no screeners will have been sent. They did, however, somehow manage to put Anomalisa – one of the hardest films to see – on their list. But perhaps that’s because it went to and won in Venice (deservedly so).
So I’ll just chalk the glaring omissions to their not having seen the movies rather than their being annoyed with Oscar season…
Another year almost in the can, dear readers, and some of you have actually been with me since the beginning. We’ve grown up or grown old together in a way. How weird, right? But also it’s just the greatest thing to me that you come here and read this site. Of course, other than my own loud mouth, there is much going on behind the scenes. Ryan Adams who has been with the site since 2006 is the main reason things run at all. He is a great editor and writer, and a lifesaving proofreader. Each and every time I make a career ending typo or mistake, Ryan will be there to help fix it. That has lessened the 3am freakouts. He’s a great friend and essential contributor. We’ve also gotten lucky to take on a few new contributors, like the awesome and hard working Jazz Tangcay who does interviews, records interviews, attends press events and parties like a pro. I wish I had half of her get up and go. We love you, Jazz! Thanks for the great work. And Jordan Ruimy who is also motivated to write reviews and film pieces – he works faster than Ryan and I can keep up with. So thank you, Jordan!
Of course, thanks to the always happening Paddy Mulholland for his London reports, Dr. Rob Y for his fun and instructive Simulated Oscar Ballots, intermittent OscarPodcast pal Craig Kennedy, and the prolific gang at ADTV, Clarence Moye, Joey Moser, Megan McLachlan, Robin Write, and Ryan C Showers and Kevin Klawitter. Special thanks to Marshall Flores for his Statsgasm series as well as his reliable expertise in helping us analyze facts and figures throughout the year.
The incredibly talented Dora Kappou has once again made our FYC gallery. I don’t know why she does us this favor every year. We can never repay her for her kindness. But we’re grateful. We are so grateful.
To you readers and commenters – we’ve all become kind of a family and it’s far reaching. Some of you who comment now I know and some I don’t. But we’re always grateful to have you, even when you’re riding our ass about something.
To my own blogger friends who have been there through thick and thin – who I see at every party and shoot the shit with. Jeff Wells – a better man than most people realize. David Poland, Pete Hammond, Anne Thompson, Kris and April Tapley, Scott Feinberg, Tomris Laffly, Alex Billington, Greg Ellwood, Kyle Buchanan, Ryan Lattanzio, and probably five million other people I’ve forgotten.
Anyway, wishing you all a happy Thanksgiving.