Awards Season Primer

You’re never quite ready for Awards Season.

It’s a dizzying five months of movies. From October to December, two or three new Oscar contenders are released into theaters every week. From the end of November to February, every movie-watching organization in the country releases their own versions of the awards. It’s a taxing, exciting, redundant, spectacular time of year for movie fans.

Even though Awards Season has been going on secretly for a couple weeks now, it turns up the hyperbole to 11 when the Golden Globe nominations come out Dec. 15. It’s going to be hard to keep up with after that, so if you’re looking to make a half-hearted effort to keep up with the movies that are destined to get some Oscar love, here’s a quick guide to eight movies in theaters over the next month you might wanna check out:

MY WEEK WITH MARILYN

time to get this girl some more press

Up for: Best picture, Best actress

Release date: Out limited, no wide release date set

Status: Let’s start making the argument for Michelle Williams being the most underrated actress of the last decade. This looks like her third Oscar nomination in six years, and she hasn’t made a bad movie choice this century. Her manager needs a raise, but she needs to fire her agent for not getting her more publicity.

Need to see level: 8. The Weinstein Oscar machine is already gearing up for this.

THE ARTIST

Up for: Best picture, best actor (Jean Dujardin), best original screenplay

Release date: Limited release now, no expansion date announced.

Status: How pretentious is the Academy feeling these days? It’s been criticized for being out of touch with the movie-going public over the last few years, which led to a best picture category with 10 nominations. So if The Artist — a black-and-white French film with no spoken words — cracks the nominations or even (gasp!) wins the award, the Academy is in for a shatstorm of bad publicity, widening the divide between it and everyone under 30. Fine by me, but I just can’t see it winning. But it will lead the Golden Globe nominations.

Need to see level: 10, only because it’s going to be one of the most controversial, talked-about best picture nominees.

THE DESCENDANTS

oh yeah, fatherhood is a blast.

Up for: Best picture, best actor (George Clooney), best adapted screenplay, best supporting actress (Shailene Woodley)

Release date: Out limited now, no set wide expansion date, Pocono Community Theater is hoping to get it though.

Status: Movies need to come with warning labels past the simple R, PG or NC-17 ratings. I came up with this theory after I saw Blue Valentine, which prompted me to warn: “Don’t see this movie with your significant other unless your relationship is on 100 percent solid ground, otherwise you’ll be broken up in a month. Six weeks tops.” Well, after seeing The Descendants last weekend, we’ve got a new one: “Happily married fathers of two young daughters should not see this movie.” Wanna know the last time I cried in a movie theater? How ’bout never. We’re talking about hundreds of trips to the theater, dozens of which were with people who did cry at the movies, but I’ve been impervious — up until Sunday when I saw Descendants. It probably won’t affect everyone the same way it affected me, but it’s a very good piece of film making that deserves to be in the discussion for best picture, and Clooney is nothing short of masterful as an emotionally detached dad. I can’t imagine seeing a better performance this year.

Need to see level: 9

MARGIN CALL

hey, where's his gimp outfit?

Up for: Not sure yet.

Release date: Out now

Status: The early wild card of the Oscar race, and a barometer for how the new means of movie distribution will evolve over the next decade. It’s been OnDemand for about a month now, even though I haven’t gotten a chance to watch it. It’s been on Blockbuster’s streaming service for about a month too. It got some love from both the Spirit Awards and the National Board of Review, but hasn’t seemed to catch on in the mainstream. It’s made back it’s budget, but how long can arthouse theaters keep playing it? It’s been out for six weeks, and there are about 10 more coming to theaters this week that will push it out. Maybe if people keep finding it in other ways, it will get some more heat.

Need to see level: 5

YOUNG ADULT

you might not know it from monster or north country, but in case you forgot, charlize theron is hot

Up for: Best picture, best director (Jason Reitman), best actress (Charlize Theron)

Release date: Friday (limited), expansion Dec. 16

Status: Tough to argue with Reitman’s track record. He’s made three movies, and two of them have been nominated for best picture. And he’s working with a Diablo Cody script here — the same Diablo Cody that wrote Juno, Reitman’s first hit. For all of Theron’s blond hotness, she’s putting up an impressive resume and this could be a third Oscar nomination. It would be the first time she didn’t have to mask the fact that she is, in fact, rather attractive. She’s a lock for a Golden Globe nomination, we’ll see about the Oscars.

Need to see level: 6. Was an 8 two weeks ago, but its heat seems to be somewhat cooling, not sure why.

EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE

Up for: Best picture, best director (Stephen Daldry), best actor (Tom Hanks), best supporting actress (Sandra Bullock)

Release date: Christmas (limited), Jan. 20 (wide)

Status: My wife cried at the trailer. It’s got Tom Hanks in it. It’s about 9/11. Any other questions?

Need to see level: 10.

alvin for best actor!

ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: CHIPWRECKED

Just kidding.

WAR HORSE

Up for: Best picture, best director (Steven Spielberg), every art category.

Release date: Christmas

Status: I said this before, but it’s the movie you’ll say your parents are lame for liking. It reeks of 10 nominations, no wins.

Need to see level: For me it’s about a 2. But if you want to keep up with the Oscar race, it’s a 10.

SHAME

Up for: Best picture, best actor (Michael Fassbender)

Release date: Out in limited release, no expansion date set. but if you want to see it, you won’t be seeing it at the Stroud Mall since Cinemark doesn’t carry NC-17 movies.

Status: Remember in 1995 when Kevin Spacey got best supporting actor for Usual Suspects, but was just as awesome in Se7en and Swimming with Sharks? That could be Fassbender. He could get some supporting actor nomination and get a collective Oscar for being in about a bazillion good movies this year. Shame is a British movie about sex addiction that got an NC-17 rating and didn’t care. That means it most likely won’t be playing in a theater near you since theaters are skittish about showing NC-17 movies, but if it gets a Golden Globe nomination this week, it could get some Oscar heat.

Need to see level: 3. Unless you like gratuitous, crazy nudity, then it’s a 13. So it’s a 13 for me.

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