Looking ahead, there are some potential bright spots and some possible letdowns. On the latter front, Joe Wright's Anna Karenina opens in limited release this Friday, and while we'd hoped, and the trailers seemed to indicate, that Wright would build on the artistry of last year's terrific Hanna, he's instead reverted back to the pretty-but-bland technique that made his Atonement such a hollowly elegant bore. (We'll have a full review of that tomorrow as well.) Another heavily laden costume piece is Tom Hooper's Les Miserables, which has an outside chance of being a stirring, well-executed bit of corn, but trailers hint at a pretty-looking disaster. The Impossible, the Naomi Watts/Ewan McGregor drama about the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, could be an expertly made tearjerker, but we're guessing it's going to be more of a manipulative tearjerker. Bill Murray's shameless Oscar ploy Hyde Park on Hudson, which has him playing FDR, seems already dead in the water after a chilly reception in Toronto, while This Is 40 looks even more self-indulgent than Judd Apatow's last effort, Funny People, which we didn't think possible.
It's not all gloom and doom, though. We're curious about Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained, as we're curious about all of his movies. Andrew Dominik's Killing Them Softly sounds great based on everything we heard from Cannes. While Kathryn Bieglow's Osama bin Laden caper comedy (or, y'know, intelligence thriller) Zero Dark Thirty is almost as shrouded in mystery as the actual operation was, it still seems promising on its pedigree. Maybe The Hobbit will stir in us what The Lord of the Rings did so many years ago, and maybe Gus van Sant's fracking drama Promised Land will be a genuine rabble-rouser. That's kind of it for English language releases and scripted fare. We're seeing Michael Haneke's Alzheimer's tale Amour tomorrow and are hoping to be bowled over, while all the dreamy imagery in the Rust & Bone trailers has us anticipating another bracing French drama from the director of A Prophet. On the documentary front, we weren't as taken with Searching for Sugar Man as others seemed to be, but at least there is How to Survive a Plague to fondly remember and West of Memphis to look forward to. (Meanwhile we've been remiss in not yet seeing The House I Live In.) But even in that typically sparse category, the pickings this year seem particularly slim. This summer's First Position was cute, but not much more than that, for example.
So that's how we see this year in movies so far. There's some potentially good stuff coming up, but a lot of disappointment behind us. While we've no doubt that the Oscar voters and list makers (including us) will be able to scrape together ten or so credible choices for the best of the year, will they really measure up to years past? Right now it's not looking likely. So what happened? Some years are just off years, we suppose. There have been good, entertaining big-budget blockbusters like The Amazing Spider-Man, The Avengers, and Skyfall this year, but on the artsier side, this is largely a bum crop. That might make all the awards stuff this winter kind of a downer to watch, or it could make it all the more exciting; it'll be scrappier and more uncertain. Sure Lincoln will probably come loping through and crush many things in its path, but right now we still see lots of room for curious surprises. And, though the movies weren't great, that sounds kinda good to us.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.