December Brings Oscar Joy and Holiday Family Fun at the Movies

Our family is spread all over the USA. But, during Christmas week, family is drawn to our home like a magnet to cherish each other’s company. One of our traditional Christmas activities is a trip to the local movieplex for our Christmas family movie. We aren’t unique. This is a scene that plays out amongst families all over the globe. The challenge is to select a movie that everyone in the family will enjoy. Movie producers understand this and will generally release a high quality, hyper promoted escapist flick right around Christmas. Last year it was Star Wars: the Force Awakens, which was our family’s choice in 2015. Producers will also release Oscar bait that is accessible to a broad spectrum of movie tastes. For example, Titanic, the 1997 box office champion and Academy Award winner, was released on December 19th.

Our family is spread all over the USA. But, during Christmas week, our family is drawn  home like a magnet to reconnect, laugh, and cherish each other’s company. One of our traditional Christmas activities is a trip to the local movieplex for our Christmas family movie. We aren’t unique. This is a scene that plays out amongst families all over the globe. The challenge is to select a movie that everyone in the family will enjoy. Movie producers understand this and will generally release a high quality, hyper promoted escapist flick right around Christmas. Last year it was Star Wars: the Force Awakens, which was our family’s choice in 2015. Producers will also release Oscar bait that is accessible to a broad spectrum of movie tastes. For example, Titanic, the 1997 box office champion and Academy Award winner, was released on December 19th.

Here are my candidates for December visits to the movie theater. If your family, like ours, doesn’t include children, all five of these might make your list for family movie night options.

Jackie      Release Date: December 2             “Really Like” Probability: 55%

John F. Kennedy had an average approval rating of 70.1% during his Presidency, the highest post-World War II Presidential approval rating in history. When he was assassinated on November 22, 1963, the nation mourned the death, not only of their youthful President, but also of their innocence as a nation. It was the death of Camelot. This movie allows us to mourn again through the eyes of John Kennedy’s wife Jackie. The movie is on most Best Picture lists and Natalie Portman is considered a front-runner for Best Actress for her portrayal of the title character.

La La Land     Release Date: December 16             “Really Like” Probability: 70%

This is the movie I can’t wait to see. It has a good chance of being our Christmas family movie this year. It is listed on AwardCircuit as the number one Best Picture contender. It is a musical romance starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Wait, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling can sing? Yes they can. Emma Stone got her first TV role in 2004 as Laurie Partridge in MTV’s show In Search of the Partridge Family. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Partridge Family, they were a fictional family musical group from a 1970’s TV show called The Partridge Family that actually produced a hit single. Ryan Gosling got his break in 1993 when he won an audition to be on the The New Mickey Mouse Club. During the two years he was on the show he lived with Justin Timberlake and his family.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story    Release Date: December 16     “Really Like” Probability: 65%

This will be the box office winner in December. When tickets became available for pre-sale this past Monday, the movie ticket purchasing website, Fandango, crashed because of demand for tickets. This is the movie that will be on almost everyone’s family movie night list and, yes, it will be on our family’s list as well. It is the story of how the plans to the Death Star that play such a prominent role in the original Star Wars, made their way into the hands of the rebels. It is a stand-alone movie. There will be no sequel, according to Lucasfilm President, Kathleen Kennedy. And, yes, Darth Vader does make an appearance.

Passengers      Release Date: December 21           “Really Like” Probability: 60%

It’s always tricky to recommend a movie that no one, not even critics, has seen. I’m looking forward to this movie because I’m a fan of both Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. It is their first movie together and I’m curious whether these two attractive young stars will have chemistry or not. I’m a fan of good Sci Fi and the premise is intriguing; two space traveling passengers, who are part of a crew of thousands, wake up 90 years early. Both the director and the screenwriter have limited resumes but have created some interesting movies including The Imitation Game ( Director Morten Tyldum) and the recently released Doctor Strange (Screenwriter Jon Spaihts). The producers are opening this movie just before Christmas, which suggests that they believe this is a movie that people will want to see. I hope they are right because I’m one of them.

Fences        Release Date: December 25           “Really Like” Probability: 60%

The revival of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize winning 1983 play Fences opened on Broadway April 26, 2010. It was nominated for ten Tony Awards, winning three, Best Revival and, Best Actor and Actress for Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. On Christmas Day, this play, with most of its Broadway cast intact makes the leap to the big screen. I expect that when Academy Awards nominations are announced in January, this movie will have its name called often. Awards Circuit  has it ranked second on its Best Picture list and predicts an additional seven nominations.It is a movie about race relations in the 1950’s told through the experience of a black family living in Pittsburgh. In addition to playing the lead, Denzel Washington will be behind the camera as well as Director. The buzz is that he will be a double nominee for both roles. This is the type of socially significant movie that Oscar voters love. I think I’ll love it as well.

As a familiar Christmas carol sings out, “It’s the most wonderful (movie) time of the year.”

 

September, When the Movies You Expect to be Good Are Bad and Vice Versa

Picking “really like” movie prospects for September is a tricky game. The movies that sound good probably aren’t and the movies that don’t sound good may be alright

Picking “really like” movie prospects for September is a tricky game. The movies that sound good probably aren’t and the movies that don’t sound good may be alright. As I mentioned in my last post, there is a 38.3% chance that I will “really like” a movie released in September. That means that, if I pick five movies as “really like” September prospects, I could randomly pick five and stand a good chance that two of them will be “really like” movies. Right? Theoretically, that’s true. But, I’m not picking randomly, I’m trying to pick movies I’d like which may work against me.

For example, my first movie is:

Sully. Release Date: September 9, 2016       “Really Like” Probability: 40%

This movie is directed by Clint Eastwood and stars Tom Hanks. In the last 15 years I’ve seen 15 movies directed by Clint Eastwood and “really liked” 12 of them. Over the same time frame I’ve watched 25 movies that Tom Hanks starred in and 20 of those I “really liked”. So, I “really liked” 80% of the movies I’ve seen for both the Director and the Actor. Here’s something else those 40 movies have in common. None of them were released in September. If a movie that involves the pedigree of Eastwood and Hanks is released in September, should we be skeptical? Yes, but because of the pedigree, I have to put the movie on the prospect list.

Similarly, my second prospect:

The Magnificent Seven . Release Date: September 23, 2016  “Really Like” Probability: 35%

This movie also stars a very bankable actor, Denzel Washington, and a new star, Chris Pratt. I’ve seen 23 Denzel Washington movies and “really liked” 17 of them. The movie is also in one of my favorite genres, the Western. But, guess what, none of those 23 movies was released in September. Again, this is a movie I want to see but the release date makes me skeptical.

Which brings me to three movies that don’t jump out and say “watch me” but are intriguing nonetheless. The first is:

The Light Between Oceans. Release Date:September 2, 2016 “Really Like” Probability: 35%

This movie stars two big name actors, Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender, who happen to be in a relationship in their private lives. Does the off-screen chemistry translate on-screen a la Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy? We’ll have to wait and see if this melodrama rises above September expectations.

The next movie may be September-proof:

Queen of Katwe.  Release Date: September 30, 2016    “Really Like” Probability: 45%

Walt Disney Pictures over the last couple of decades has developed  a sub-genre specialty in their efforts  to produce family oriented entertainment, the “true underdog ” Sports Movie. While on occasion they’ve taken liberty with the facts, as in the 2015 McFarland, USA, their product has been consistently entertaining.This year’s underdog competitor is a young girl from a Ugandan village who trains to be a world chess champion. I believe that this movie is the most promising of the month.

For my final choice, I’m going with a selection from the odd filmography of Tim Burton:

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.  Release Date: September 30, 2016         “Really Like” Probability: 35%

Why did I pick this movie? Maybe it’s because it has a little bit of a Harry Potter feel to it. The clincher though is that Samuel L. Jackson is in the movie. There are five actors who I’ve seen in at least 25 movies over the past 15 years. Samuel L. Jackson is one of the five. And, he ranks only behind Tom Hanks in the average rating I’ve given those movies.

That’s all I’ve got. After all it is September movies we’re talking about.