The Best of the Holiday Season
Hollywood starts rolling out its big guns this weekend — blockbusters and prestige hits you can’t afford to miss if you want to be in the know this awards season. Here are the must-watch new movies coming up, all frontrunners for an important Oscar:
PHOTO BY: Jack English/Focus Features
Darkest Hour, Nov. 22
It’s 1940, and some of Britain’s leaders want to surrender to Hitler. But defeat is something up with which boozy old loser Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman, 59) will not put. Director Joe Wright, 45, outdid Dunkirk in his 2002 Atonement, and now he helps Oldman defeat recent screen Churchills John Lithgow, Michael Gambon and Brian Cox, and win a slam-dunk Oscar. Plus, Ben Mendelsohn, 48, is at least as fine a King George as Colin Firth was.
PHOTO BY: Merie Wallace/A24
Lady Bird, wide release Nov. 22
Sure, Greta Gerwig, 34, rivals Clint Eastwood as an Oscar-worthy actor-turned-director, and Saoirse Ronan, 23, is uncannily great as a 2002 Sacramento, Calif., teen a bit like Gerwig was. But the real thrills are Lois Smith, 87, as the teen’s wise nun teacher, Roseanne’s Laurie Metcalf, 62, as her passive-aggressive mom, and Pulitzer-winning playwright Tracy Letts, 52, as her sad, doting dad.
PHOTO BY: Disney/Pixar
Coco, Nov. 22
Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich, 50, will win his second animation Oscar for this musically lively Day of the Dead drama. It’s the first Pixar hit with minorities as stars, not sidekicks, and bristles with grownup voices: Edward James Olmos, 70; Alfonso Arau, 85; and Cheech Marin, 71.
PHOTO BY: Fox Searchlight
The Shape of Water, Dec. 1
Director Guillermo del Toro, 53, always wanted to make a beauty-and-the-beast story in which, after the beauty’s kiss, the beast remains a beast. Signs are that the Motion Picture Academy is puckering up to give him nominations for the fable-like romance of a lonesome, mute night janitor (Sally Hawkins) and a guy who is also some kind of large fish. Her lonesome but more talkative gay neighbor (Richard Jenkins, 70) and coworker (Octavia Spencer, 47) assist the lovebirds (or love-fish-people). As Jenkins’ character says, it’s “a tale of love and loss — and the monster who tried to destroy it all.”
PHOTO BY: NEON
I, Tonya, Dec. 8
Allison Janney will win an Oscar as the trench-mouthed, chain-smoking stage mom with a parrot on her shoulder who browbeat Tonya Harding into becoming a skating star (and Nancy Kerrigan knee-smashing beneficiary) in the 1994 Olympic trials. Margot Robbie could win, too, as Tonya, but Janney is even scarier as the mom who says, “I wish I had a mother that was like me instead of nice. Because nice gets you nowhere.” Janney’s Oscar rival: Laurie Metcalf. No kneecapping, ladies!
PHOTO BY: Lucasfilm Ltd
Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Dec. 15
Carrie Fisher’s last performance will be moving, but the real news is that after decades, Mark Hamill, 62, is back as Luke (he also did a teensy cameo in the last episode). Older and wiser, Luke will be more haunted, doubting what he’d always believed. Harrison Ford said, “What he represents in the story is something worthy of attainment by those younger characters.” Purple-coiffed Vice Admiral Laura Dern and shady war profiteer Benicio Del Toro, both 50, may offer some lessons, too. Oscars disdain sci-fi, so this one can only win what it deserves by Force.
PHOTO BY: Paramount Pictures
Downsizing, Dec. 22
Matt Damon, 47, has the biggest role in a sci-fi art film by Nebraska director Alexander Payne: a guy who decides to give the earth a break (and get rich quick) by getting himself shrunk to 5 inches tall, along with his wife (Kirsten Wiig), who wants a bigger house than their full-sized selves can afford, and moving to the miniature village of Leisure Land. But many say the movie is stolen by the star’s raffish Serbian smuggler pal Dusan (Christoph Waltz, 61), a tiny yet very wild and crazy party animal with oodles of charm. Waltz has said he’s just the man to introduce Damon’s younger character to a new way of life: “I’m quite suited age-wise to play the mentor.”
PHOTO BY: Niko Tavernise/20th Century Fox
The Post, Dec. 22
Really, this is Steven Spielberg’s superhero movie, with Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, together for the first time, as Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham and editor Ben Bradlee in 1971, when a real Justice League of America — the press — exposed the coverup of the Pentagon’s secret history of the tragic Vietnam War. Jason Robards won an Oscar as Bradlee in All the President’s Men, but
finallyGraham, who risked prison and her paper’s death on principle, gets due credit. Like last year’s Spotlight, this film is apt to be a titanic Oscar magnet. Streep, 68, gets an Oscar nom, on average, every 1.9 years.
PHOTO BY: STXfilms
Molly's Game, Dec. 25
For his directing debut, West Wing auteur Aaron Sorkin, 56, tackles the real story of Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), a scary, chilly world-class skier who ran the world’s highest-stakes poker games, with customers including Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire and Ben Affleck (who aren’t mentioned in the film) and Russian mobsters. With players losing $100 million at a sitting and her as the bank, no wonder she slipped into addiction and an FBI bust. You won’t see a hit with more voiceovers, or more words, period, spat out faster than a
tommygun. There are great roles for Idris Elba, 45, as her attorney, and Kevin Costner, 62, as her insanely demanding dad.
PHOTO BY: Ariel Zambelich
Also of Interest
Before you head to the movies, make sure you have your favorite mix of jingle bell rock, holly jolly carolsand heavenly hymns. Here's our list of the 10 best holiday albums.