New Year’s Eve weekend is a no-show for wide releases, and is even somewhat bare in quantity of limited releases (though quality is a different story). Let’s saddle up and see what we have to work with…
For Oscar-watchers, the most important new release of the year is arguably The Iron Lady, Phyllida Lloyd’s flattering biopic of Margaret Thatcher. Many of our more vociferous readers have been hopeful that this would net the distinguished actress her third Oscar (because my God, if she doesn’t win another one, it will be as if the Academy is spitting in her face!). Who knows, she just might do it this year: she’s already been singled out as the Best Lead Actress of the year from the New York Film Critics Circle and the Southeastern Film Critics Association, and has been nominated for a Golden Globe. Then again, a younger and more ubiquitous contender has been snatching up even more precursor prizes, and many critics have not taken kindly to Streep’s vehicle (because let’s be honest, The Iron Lady exists mainly as an acting vehicle for her). Many reviews have slammed the film’s by-the-numbers biopic approach to storytelling and its noncommittal, doting treatment of one of the world’s most hotly controversial politicians. The film expands wider on the 13th of January.
Those looking for something more scaled-down could check out Pariah, a drama centering on an African-American Brooklyn teenager who slowly embraces her identity as a lesbian. Critics have mostly acclaimed this as a sincere and touching coming out/coming-of-age story elevated by a remarkable breakout performance by Adepero Oduye. A film this small released this late does not stand much of a chance at Oscar nominations, but has won a number of decently-spotlighted awards that should open doors for its star and director Dee Rees.
Last but absolutely not least is A Separation, Asghar Farhadi’s masterful drama about the consequences of a fractured marriage in contemporary Iran. Most of you already know by now how much of an unabashed fan I am of this amazing film, but whether or not the Academy wises up and recognizes it for more than just a near-guaranteed (and deserved) Best Foreign Language Film Oscar is another matter. It deserves nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Editing, and all four of the acting categories. It’s a question of exposure, and even if Sony Pictures Classics is dropping the ball and content with simply dumping this in two or three theaters at the end of the year, there are plenty (like myself) who are going to be quite evangelical about A Separation’s merits over the next few weeks. Hopefully that’ll be enough for some “surprise” nods.
So, yeah, go see A Separation ASAP…oh, and have a Happy New Year!