Greetings, readers!  It’s that time again…

What the hell?  We’ve barely recovered from Thanksgiving and it’s already New Year’s Eve?!  Oh wait; it’s just a barely-veiled rehash of that cloying, paper-thin romantic comedy pretending to be some kind of “mosaic” of love.  Phew!  Anyway, it’s looking like a Razzie contender based on the overwhelming critical consensus.  Despite that, will this film be the box office success that its predecessor was?  Though it has far more competition than Valentine’s Day’s opening weekend, online buzz suggests that audiences will repeat their habit of seeing movies almost destined to bore them to death, which will be enough for a $20-25 million haul.

*Sigh*…David Gordon Green depresses me.  What a difference eight years makes between the promising director behind All the Real Girls and the steam pump of humorless “comedies” he now has become.  Anyway, he now joins Jonah Hill in The Sitter, about a recently suspended man-child who takes up babysitting and is woefully unprepared for it.  Critics are saying that it does and says absolutely nothing that we haven’t already had from older, better comedies.  Since Your Highness was such a box office bomb and Hill – despite a relatively fast rise and recently displaying impressive potential in Moneyball – hasn’t headlined a bona-fide hit since Superbad, I doubt this will make much more than $7-12 million by Sunday.

Far more interesting (as usual) are the films in limited release, starting with the Cold War thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.  Based on John le Carré’s bestselling novel, the film stars Gary Oldman as a “retired” secret agent called back into action to flush out a Soviet double agent at the top of the British Intelligence.  Critics praise this film as a densely plotted, atmospheric experience, though our own Joey Magidson was less impressed.  While such an icy, convoluted thriller probably won’t win over the hearts of AMPAS members, its widely-praised period compositions could definitely see themselves in Best Art Direction, Cinematography, and/or Costume Design.  Initially pegged as a possible (ha!) Best Actor contender, Gary Oldman once again looks to have Oscar elude him what with his low-key role/performance and competition from the likes of more buzzy actors.  Best Supporting Actor mentions mainly center on Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hardy, though ensemble competition from within the film could blow both of their chances.

Also debuting is Madonna’s second feature as director: W.E., about the controversial romance between King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson…and some other contemporary romance that ties into it somehow.  Most critics are calling this film an aesthetic disaster, but weirdly, nearly everyone has nothing but the most ecstatic words for the film’s elaborate, well-researched costumes.  Hey, why not an Oscar for that?

A much more intriguing follow-up from a female director is We Need to Talk About Kevin, starring the ever-so-divine Tilda Swinton as a woman dealing with the guilt of her son committing a mass murder and recounting how their fractured relationship played a part.  Lynne Ramsay’s triumphant return after her fascinatingly elliptical Morvern Callar nine years ago has been acclaimed as a taut psychological thriller that intelligently explores the notions of nature vs. nurture, with a peak performance from its star.  Joey was not quite as rapturous in his review, though he had kind words for both Swinton and son Ezra Miller.  With her recent NBR victory, it’s very likely that my favorite living actress will finally score her first Oscar nod for Best Lead Actress after being snubbed for a laundry list of worthy performances throughout her career.  Ezra Miller might sneak into Best Supporting Actor if Academy voters share Joey’s sentiment, and maybe some technical nods for Ramsay’s visual and sonic flair, though it’s doubtful that such a morbid film exploring a dark subject will be Best Picture material.

Finally, Charlize Theron is a Young Adult, or more accurately a Self-Destructive Alcoholic Bitch.  In their first collaboration since Juno, Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody craft an abrasive character study of a teen chick lit author who returns to her hometown to relive the glory days of her youth and get back with her high school sweetheart.  Many critics admire this film’s brashly acerbic script and smart execution, with Theron’s performance being called her best since MonsterThough Joey called her work nomination-worthy, I seriously doubt she’ll – right or wrong – actually get Oscar traction, but considering her acclaim the Golden Globe race for Best Actress in a Comedy/Musical could be a tight race between her and Kristen Wiig.

The Oscar-passionate among us have a lot to see this weekend, so be sure to get out there and let us know your thoughts on the forum!