This week, 2016 comes to a close with a final handful of Oscar hopefuls vying for your attention. They are among the last titles, along with things like “A Monster Calls,” to grace screens before a whole new crop springs up in 2017. The year wraps up on a high note, as just about everything opening is rather critically acclaimed. There’s no telling what next year will bring just yet, but this year turned out to be pretty solid, all things considered. That will be tackled soon enough, but for now, let us put a bow on 2016 with one last Weekend Openings column for the year!
Best Bet This Week
“20th Century Women” (A24)
This period dramedy has as emotional an ending as anything in 2016. It’s the perfect capper to an already strong film. Filmmaker Mike Mills has tapped into his own past once again, much like with “Beginners,” resulting in another triumph. Mills just knows how to craft a touching bit of cinema. Led by Annette Bening, the ensemble cast is just top notch, especially the supporting turn from Greta Gerwig. Boss man Clayton Davis loved it at the New York Film Festival, and he’s far from alone in that regard. Oscar might let this one slip through the cracks, but you shouldn’t. It’s a special film, one that deserves your attention in a big way.
Rotten Tomatoes Score – 91%
Oscar Hopes – An across the board contender, though now mainly in Best Actress for Bening
Screen Count – 4 Screens (Platform Release)
Also Opening of Note
“Hidden Figures” (20th Century Fox)
An inspirational true life tale, this is usually the sort of thing that Oscar absolutely eats up. Director Ted Melfi‘s movie has met with solid reviews, including one here from Clayton. The cast has been praised quite a bit here, as well. It stars the likes of Kevin Costner, Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae and Octavia Spencer, with the latter in play for an Academy Award nomination. A previously unknown bit of American scientific history, this film could possibly capture the imagination of a whole new generation. That alone will make it last longer than just as a potential Oscar nominee, though it just may wind up with that distinction as well.
Rotten Tomatoes Score – 93%
Oscar Hopes – Another across-the-board contender, especially in Best Supporting Actress for Spencer
Screen Count – 25 Screens (Platform Release)
“Live by Night” (Warner Brothers)
The latest directorial effort from Ben Affleck has met with rather mixed reviews so far during its qualifying run. Clayton was one of many to more or less dismiss it with a shrug, praising the visuals but not much else. After unimpeachable success with “Gone Baby Gone,” “The Town” and “Argo,” Affleck has hit a minor roadblock. With “The Batman” potentially up next for him, perhaps he’s no longer a prestige filmmaker? That remains to be seen. A technical marvel and mainstream box office play, this is the one new release that isn’t getting raves. Still, for many it will be a curiosity in the weeks to come. Do with that what you will.
Rotten Tomatoes Score – 39%
Oscar Hopes – Somewhat unlikely now
Screen Count – 4 Screens (Platform Release)
“Paterson” (Bleecker Street)
Adam Driver is really terrific here. This literally poetic and understated drama comes to us from filmmaker Jim Jarmusch. As our review from this fall’s NYFF stated, there are times when this intimate and quiet small town tale feels like a lost Bruce Springsteen song come alive. It follows the beat of its own drummer, to great success. Driver’s performance is the central reason to see this, though Jarmusch fans will eat it up as well. Give it a shot if you’re feeling a bit on the adventurous side.
Rotten Tomatoes Score – 94%
Oscar Hopes – A long shot, though some might hold out hope for Driver in Best Actor
Screen Count – Limited Release
“Toni Erdmann” (Sony Pictures Classics)
The one to beat in Best Foreign Language Feature. Maren Ade‘s touching comedy/dramedy is rather long, but also rather great. This year has had some funny sequences, but few can rival the comedic highlight in this one. It’s an extended party scene, one with a ton of nudity and one big laugh after the next. The whole thing is impressively staged and builds to quite the crescendo. Clayton wasn’t a huge fan of this one at NYFF, but ever since the Cannes Film Festival it has been building a strong following, with our own Mark Johnson digging it at Telluride. Make up your own mind, but if you’re someone who likes to see all the Oscar winners each year, this is likely one not to miss.
Rotten Tomatoes Score – 92%
Oscar Hopes – The frontrunner in Best Foreign Language Feature
Screen Count – 3 Screens (Platform Release)
“Ocean Waves” (GKIDS)