20th Century Fox
Winter season has generally been home to some of the most forgettable movies, i.e. Gangster Squad, The Spy Next Door, and Endless Love. With the emphasis to catch up on Oscar nominees, and the spew of V-Day romances, it appears that there is little room for decent, original, and enjoyable films. However, with the decline in Oscar integrity there has been a rising intrigue in moviegoers to find the hidden gems amongst the sea of winter releases. With each year comes a larger chunk of films to get excited about and a growing interest towards festival screenings and new trailers. Although the Oscar’s are over, it no longer means moviegoers have to wait until next fall to watch a worthwhile movie.
Originally, The Academy was a pillar in determining the worthiness of the previous year in film. However, as we’ve all seen in the past decade, their credibility as a knowledgeable institution has been quickly fading. Their categories are largely constructed of ten films that have different story lines, but fall under the same dramatic genre (minus The Grand Budapest Hotel). For moviegoers, it’s difficult to sit tight through four hours of awards when we begin to reflect on the hundreds of films viewed over the past year that many would argue deserve more recognition. In the past few years, as the internet continues to grow, movie lovers have been looking not to the Academy, but to their favorite film websites, and favorite film critics for top 10 lists. No longer interested in what Academy voters believe have been the best movies of the year.
Their waning power among the industry is well deserved. Academy voters inability to appreciate new attempts at creating differing story lines, themes, acting, effects, etc. only digs them into a deeper hole than they’re already in. At the Academy, the Samuel Goldwyn Theater hosts about four screenings a weekend of new, noteworthy films for voters to view. Behind the scene folks are frequently invited to speak on some of the challenges and triumphs of the movie, which is then recorded and uploaded for the public to access on the Academy’s site at anytime. Over the summer, The Academy screened The One I Love where Justin Lader and Charlie McDowell were invited and attended. Only twenty people showed up and sat through the screening. When the credits began to role, a third of them left. Compare that to the full house summer screening of The One Hundred Foot Journey and it becomes quite clear that The Academy have turned into a very niche-voting group who have no interest in seeing the growth and change in cinema.
It is the Academy that have influenced what gets watched and what doesn’t during the winter season as moviegoers fill up their viewing slots with Oscar nominees. But, as I said above, with their decline of credibility has come a growing excitement for movie lovers in finding the hidden gems within winter movie releases. Kingsman: The Secret Service in particular has been one of the more pleasant winter surprises released prior to the golden statue. Gofobo and Cinemit put together five separate free screenings in Seattle due to the overwhelming demand viewers showcased. Being such a pleasant surprise, Kingsman was all filmgoers talked about for weeks. Devin Faraci exclaimed, “Kingsman is also a sly commentary on class and civilization that speaks volumes to me as the kind of moviegoer who likes a little thematic streak just under his pop movie sizzle.”
This isn’t the only pleasant surprise. As stated above, this is just one of many that have come up in the last five or so years. When reflecting back, we were presented with The Grand Budapest Hotel (March 28, 2014), The Ghost Writer (March 19, 2010), A Prophet (February 26, 2010), Paddington (January 16, 2015), The Lego Movie (February 7, 2014), The Voices (February 6, 2015), and one my personal favorites, I love You, Man (March 20, 2009). Of course there are some generic, poorly made films taking up theater space, but that’s all part of the winter release game: What to watch or what not to watch?
In regard to the U.S., winter is also the season for foreign films. After having been circuited around for about a year, they’re finally available in a limited amount of theaters. The Lunchbox (February 28, 2014), A Separation (December 30, 2011), Nymphomaniac: Vol. I (March 21, 2014), and Poetry (February 11, 2011) have all come out, as we can see, during this dreary time of year. Winter is the season of expanding horizons in film and experience the stories that people from around the world are telling.
If finding gems seems more daunting than thrilling, and foreign films aren’t really your bag, additionally winter is the season of movie trailers. Sundance, an event that happens at the end of January, releases an endless stream of movie trailers to get excited about. It’s the springboard for films that will then be sent out to other festivals. If there’s nothing intriguing in the theater, you can easily spend an entire movie session of time on watching trailers, which are an absolute art form in themselves. For those people who think trailers kill the movie, maybe think of trailers as a separate entity: Cutting a two-hour movie down into a minute in a half to two minutes. For example, the trailer for Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter, a movie released last year with its U.S. wide release coming in March, purposefully leaves out its storyline and in exchange creates a trailer with an Under the Skin vibe.
Although I’m a supporter of local video rental stores such as Scarecrow in Seattle and prefer sitting in a theater rather than my couch, VOD and Netflix can be a resource for watching a lot of these movies listed above. Particularly at the beginning of the season, theaters are jam packed with Oscar contenders and movies like Jupiter Ascending. Each year winter continues to expand its releases. No longer do moviegoers have to wait until film festivals have ended to screen some of the more talked about movies. And times have definitely shifted from focusing solely on the Academy’s praise that fails to step outside of its confined box. Winter is about gearing up for the upcoming year in cinema, and being surprised with unexpectedly enjoyable films.