For the same reason you save for last that cherry-flavored jelly rectangle in a package of Chuckles, Hollywood drops their best films in the final months of the year.
It’s called the “awards season” and studios reckon that what critics see last they remember best.
Here are the ones I am looking forward to:
Leonardo DiCaprio’s Christmas present to moviegoers combines my two favorite film genres: revenge and survival. Based on a true story, frontier-era fur trapper Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) survives a savage bear attack and a lone 200-mile trek through the brutal Dakota country to give comeuppance to (and by that I mean beat the living crap out of) the man (Tom Hardy) who left him for dead and killed his son. From “Birdman” director Alejandro G. Iñárritu. Might this be the one that earns Leo the Oscar he deserves?
“The Hateful Eight”
Quentin Tarantino’s latest. ‘Nuff said.
French-trained chef Ziggy Gruber found himself at a Delicatessen Dealers’ Association dinner back in the 80s. “I’ll never forget,” he says in this documentary, “I looked around the room; it was all 60- and 70-year old people. I said to myself, ‘Who is going to perpetuate our food if I don’t do it?’ That was my calling. The next day I said, ‘I’ve had enough of this fancy-shmancy business.'” Director Erik Greenberg Anjou’s tasty film examines the recipes that originated in several Eastern European countries, their impact on us, and one man’s mission to preserve a culture.
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”
I enjoyed the first three “Star Wars” movies but the reboot trilogy left me feeling as empty as that tauntaun on Hoth. What happened to the humor? In this seventh episode, director J. J. Abrams (“Star Trek”) teams with veteran “Empire” and “Return” writer Lawrence Kasdan. Also back are Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher. (Are they saving Lando for a sequel?) May the force be with this one; hopefully, it won’t take itself too seriously.
Without seeing “Django Unchained,” director Spike Lee famously panned it and chided Quentin Tarantino for having the audacity to tell a slave-era story. I wonder what the “Pulp Fiction” director would think of Lee’s take on an ancient Greek comedy. (My guess: Something along the lines of, “whatever.”) Lee sets his version of Lysistrata — the tale of a war-torn country whose women organize a sex-strike until their men negotiate peace — in Chicago, where, despite it having some of the toughest laws in the country, gun violence is ubiquitous.
The human meat-tenderizer is back. Now running a Philly bakery named for his deceased wife called “Dough Adrian” (I got that from a pirated script on the Internet, so it may not be accurate), the Italian Stallion comes out of retirement to train the son of one-time nemesis Apollo Creed. Sylvester Stallone, who last shined in “Cop Land,” will most certainly come away with an Academy Award … either for his supporting role here, or by mugging his closest competition, bantamweight “Love & Mercy” star Paul Dano, in the parking lot afterward. Either way, he’s not going home empty-handed.
“Can We Take a Joke?”
“It’s hard for audiences to sit still with a big stick up their alimentary canals,” is the sentiment of stand-up comic icons Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld, who lament the hypersensitivity on today’s campuses. “Can We Take a Joke?” explores the history of comedy, specifically the persecution of Beat Generation comedian Lenny Bruce, who paved the way for the free speech many of us enjoy.