November Films Not To Miss

November2017_FilmReelThe release date of a film definitely closely aligns with a film’s chances of winning the Oscar for Best Picture. The later in the year a film is released — or, put another way, the closer the film’s release corresponds to the start of Oscar voting — the better the film’s chances of winning the Oscar.

Let’s look at the Best Picture winners since 2000 and the month of their release, for example…

2000 – Gladiator, May

2001 — A Beautiful Mind, December

2002 — Chicago, December

2003 — The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, December

2004 — Million Dollar Baby, December

2005 — Crash, May

2006 — The Departed, October

2007 — No Country For Old Men, November

2008 — Slumdog Millionaire, November

2009 — The Hurt Locker, June

2010 — The King’s Speech, November

2011 – The Artist, November

2012 — Argo, October

In 13 years, three films won that came out between May and June. The other 10 winners were released between October and December. So, 77 percent of the winners in this time frame were released during the last three months before the Oscar nominations; four of the winners — more than 30 percent — were released in December, one month before the Oscar nominations; and eight of the winners — more than 60 percent — were released in the final two months before the Oscar nominations.

If we go back to the previous decade of the 1990s, the numbers look only slightly better for earlier releases. Half of the winning films in the 1990s were released in either November or December, 20 percent were released from August to September, and three films were released earlier in the year — two of them in the summer from May to July, and one in February.

So, in more than two decades, only one single film ever won that was released prior to May, and only five other films were released prior to August. And the largest single block of films — 15 films out of 22 — were released in the last three months before Oscar nominations. Thirteen of 22 winners were released in either November or December.

If that isn’t enough evidence to convince you that films have a far better chance of winning the later they are released in the year, look at the data for the most recent slate of nominees. Of the nine nominees for 2013, every single one of them was released between October and December. Not a single movie from the first nine months of the year got nominated.

Call Me By Your Name (Credit: Credit: Sony Pictures Classics)

Call Me By Your Name

André Aciman’s 2007 novel has spawned a big screen adaptation that’s among the most acclaimed films of the year. Up-and-coming 21-year-old actor Timothée Chalamet plays a young man living in Italy who has a passionate affair with an older academic (Armie Hammer). When it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, BBC Culture critic Sam Adams awarded Call Me By Your Name five stars and praised Chalamet and Hammer’s chemistry, the lush photography of the sun-kissed Italian setting, Sufjan Stevens’ enveloping score, and the particular nuance and depth of the script, co-written by Walter Fasano, director Luca Guadagnino and Merchant-Ivory legend James Ivory. Guadagnino has made a name for himself with the intellectual sensuality of his previous films I Am Love and A Bigger Splash, and Call Me By Your Name is poised to enhance his reputation further – it will be a major Academy Awards contender. Released 24 November in the US. (Credit: Sony Pictures Classics)

Thor: Ragnarok (Credit: Credit: Marvel Studios)

Thor: Ragnarok

Until now Thor has been the neglected child of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Though some liked Kenneth Branagh’s first film featuring the god of thunder, Chris Hemsworth was arguably overshadowed by Tom Hiddleston’s preening popinjay of a villain, Loki. And the second film, the humourless Thor: The Dark World, is widely regarded as the worst film released by Marvel Studios to date. So to inject new life into this sagging franchise, Marvel brought in New Zealand comedy auteur Taiki Waititi to add some Kiwi quirk. Waititi had previously helmed the madly inventive vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows, along with the Sundance favourite The Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and he was determined that Hemsworth show the lighter side of Thor – which is impressive considering that “ragnarok” is the old Norse word for the apocalypse. This time Thor faces down the goddess of death, played by Cate Blanchett, rocking a goth haircut and make up. Thor may have the hammer, but she has the attitude. Released 1 November in Serbia and Hungary, 2 November in Cambodia and Israel and 3 November in India and Canada. (Credit: Marvel Studios).

Murder on the Orient Express (Credit: Credit: 20th Century Fox)

Murder on the Orient Express

Every great detective needs his or her definitive story. For Sherlock Holmes it was The Hound of the Baskervilles. For Agatha Christie’s fussy Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot it’s Murder on the Orient Express – a tale in which a bloodthirsty villain kills a wealthy businessman during a train journey through the Balkans. Or are things really what they seem? Sidney Lumet made a beloved film out of the story in 1974, with a stunning cast that included Sean Connery, Ingrid Bergman and Albert Finney as Poirot. Now Kenneth Branagh is donning the Belgian’s moustache himself, as well as stepping behind the camera as director, in his glossy new big-screen version, starring Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz and Dame Judi Dench. Is there something new that can be mined from this story? Maybe. But even if not, Christie fans will surely want to climb aboard. Released 3 November in the UK, 10 November in the US, China and Turkey, and 30 November in Hong Kong and Singapore. (Credit: 20th Century Fox).

Coco (Credit: Credit: Disney-Pixar)

Coco

In an industry enthralled to rehashed stories that strike a familiar chord with audiences, give Pixar credit for often trying something new and pushing their viewers into uncharted territories. Coco, directed by Toy Story 3’s Lee Unkrich, has a visual look based around Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). It’s about a young boy named Miguel who idolises legendary guitar player Ernesto de la Cruz and wants to learn how to play as well as he could. So he goes on a transformative odyssey of self-discovery into the realm of the dead to find his long-deceased idol and learn some lessons about the nature of creativity and originality. Whether it can reach the heights of Pixar’s 2015 masterpiece Inside Out remains to be seen, but Coco should surely be a feast for the eyes. Released 15 November in France, 22 November in the US, Croatia and the Philippines, and 30 November in Israel. (Credit: Disney-Pixar).

Thelma (Credit: Credit: SF Studios Norway)

Thelma

Norwegian director Joachim Trier has made ambitious, novelistic dramas about the way people live now. His films Reprise and Oslo, August 31 appeared on many critics’ end-of-year top 10 lists. Now Trier’s heading in a completely different direction: horror. Thelma is about a young woman who falls in love with another woman after she’s moved to Oslo, and her passion seems to unlock all manner of supernatural terrors. Speaking at the New Directors/New Films festival in New York City in 2012 before a screening of Oslo, August 31 he called Norway “the suburbs of Europe” – well, we all know from Halloween and Poltergeist that the suburbs can be a very scary place indeed. But Trier’s a deeply personal artist who mines the emotional depths of his characters with empathy – though this is being billed as a supernatural horror film I wouldn’t be surprised if Thelma is more psychological, more about how genre tropes can express fears about nascent sexuality, in the manner of Cat People and Carrie. Released 10 November in the US, 22 November in France and 30 November in Denmark. (Credit: SF Studios Norway).

1945 (Credit: Credit: Ferenc Török)

1945

What was it like for Holocaust survivors to return to their homes after World War Two had ended? Aside from the desperate search to find out the fate of friends, family members and other loved ones, there was the matter of encountering non-Jewish neighbors who had no idea of their ordeal. And there’s even the possibility that some of those neighbours may have collaborated with the Nazis. That’s the premise of Hungarian director Ferenc Török’s postwar drama 1945, in which an Orthodox man and his son return to their village after surviving the camps and are met with great suspicion from their neighbours, who expect them to retaliate against them. Variety’s Alissa Simon says that 1945 takes “A fresh, intelligent cinematic approach to a difficult topic that takes on a transitional time in Hungarian history with subtlety and nuance. Featuring striking black-and-white lensing that imbues potent compositions with foreboding.” Released 1 November in the US and 10 November in Romania. (Credit: Ferenc Török).

Trophy (Credit: Credit: Shaul Schwarz and Christina Clusiau)

Trophy

The very idea of big-game hunting is repellent to so many, the fact that director Shaul Schwarz and co-director Christina Clusiau have made a movie that explores the grey areas of the issue may be surprising. Filled with gruesome images of animals being gunned down and gutted, and one sequence in which a rhino’s horn is sawed off, Trophy certainly shows the pain and suffering hunted animals in Africa face. But it also suggests that hunting will happen no matter what, and regulated hunting is better than poaching – and at least ensures that the species will survive and not be threatened by extinction. The movie is ultimately about the odd connection between big-game hunting and wildlife conservation, and Variety’s Nick Schager says it’s “more interested in posing challenging questions than proffering easy answers… The result is a lament for both the animals at the center of so many crosshairs, and for a modern world seemingly only capable of saving lives by taking them.” Released 17 November in the UK. (Credit: Shaul Schwarz and Christina Clusiau).

Paddington 2 (Credit: Credit: StudioCanal)

Paddington 2

Next year will be the 60th anniversary of the beloved talking bear. And to mark the occasion, Paul King, who directed 2014’s critical and commercial smash, simply titled Paddington, is back for this sequel. In a time where even children’s entertainments are suffused with darkness and violence, this quiet celebration of the everyday English is needed more than ever. The plot of this film? Well, not much really: following the events of the last film, Paddington is quite comfortably installed with the Brown family (Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins) of Windsor Gardens. He wants to buy a pop-up book for his aunt from a local bookseller (Jim Broadbent), but finding himself a few quid short he puts on his wellies and duffel coat and finds employment in various odd jobs – only to have the book stolen from the shop! A (not so serious) mystery begins. Expect many more jokes about Paddington’s love of marmalade. Released in the UK 10 November, 23 November in Germany and 30 November in Cambodia and Malaysia. (Credit: StudioCanal).

Good Time (Credit: Credit: A24)

Good Time

Have any franchise-leading duo reinvented themselves as spectacularly as Twilight’s Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson? Both have become art-house mainstays. Pattinson’s latest Good Time, keeps going his recent pattern of looking fairly unrecognisable. After he transformed himself with shaggy beard and spectacles in The Lost City of Z he now has bleach-blond hair as a bank robber who tries to pull off the perfect heist in New York City, only to get his younger brother (Ben Safdie), who suffers from a developmental disability, arrested for the crime. He tries to use the money he stole to post his brother’s bail, but complications ensue. Many complications. In addition to appearing as the younger brother, Safdie co-directs the film with his own brother Josh Safdie, and Good Time was selected to compete for the Palme d’Or at Cannes. Released 3 November in Japan, 17 November in the UK and Ireland and 23 November in Greece. (Credit: A24).

The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Credit: Credit: A24)

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

No one since Michael Haneke has enjoyed cinematically dissecting social conventions as much as Greek film-maker Yorgos Lanthimos. His The Lobster took Cannes by storm two years ago with its scathing look at a society that turns adults into animals if they cannot find a romantic partner within 45 days – it was our world but pushed toward the outermost limits of groupthink and conformity. Now he’s back with The Killing of a Sacred Deer, a domestic thriller about a surgeon (Colin Farrell) and his wife (Nicole Kidman), also a doctor, who befriend a fatherless teen named Martin. The boy seems determined to expose the family’s secrets and unmask a terrible trauma from their past. Is this film about how domestic (and perhaps societal) tranquility sometimes depends on shared, agreed-upon lies? Either way, prepare to be unnerved. Released 9 November in Denmark, 16 November in Russia and 30 November in Hong Kong. (Credit: A24)

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