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Michael Cieply: On the movie side, the most exciting part of the year is behind us

Six months later, the strikes are on. In ten days, the holidays begin. As for movies, unfortunately the most exciting part of the year is already behind us.

It’s disconcerting to realize that there isn’t an inevitably dazzling, must-see pop cultural event film on the docket for the rest of 2023.

Certainly, beautiful, perhaps even Oscar-winning, images have not yet been published. December 8 brings Poor things from Searchlight, with a story as thought-provoking as any since The shape of water, and the promise of an award-worthy performance from Emma Stone. Until then, Leftoversof Focus, and Napoleonby Sony Pictures Classics, will have been widely distributed, and Maestrofrom Netflix, will be shown in at least some theaters, adding a nostalgic character study, a period epic, and a musical biopic to the seasonal mix.

The color purpleby Warner, and Ferrariby Neon, should brighten up Christmas for what studio stalwart Frank Price called “the once-a-year crowd” (in 1991, for example, The prince of the tides, to which Price gave the green light, caught them for Columbia). Meanwhile, Amazon MGM American fiction will attract the “I don’t know whether to laugh or cry” sophisticates.

And of course, popcorn movies: Trolls. A hunger games following. Wish. Beyonce. Aquaman.

Not a bad mix. But there is nothing explosive about it, nothing that could wake up and shake the public, as did barbie And Oppenheimer last summer.

This is a difference from how things worked last year, when Everything everywhere at the same time (the possible best film) and Top Gun: Maverick (a rival for awards) shook up the first and middle months, leaving two interesting but not overwhelming sequels (Avatar: The Way of Water And Black Panther: Wakanda Forever) and some mid-range Oscar baits (The Fabelmans, The whale, Babylon) to cover November and December.

It wasn’t long ago that the holidays were a lot more exciting: before Covid and the streaming reset, studios large and small were rolling the dice on ambitious, disruptive pictures that weren’t just looking for attention viewers and voters, but required he.

The original Avatar was one. Released by Fox in domestic theaters on December 18, 2009, it promised to shake up the industry with its extremely expensive immersive technology, and was almost as compelling as its hype, despite being an infinitely smaller rival, The Hurt Lockerwon that year’s best Oscar.

Dare differently, The artist, released by Warner and Weinstein on November 23, 2011, also dared you not to watch. It was in black and white. It was silent (almost entirely). It traveled the awards circuit with a dog named Uggie and was ultimately named Best Picture.

It was a film to wake up the season. Just like those from Paramount The wolf of the wall Streeta 2013 Christmas release that shocked the holidays with its transgressions (and lost the final Oscar to 12 years of slavery) and Warner American sniperanother Christmas movie that shocked the war-weary national conscience enough to top the list of 2014 releases at box office (but I saw Birdman nominated for best film).

These were aggressive films, pictures that weren’t content to fit into a safe narrative space or a familiar genre of payoff. Above all, they reached out to the public – in fact, grabbed them by the scruff of the neck and insisted that the films get some seasonal attention.

This made vacations unpredictable. And lots of fun. And the best part of the cinematic year.

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