At the Movies
Hollywood’s Slow Season Streams Up
By Noah Gittell
The first months of the year are typically a dumping ground for cinema. It’s the time when Oscarphiles spend their viewing hours catching up on late-year awards hopefuls, and the studios push their worst films into theaters as some cursed bit of counterprogramming. This year, however, is different. With the Oscars extending their eligibility window to March, and with so many films pushed from last year’s schedule, January and February are bringing a mélange of potential blockbusters, Oscar hopefuls, and a few timely projects conceived and filmed in lockdown. Dig in.
“Supernova” (January 29)
Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth play long-term partners who embark on a road trip through the English countryside. It’s a pleasure delivery system filled with warm smirks and knowing glances, but it takes a darker turn when it is revealed one of them is suffering from encroaching illness. Still, the film never strays from its chief asset: the likability of its stars. For fans of innocuously charming middle-aged men, it’s hard to imagine a more enjoyable journey.
“Minari “(February 12)
Denver-born director Lee Isaac Chung chronicles the experiences of his parents as Korean immigrants in Arkansas in “Minari”, which is being touted as a serious Oscar contender. Steven Yeun stars as the enterprising father, determined to start a vegetable farm in the unforgiving American dirt, and the Youn Yuh-jung brings both comic relief and a sense of history to the young family. It’s a quiet, unassuming film, but that’s part of its strength: “Minari” unfolds as delicately as a flower, revealing a profoundly American story at its center.
“Malcolm and Marie” (February 5)
Following the uneven “Locked Down,” which premiered on HBO Max earlier this month, “Malcolm and Marie” is the second entry in what will likely be a blink-and-you-miss it genre: the quarantine movie. In the film, directed by Sam Levinson (TV’s “Euphoria”), John David Washington and Zendaya play quarreling lovers whose relationship unravels under the strain of the shutdown. Early reviews have pegged it as “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” for the Covid era.
“The World to Come” (February 12)
The success of last year’s “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” seems to have sparked a mini renaissance of lesbian costume dramas. First there was the Kate Winslet-Saorsie Ronan starrer “Ammonite”, which recently hit streaming services, and now we have “The World to Come” starring Vanessa Kirby and Katherinte Waterston as neighbors who become more-than-neighbors in mid-19th century New England. Also starring Casey Affleck and Christopher Abbott as the cuckolded husbands.
“Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar” (February 12)
The film career of Kristen Wiig has been a strange one. After she refused a “Bridesmaids” sequel, she bounced around in little-seen indies before returning to prominence in “Wonder Woman 84.” She’s together again with her “Bridesmaids” co-writer Annie Mumalo (both Wiig and Mumalo also star) in a broad comedy about two friends from middle America who take a vacation to Florida. Little else is known, but with that pedigree, I’m in.
“The Father” (February 26)
Anthony Hopkins gives a career-best performance in this stunningly complex drama about a London man battling Alzheimer’s Disease. Directed by first-timer Florian Zeller (based on his play), “The Father” portrays the inner world of a person suffering from dementia with insight and empathy. Olivia Colman provides vital supporting work as the grown daughter struggling with her father’s care.
“Coming 2 America” (March 5)
Prince Akeem returns! Long-awaited sequels are hit-and-miss, but for those who grew up on Eddie Murphy’s 1988 comedy “Coming to America”, which aired endlessly on cable after its theatrical run, this is akin to a national holiday. After a long dry spell, Murphy has been methodically returning to his comedy roots these last few years. When he’s on his game, there’s nobody funnier. Murphy has re-assembled much of the original cast, including Arsenio Hall and James Earl Jones, for this highly anticipated comedy.