Saturday, October 24, 2015

Not an anomaly, unfortunately

It's that time of year again -- the time when the buzz is coming on strong for certain awards contenders and potential year-end critic faves.

It's also the time of year when I realize which ones I won't be able to see before my ranking deadline, because I live in Australia.

Tops on that list this year: Charlie Kaufman's Anomalisa.

It seems like barely a month ago, I was not even aware this movie existed. As you can see, it doesn't even have a proper poster yet. When I did learn about it, I heard that it would be popping up in a few film festivals here and there, but still seemed destined for a 2016 wide release. Now it's getting that New York and Los Angeles release before the end of the year, expanding wider not long after the start of the new year. A definite 2015 film.

And a real contender for the top spot in my 2015 rankings, if Kaufman's history is any indication. Two movies he's written (Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) have topped the years they were released in my personal rankings, and the one movie he's directed -- Synecdoche, New York -- would have been a contender for my favorite film of 2008 if I hadn't allowed some of the more befuddled reviews to scare me off. Now that I have seen it, something I finally accomplished back in 2011, it's in my top 100 movies of all time.

So it will be a gaping wound in my 2015 rankings indeed when I don't get to consider Anomalisa alongside all the others.

Up until a couple hours ago, I was hopeful that it not yet having an Australian release date meant that it could still end up coming out before January 14th, when I need to sign, seal and deliver my rankings. (That's the morning the Oscar nominations are announced.) Unfortunately, at that point I found a February 4th, 2016 Australian release date listed for the movie.

For my personal tastes, that's going to be my most regrettable miss this year, but there's one that would be more shocking to most people: The Hateful Eight.

That's right, Quentin Tarantino's ninth feature releases a week after my rankings close, marking the first time I won't have seen a Tarantino movie in its ranking year since Jackie Brown.

His recent history is a little more uncertain in terms of being a contender for my top slot. While Inglourious Basterds was in my top ten of 2009, Django Unchained came in at only 30th for me in 2012. Either way, it will be a bummer not to have it up for consideration.

Also not getting Thomas McCarthy's Spotlight or Lenny Abrahamson's Room, though maybe Room will be getting released early enough in the U.S. for me to rent it on iTunes before my deadline.

All this said, there's cause for some end-of-year optimism, as there are a couple of movies I was sure I'd miss that will indeed be accessible to me before the 14th of January.

One of these is The Revenant, directed by the director of my #1 film of 2014, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. Inarritu will indeed get a chance to repeat the #1 showing he earned with Birdman, as The Revenant makes its Australian bow on January 7th. I'm excited enough about this one that I have been steadfastly refusing to watch the trailer.

Then there's David O. Russell's latest, Joy, which hits theaters on Boxing Day. Boxing Day is also when we get The Danish Girl (awards bait, but I'll still watch it) and The Good Dinosaur (delayed from the American Thanksgiving release date, as always happens with the big animated Thanksgiving release -- Big Hero 6 and Frozen in each of the past two years).

What may have surprised me the most was that it seems like I'll be able to squeeze in Todd Haynes' Carol, which releases here on the day my rankings are due -- in other words, some 12 hours before the actual Oscar nominations are announced, meaning I can squeak it in. I figured this one would be a definite February release, just because I don't know.

Goosebumps also, inexplicably, does not come out until that day, but I probably won't try to cram in a double feature. (Next issue to tackle is to get Australia to care about Halloween, so Halloween movies actually come out in October.) If Carol is to have a double feature partner, it probably has to be Steve Jobs, which I've learned only during the editing phase of this piece is also coming out on January 14th. Danny Boyle just so happens to be another guy who's directed a year-end chart topper (2010's 127 Hours).

As for The Hateful Eight and Anomalisa, I'll have to do a better job prioritizing an eventual viewing than I've done for some of the other late-release casualties since I've been in Australia. One year later and two years later, respectively, I still haven't seen either The Wolf of Wall Street or Inherent Vice. That's Martin Scorsese and Paul Thomas Anderson we're talking about there, people.

There is one ray of hope: the critics screening. In neither of my previous years in Australia was I regularly attending critics screenings, and it's very possible one or both of these movies will screen for critics well ahead of their theatrical releases.

Then I just have to convince the editor at my website to let me go to those screenings instead of him.

He just so happens to consider Adaptation his favorite movie of all time, so that's going to be a tall order indeed.

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