Saturday, November 19, 2016

Caught in the middle

Every year around this time I start whingeing (to use the Australian term) about what films I'm not going to be able to see before my ranking deadline in mid-January (actually January 24th this year) because their Australian release has been scheduled for February or later.

Not this year. This year, I should miss nothing.

Or so one would suppose, since I will be in the U.S. for three weeks of the prime awards release viewing season, from December 21st to January 12th, and part of that time in Los Angeles, meaning I'll have access even to the limited releases that are only opening there and New York. And even once I get back, I'll have two weeks longer than usual to clean up the things I missed, meaning I don't have to prioritize the big holiday releases while I'm in America, because I can get 'em when I come back.

Or so one would suppose.

Actually, I might be in a position to lose a different set of movies this year: movies that will already be gone from U.S. theaters when I get there.

That's right, I could get caught in the middle, in that dead zone between the movies leaving American theaters and arriving in Australian ones.

Strangely enough, these movies follow a particular theme. And it's a theme Hollywood is going to be really paying attention to, meaning I've got an even greater incentive than usual for catching them.

This Oscar season is going to be the season we look inside ourselves and determine if we can nominate a movie with important black subject matter -- and not just for minor awards, but for the big ones. And not just one, but hopefully more than one.

Unfortunately, three of the top contenders have already come out in the U.S., and are still way off in Australia's future.

Possibly the current best picture frontrunner, especially in a post-#oscarssowhite landscape, is Barry Jenkins' Moonlight, a film that has received adulation from all corners. As you probably know but I'll explain anyway, it's the story of a gay black man growing up poor in Florida, at three different phases of his life between childhood and young adulthood. Especially with no other film garnering certain best picture support -- Sully, anyone? -- this could be the year Moonlight leaves the other films in the dust, representing the best chance to legitimately address the absence of African Americans among last year's nominees.

Oddly enough, despite the deafening roar of critical acclaim, Moonlight has no Australian release date that I can find. And if history is any indication, that means no earlier than late February or early March at this point.

Then there's Loving, Jeff Nichols' portrait of the Virginia couple who challenged that state's law against interracial marriage back in 1958. Ruth Nega is supposed to be amazing in this movie, possibly yielding another acting nomination in addition to the one or more that should be forthcoming from Moonlight.

I'll have to wait for February 9th for that one.

And then finally there's the one-time frontrunner, the movie certain to cure all our institutionalized racism ills until it created a whole spate of its own ills: The Birth of a Nation, the Nate Parker film that overwhelmed viewers at Sundance and got a historic distribution deal, only to be mired in controversy upon the surfacing of past rape charges against its director and co-writer (only one of whom was acquitted). People started to boycott Parker's dramatization of the Nat Turner slave rebellion, and then critics dealt it the decisive blow when they couldn't comprehend what all the fuss was about in terms of its quality.

That, I can't see until February 2nd.

There's a good chance I've just plain missed The Birth of a Nation. As it came out back on October 7th, there's little chance that a film that generally flopped will still be hanging around when I get there nearly three months later -- three months, because my only real chance to pick off some of these movies will probably be in the LA portion of the trip, which starts on January 2nd. And it might not be worth prioritizing this one anyway. I can say that I was on the right side of history with boycotting this movie, despite my impassioned pleas not to do that in this post.

But Moonlight and Loving represent slightly better opportunities. Moonlight came out only two weeks after Birth, but as its Oscar frontrunner status is currently being cemented, it figures to have legs. Even if its wide release has died down by the time I get there, I should be able to find it in a theater that hangs on to its movies a bit longer. Loving is the best bet in terms of still hanging around on its original run, having come out two weeks after Moonlight on November 4th, though its lower Oscar heat might also mean it won't last as long. Then again, there's also a chance I could get it in Australia, as IMDB lists its Australian release date as January 12th. I guess I'll have to reconcile my two release date sources and see which one is correct.

I suppose there's also a slim chance I get any one of these movies, most likely Birth, on the plane. If enough time has passed since they opened, they could fall into that hot new release category that planes sometimes enjoy, seeming to get movies just a tad before they reach BluRay or digital rental.

Whatever happens, I can't jam up my trip with going to the movies, so I've got to be strategic about this.

I've got friends and family to visit, ya know.

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