Nothing about this year's movie calendar has been ordinary, until now. As winter rolls in, film awards chatter dominates Twitter even though we're nine months into the pandemic.
Though most major films have moved to 2021 in hopes of a theatrical release, others have found homes on streaming platforms. This means December will be loaded with Oscar bait.
What follows is a list of a dozen titles to keep an eye on when awards season actually starts.
“Happiest Season": Kristen Stewart visits the family of her girlfriend, Mackenzie Davis, during the holiday season. The catch? Davis' small-town family doesn't know she's dating Stewart. Give Daniel Levy the supporting actor Oscar now as a victory lap for "Schitt's Creek." PG-13. Available now on Hulu.
“Hillbilly Elegy”: Amy Adams and Glenn Close star in Ron Howard's drama based on the J.D. Vance book about a Yale Law student returning to his white-trash home/past. Recommended if you love "Green Book" and/or masochism. R. Available now on Netflix.
“I’m Your Woman”: Known best for "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," Rachel Brosnahan stars in this crime thriller about a mother and her baby on the run. My optimism stems from the writer/director-duo of Julia Hart and Jordan Horowitz who stunned with 2018's "Fast Color." R. Available Dec. 11 on Amazon Prime.
“Let Them All Talk": Just as I thought everything was set, former Baton Rouge director Steven Soderbergh pops up with a new (largely improvised) drama starring Meryl Streep, Candice Bergen and Lucas Hedges. Give me this, now. R. Available Dec. 10 on HBO Max.
“Mank”: Director David Fincher ("Gone Girl," "Se7en") returns with this biographical drama about screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz's work on "Citizen Kane." I'll watch, but I would be more interested in Fincher doing anything else over this Hollywood love letter. R. Available Dec. 4 on Netflix.
“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”: Chadwick Boseman stars in his final role as the trumpeter in Viola Davis' Ma Rainey's blues band. What stings most about Boseman's death in August is that his career was seemingly just getting started. This year, he could win two posthumous Oscars for "Da 5 Bloods" and this. He's that good. R. Available Dec. 18 on Netflix.
“The Midnight Sky”: George Clooney stars in and directs this sci-fi drama about a scientist in the Arctic. During the nearly 60-year-old's reign from 1994 to 2014, Clooney made movies like "Solaris," "Michael Clayton" and "Syriana" that proved he is more than a pretty face. This year has been a bit awful, but at least Clooney is back to make me ugly-cry. PG-13. Available Dec. 23 on Netflix.
“Soul”: Jamie Foxx provides the voice of a musician who has lost his passion, and an infant soul (voiced by Tina Fey) helps him find it. Pixar is gonna make me ugly-cry, too, huh? PG. Available Dec. 25 on Disney+.
“Sound of Metal": Riz Ahmed plays a heavy-metal drummer who begins to lose his hearing. A subdued character study that's brutally silent, most people will ignore it because it has "metal" in the title. Don't allow that ignorance to cause you to miss Ahmed's best performance to date. R. Available Dec. 4 on Amazon Prime.
“Small Axe": Director Steve McQueen ("Widows," "12 Years a Slave") premieres five films based on real-life experiences in London's West Indian community. While critics argue whether this is film or television, they take away from the power of McQueen's five latest works. TV-MA. Three films available now on Amazon Prime, with two more premiering on Dec. 11 and 18.
“Sylvie’s Love”: Tessa Thompson stars in this romantic drama set in 1950s Harlem. Looking through Thompson's IMDB, has she been in a bad movie? Ever? PG-13. Available Dec. 25 on Amazon Prime.
“Wonder Woman 1984”: It's not the "Snyder Cut," but Warner Bros. and DC Comics bringing this sequel to HBO Max is a smart move to get more users on the new platform. It may not win awards, but if it's as fun as the first, who cares? PG-13. Available Dec. 25 on HBO Max.
Also streaming this month
Amazon Prime: “Dr. No,” “GoldenEye,” “Goldfinger,” “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle,” “The King’s Speech,” “The Pursuit of Happyness,” “Thank You for Smoking,” available now; “Valley Girl” (2020) available Dec. 7; “Hope Gap,” available Dec. 28.
Disney+: “Anastasia,” “Mulan” (2020), “Big,” “Sky High,” available now; “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” available Dec. 11; “Eddie the Eagle,” “Into the Woods,” available Dec. 18; “Max Keeble’s Big Move,” available Dec. 25.
HBO: “The Blind Side,” “The Family Man,” “Gladiator,” “Hot Fuzz,” “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,” “Mars Attacks!,” “Michael Clayton,” “Misery,” “The Shawshank Redemption,” available now; “The Photograph,” available Dec. 5; “The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart,” available Dec. 12; “I Used to Go Here,” available Dec. 20.
Hulu: “Black Dynamite,” “Eyes Wide Shut,” “Hulk” (2003), “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “Southside With You,” “Sunshine,” available now; “Waiting for the Barbarians,” available Dec. 5; “The Secret Garden” (2020), available Dec. 6; “Out Stealing Horses,” available Dec. 10; “You Cannot Kill David Arquette,” available Dec. 22.
Netflix: "E.T.,” “Jurassic Park” trilogy, available now; “Ava” (2020), available Dec. 7; “The Prom,” available Dec. 11; “Guest House,” available Dec. 18; “After We Collided,” available Dec. 22; “Rango,” available Dec. 28.