Go to metacritic.com, find its list “Wide Releases Now in Theaters,” click “sort by score” and there you have a pretty good idea of the lack of decent film offerings as of late: “Wall-E” and “Dark Knight” — both summer releases — still claim the top ratings spots, with “Milk” sliding in only a week ago. While there has been some quality limited release offerings, those tend to have the shelf life of an un-refrigerated carton of milk at New Orleans theaters. But fear not, moviegoers, because with the influx of gifts, confections and unabashed gluttony that comes with the holiday season also comes (usually, at least) an influx of quality, mainstream film. Finally, something worth the 8-dollar Diet Coke.
However, as a fairly avid movie-goer, I find the annual offerings to be pretty formulaic. In fact, I’ve found that all of the Oscar hopefuls (and wannabe hopefuls) can usually be grouped in the following categories:
Popular book franchise-turned-film destined for the “Achievement in Costume Design,” “Make-up,” “Sound Editing” or “Visual Effects” categories: The throngs of tweens that pack midnight showings or show up to “Twilight” meet-and-greets hemorrhaging from the neck fancy these films “Best Picture” winners, but they usually end up claiming those categories announced at a pre-taped ceremony hosted by Jennifer Hudson.
2008 hopeful: “Twilight”
Past examples: “The Golden Compass,” “Chronicles of Narnia,” all of the “Harry Potter” books.
The animated feature film that wins by default: This category should be abolished. Because it exists, top-notch, “Best Picture”-worthy picks like “Ratatouille” get impugned by duds like Jerry Seinfeld promotional tool “The Bee Movie” that secure a nod for following reasons: 1. It is animated 2. It is feature film-length and 3. It was released in the past year.
2008 hopeful: “Wall-E”
Past examples: Anything else by Pixar.
The good history flick: Pretty self-explanatory.
2008 hopeful: “Milk”
Past examples: “The Queen,” “Good Night and Good Luck”
The history flick destined to only be shown in high school American History classes: It may not have been very good, but 12th graders don’t discriminate — especially when the choice is between “Bobby” and taking a quiz on the Revolutionary War.
2008 hopeful: “W”
Past examples: “Bobby,” “Kingfish”
Musical biopic: Must meet the following requirements: 1. About soul music 2. Features either Beyonce Knowles and/or Jamie Foxx 2. Is released in December, preferably on Christmas day. If it doesn’t meet those requirements, then it’s probably “Walk the Line.”
2008 hopeful: “Cadillac Records”
Past examples: “Ray,” “Dreamgirls” (which was pretty much about the Supremes)
The critically acclaimed head-scratcher: It’s OK that you didn’t get it — a lot of people didn’t. But to save face, you can surmise the message of this film with the following words: existentialism, surrealism or postmodern reflexivism.
2008 hopeful: “Synedoche, New York”
Past examples: “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “Lars and the Real Girl”
The feel-good indie flick: Always succeeds in spawning a host of ubiquitously-used catchphrases (the entire script of “Napoleon Dynamite”), creating impossible-to-exceed expectations for the breakout star (that little girl from “Little Miss Sunshine”), and exploiting a best-kept-secret singer/songwriter (Kimya Dawson).
2008 hopeful: “Slumdog Millionaire”
Past examples: “Juno,” “Little Miss Sunshine”
The “we’re all in this together” flick (or, a grand display of celebrity): Has a star-filled ensemble cast to send the message that y’know, we’re really not so different after all and, like in the case of “Crash,” you’re not racist unless you kill an Indian convenience store owner.
2008 hopeful: “Seven Pounds”
Past examples: “Babel,” “Crash,” “Love, Actually”
The no-brainer Oscar flicks: Is directed by the Coen brothers, features Phillip Seymour Hoffman or Helen Miren, is at least 4 hours long.
2008 hopeful: It won’t come out till much later, but it’s probably “Doubt”
Past examples: “No Country for Old Men,” “Atonement”