I think I’ve finally figured out that I’m happiest in the dark, which is a statement that probably contains far too many truths.
When the lights fall and the first of 17 previews begins, the world is sealed off for a couple of hours, and everything seems full of possibilities. Sit back, sip on a Coke, and see if someone has a new idea or two.
I can’t say it’s been a great year for movies, but some of the presumed Oscar contenders are just now here – all at once, I might add. The holiday fuss will soon be behind us, and we face the dreariness of January with the bright promise held in a list of must-see cinema. By February, the weather might be improving, but the movie-going won’t be, so act quickly.
Maybe it’s just me – passing of years, fogginess of brain, impending curmudgeonhood, who knows? – but it seems there’s an extra dash of pathos and despair this year, and I don’t even go for all that “Hunger Games” and “World War Z” stuff. Sure, I expect an Alexander Payne movie like “Sideways” to be dark but funny, but there’s a long streak of menace running through “Nebraska,” which is among the year’s best.
“Fruitvale Station,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” “12 Years a Slave” and “Philomena” all deal with tragic and cruel circumstances – the stuff of drama, no doubt – but together there is less deliverance than people fighting life to a draw, at best. I don’t need a lot of Hollywood endings, but, as the man in the movies said, throw me a bone now and then.
I haven’t yet seen all the heavy hitters – and bear in mind that those can and do disappoint – so maybe the way to look at the year is to consider bright moments here and there.
• Who knew Matthew McConaughey would turn out to be this good? He carried the underrated “Mud” – one of those rare early-in-the-year winners – and he might win an Oscar for “Dallas Buyers Club.” (Ditto for Jared Leto in a supporting role in that movie.)
• Julia Roberts is tough and strong in “August: Osage County,” which is very good but not everyone’s cup of tea and not exactly the feel-good comedy of the summer.
• So you go see movie X because you read somewhere or some tremor in the force told you so-and-so might win an Oscar. This doesn’t always end well. It brings you to “Blue Jasmine,” with the amazing Cate Blanchett. It’s OK but mostly just sad. Then again, this also leads you to Judi Dench in “Philomena,” a thoughtful look at faith – not to be confused with mere piety – and forgiveness. It asks many questions and leaves many answers to the viewer.
Maybe that’s the measure we’re looking for. What’s the movie still noodling around one’s foggy brain days after the lights have come up and you have to trudge back into, you know, life? In dreary January, as you whittle the must-see list, there’s plenty of time to get lost in thought.
Follow Jeff Fox on Twitter @Jeff_Fox.