It’s strategery time, friends.
Let’s say your hobby is the same as mine, an odd but harmless obsession with seeing just about all of the movies likely to produce Oscar nominees in the major categories – best picture, director, actor, actress, supporting actor, supporting actress.
This leads the hobbyist to movies I would otherwise skip. Sometimes that doesn’t work out. A couple that spring to mind are the horrid and creepy “Venus” (best actor nominee Peter O’Toole shouldn’t have won and didn’t) and the dark, disjointed “Running with Scissors” (the incomparable Annette Bening, and then she wasn’t even nominated). Then again, this also leads to jewels such as “In the Valley of Elah” (Tommy Lee Jones nominated for best actor) and “Rachel Getting Married.” Anne Hathaway lost in the best actress category to Kate Winslet (“The Reader” – whatever), but I think “Rachel Getting Married was the best movie of the year in 2008.
So off we go, searching for jewels amidst the mud pies, and things are complicated by at least three factors. One, the field is wide open because there just aren’t many heavy hitters. Four years ago, for example, the five nominees for best picture were pretty clear: “No Country for Old Men” (winner), “Atonement,” “Juno,” “Michael Clayton” and “There Will Be Blood.” Those five also produced lots of nominees in the acting and directing categories. (And for my money, it was the best single year of movies we had seen in a while and miles of ahead of any year since.)
The second thing is an industry in flux, one consequence of which is movies hitting DVD 15 minutes after they hit the theaters. But let’s use that to our advantage, because factor No. 3 is that we live in Kansas City. Although we cherish our handful of art houses, we also know movies not going to the multiplex arrive here at seemingly random times and might stick around for many weeks if not months ( “Midnight in Paris,” “Martha Marcy May Marlene”) or they might come, apparently, for one showing at 3 a.m. on a Tuesday. I cannot prove it, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen repeated previews for movies that have never come. Ever.
So let’s say our hobbyist has fallen down on the job and snobbishly passed on a couple of movies that now look like contenders. Plus, he honestly had no clue that “Bridesmaids” would be on lots of best-of lists come January. Help is at hand. Several of the better movies of 2011 are already on DVD, says dvdreleasedates.com. Those include “Moneyball,” “The Help,” “Margin Call,” “Tree of Life,” “Of Gods and Men,” “Page One: Inside The New York Times,” “Beginners,” “Warrior” and “A Better Life.”
Then there are the presumed contenders that are arriving now or are supposed to do so before the Oscars on Feb. 26. Those include “The Iron Lady” (today), “Carnage” (today), “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” (Jan. 20), “A Dangerous Method” (Jan. 27), “Shame” (Jan. 20), “Corliolanus” (Jan. 20), “Albert Nobbs” (Jan. 27) and “A Separation” (Feb. 17, just a week before the Oscars).
If you’re hoping that some of the likelies currently in theaters – “War Horse,” “The Artist,” “The Descendants” – will be on DVD soon, there’s not a lot of hope. “Ides of March” – good not great, like so many movies this year – comes out next week, and “J. Edgar” is scheduled for DVD release on Feb. 21. But others, such as “My Week with Marilyn” (a pleasant surprise) and “Melancholia,” come out later, and many of the rest of the best aren’t even yet scheduled for DVD. Besides, a movie like “Melancholia” – which I didn’t much care for but which might bring Kirsten Dunst a best-actess nomination – really needs to be seen on a big screen.
So the hobbyist has come up short, again. But Oscar is six weeks off – nominations come out Jan. 24 – and between Red Box, Netflix, Blockbuster and the good old Bijou, there is time to get caught up.