Whether you like it or not, awards season has been thrust upon us. Oscar nominations will be announced bright and early on Jan. 10., with the Golden Globes ceremony only a few days later on the 13th (hosted by no less than the incomparable Tina Fey and Amy Poehler).
You might consider January to be an ideal time for catching up on all those awards-contenders you’ve missed the past few months, but it’s also an exciting month for fresh new blood. The hottest tickets, without question, are “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Amour,” which have been plastered with rave reviews and precursor accolades in recent weeks.
Although the star-studded “Promised Land” is also worth a glance, here are five films that I believe are must-sees this month.
5. Struck By Lightning
“Glee”-star Chris Colfer stars in his self-penned dramedy about a high school journalist who blackmails his classmates into writing for a literary magazine. Directed by Brian Dannelly of “Saved!” fame, the film features an extraordinary cast of comediennes including breakout star Rebel Wilson, Allison Janney and Sarah Hyland (“Modern Family”). This atypical coming-of-age tale made its Valley premiere at the Scottsdale Film Festival this past October, where it charmed the pants off both adults and teenagers alike. (Jan. 11) Watch the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JAakou4Kdhw
4. On The Road
“On The Road” is a lively adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s beloved novel, originally published in 1957 but still seeping with youthful candor and defiance. Considered by many to be one of the best novels of the 20th century, the story follows a young writer as he flies by the seam of his pants and discovers jazz, drugs and women in 1940’s America. Reviews for this one have been lukewarm at best, but it still may pique your interest with its young cast featuring Kristen Stewart (“Twilight”), Garrett Hedlund (“TRON: Legacy”) and Elizabeth Moss (“Mad Men”). (Jan. 18) Watch the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAb5vODOrgg
3. West of Memphis
Produced by visionary storyteller Peter Jackson, “West of Memphis” further examines the case of the West Memphis Three – a trio of teens arrested on suspicion of murdering three 8-year-old children in 1993. Despite three previous “Paradise Lost” installments that chronicled the case, this particular documentary hones in on Terry Hobbs, a potential suspect and stepfather to one of the victims. Using interviews from witnesses, lawyers and the West Memphis Three themselves, this gripping documentary premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was described by the New York Post as “a compelling and comprehensive guide to one of the most Kafkaesque crime stories in American history”. (Jan. 25) Watch the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQ0p44qDqK4
A British chamber piece from actor and first-time director Dustin Hoffman, “Quartet” is guaranteed to strike a chord with the same older audience that made “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” the breakout hit of the summer. Starring Maggie Smith as an aging opera singer who returns to a retirement home for gifted musicians, this engaging comedy dollops out laughs as past rivalries and former flames spring anew. Set in a cozy English manor and featuring a slew of top-notch talent, “Quartet” is a stirring mediation on aging that should play well against heavier fare such as “Amour” and “Any Day Now.” (Jan. 11) Watch the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSEnh8Hi62E
1. Chasing Ice
“Chasing Ice” is a mesmerizing yet troubling gaze at the dramatic effects of climate change and the relentless efforts of photographer James Balog to share these scenes with the world. The documentary chronicles the appalling speed with which glaciers have been melting in destinations like New Zealand and Alaska, such as one glacier that has receded a jaw-dropping eleven miles since 1984. The film has nabbed dozens of honors at festivals throughout the year, and recently won the prestigious Satellite Award for Best Documentary Film. Some environmental flicks make a real impression, but none quite as much as “Chasing Ice,” which is truly the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the global warming crisis. (Jan. 3) Watch the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIZTMVNBjc4