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, Ive 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 dont 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 doesnt meet those requirements, then its probably Walk the Line.
2008 hopeful: Cadillac Records
Past examples: Ray, Dreamgirls (which was pretty much about the Supremes)
The critically acclaimed head-scratcher: Its OK that you didnt get it a lot of people didnt. 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 were all in this together flick (or, a grand display of celebrity): Has a star-filled ensemble cast to send the message that yknow, were really not so different after all and, like in the case of Crash, youre 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 wont come out till much later, but its probably Doubt
Past examples: No Country for Old Men, Atonement