October Preview: Oscar, Pretend Oscar, Who’s Oscar

There Are Only Three Kinds of Movies Released In October

October, as a month for movies, has changed subtly over the last ten years to the point that this year we will only see three shades of “grown up” movies released. They are:

Legitimate Oscar Contenders – In the years prior to 2003 October was as likely, or Argo and The Departed. In other words “Oscar Season” begins while there are still leaves on the trees.
unlikely, to produce a best picture nominated film as any other month not named December or November. Since 2003, however, October has produced 16 best picture nominated films, second only to December’s 19. And October isn’t just producing nominated movies, it’s producing winners like

Pretend Oscar Contenders – This has long been an October staple, the movies that everyone knows aren’t quite good enough to go after the little naked gold guy but they kind of feel (at least in their trailers) like they could be. The hope here is that you get some box office push from the faux prestige and then move onto forgotten status what the big hitters in November and December roll around.

Whose Oscar? – Horror movies, raunchy adult comedies, genre flix, not kids fare, never kids fare in October, but the kind of stuff that will get the frat boys to the cinema.

And that is it. October didn’t use to be quite this cut and dry but it sure is now.


Gravity (October 4th)

Oscar Aspirations: Best Picture (long shot), Best Actress (shoe-in nomination for Sandra Bullock), Best Director (wouldn’t be surprised) and a lot of technical award

What’s It About: A medical engineer (Bullock) and an Astronaut (Clooney) find themselves adrift in space after an accident leaves them stranded.

The Buzz: By all accounts people are being blown away by the visuals and the movie as a whole. Will it play to a broader audience? With Clooney and Bullock how could it not.

Captain Phillips (October 11th)

Oscar Aspirations: Best Picture (on the cusp), Best Actor (guarantee for Hanks)

What’s It About: The true story of Captain Richard Phillips and his cargo ship that was attacked by Somali pirates in 2009, the first U.S. ship attacked by pirates in over 200 years. The History Chanel and others have retold the story in depth and it is remarkable and should make for a great movie.

The Buzz: Tom Hanks is back baby! The only real question is whether or not he will win #3 for this or for playing Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks at Christmas.

12 Years a Slave (October 18th)

Oscar Aspirations: Best Picture (absolutely guaranteed nomination), maybe some Supporting Actor stuff (Pitt or Fassbender) and Best Actor (really good shot for Chiwetel Ejiofor, an actor you have seen for years but never knew his name)

What’s It About: A free black man from upstate New York is captured and sold into slavery.

The Buzz: Come on, how is this movie not going to be a best picture nominee? Yes, it will make all of the white people feel a little guilty as slavery movies always do, but that isn’t the point of this one. Word is this is a terrific story, not just a platform to preach to the converted.


Runner Runner (October 4th)

What’s It About: A college kid (Justin Timberlake) gets cheated out of his tuition in an online poker game and decides to go and confront the man (Ben Affleck) he believes swindled him. When he gets there he is seduced into that world of crime and corruption.

Why Pretend Oscar: Because this movie, like The Lincoln Lawyer (the last film Brad Furman, the director, made), this is a slick thriller, not a deep exploration of anything.

The Buzz: Similar to that of The Lincoln Lawyer, which was a reasonably effective thriller that became a kind of second tier hit (in the $75 to $85 million range at the box office) and helped rebuild momentum for Matthew McConaughey career. The hope this will create momentum for Justin Timberlake’s career as an actor and keep the Affleck ball rolling. The big problem is that while The Lincoln Lawyer succeed in no small part because there were absolutely no other movies of note out when it came out Runner Runner is coming out one week after Rush, a movie that is getting a lot of buzz, and the same week as Gravity. Will there be enough room for Runner Runner to find an audience? That’s the real question.

The Fifth Estate (October 11th)

What’s It About: WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange.

Why Pretend Oscar: Julian Assange as our hero, really? Watch the Bill Hader clip below. This would have to be written by Sorkin and directed by Fincher and even then it would be a LONG shot.

The Buzz: This year’s blatant attempt to get The Social Network audience has two terrifically talented actors in Cumberbatch and Bruhl at it’s center but the question is will it really ask questions or will it come at the subject with a decided point of view. In other words, there really is a debate one could have about information and confidentiality and governmental transparency that would be really interesting but this movie, much like it’s subject, seemed more concerned with Julian Assange than with the truth and the moral responsibilities of the press.

All Is Lost (October 18th)

What’s It About: A guy in a sailboat gets clipped by a freighter and has to resourcefully fight to survive the open sea,

Why Pretend Oscar: Because word out of Cannes wasn’t good

The Buzz: This was always a Robert Redford movie and the real question is do we want to spend two hours at sea with Robert Redford anymore? The thrills apparently weren’t that thrilling and the deeper points aren’t as deep as the filmmakers think they are so it all hinges on Redford. Not sure even he is good enough to pull that off anymore.

The Counselor (October 25th)

What’s It About: A Lawyer finds himself in over his head when he gets involved with drug trafficking

Why Pretend Oscar: I may be wrong, this may be a real Oscar contender, but I doubt it. This feels more like Ridley Scott putting a movie out around Oscar time to get an additional box office bounce.

The Buzz: The Buzz thus far is all about the cast (Brad Pitt and Fassbender again) and the director (Ridley Scott) because people haven’t seen the movie yet, but that cast and director create a pretty positive buzz.


Machete Kills (October 11th)

What’s It About: Really? Does anyone need to ask that? The movie is called Machete Kills. It is the sequel to Machete. Danny Trejo kills a whole bunch of people in very pulpy fashion.

Razzie* Potential: Possibly. The first movie walked the extremely thin line between cool parody and just bad and it is always possible that Rodriguez falls on the wrong side of that line this time around.

The Buzz: It’s Machete Kills. Like Kick Ass 2 or any of a number of sequels the buzz is ‘if you liked the first one this is that movie with more’, so, did you like the first one? If yes then you will likely enjoy this one.

*The Razzies are the Oscars for the worst movies of the year.

Carrie (October 18th)

What’s It About: A shy girl who gets her revenge on the town that bullied her by unleashing her telekinetic powers on everyone.

Razzie Potential: Some, the original is a true classic, but the story, while quite straightforward, could really be turned into something horrible. I don’t think that has happened here but maybe that is based more on hope and nostalgia than anything else.

The Buzz: Everyone loved the casting of Chloe Grace Moretz in the titular role but it is always scary when people take on a classic. My advice, go watch the original. It still holds up and it is hard to imagine that this retelling surpasses it.

Escape Plan (October 18th)

What’s It About: A man whose job it is to design prisons that are escape proof gets thrown into a prison… WHO CARES! THIS IS THE SLY & ARNOLD MOVIE!!!

Razzie Potential: Oh yeah. Lots and lots of it.

The Buzz: IT’S THE SLY AND ARNOLD MOVIE!!!!! What more does anyone need to know?

Bad Grandpa (October 25th)

What’s It About: The Jackass guys do their best Borat impersonation when Johny Knoxville don’s old man makeup and pretends to be a VERY inappropriate grandpa to a pre-teen grandson as they travel across the country and interact with real people.

Razzie Potential: Johny Knoxville acting always has massive Razzie potential, but doing this stuff is really what he is best at, so, not so much.

The Buzz: I haven’t seen a trailer that elicited as many belly laughs from the entire theater as this trailer did since… I don’t actually remember the last time I heard an audience laugh that hard at a trailer. Like Borat it certainly has the potential to wear out its welcome over the course of the movie but the bit plays really well in small doses.


The eventual Best Picture winner probably isn’t in this bunch, but look for Hanks and Bullock to each make strong pushes for acting nods. As for the rest of it, who knows? I can’t wait for Escape Plan, but I was in college when Sly and Arnold made those kinds of movies all the time and I loved (and love) them. I’m excited for Machete Kills because I thought the first one was hysterical (and I am a 47 year old man-child), but I concede most wouldn’t feel that way. I’m looking forward to The Counselor because I am all in on Ridley Scott. Mostly though, after a summer of nothing but popcorn entertainment I am looking forward to an October that wasn’t made for my 9 year old son.

But hey, what do I know? I’m fat.