The Holiday Movie Season

I know this tends to be an annual refrain for some people, but this year is not shaping up to be a particularly good year for movies. By this time in 2006 or 2007, I had already seen the grand majority of the films that would show up in my top 10 movies for both years. This year, I've seen two movies that are definites. There are a few other borderline picks as well, but few films that could compete with the past two years (and I thought 2007 was a distinct step down from 2006). We're also coming up on the time of the year when Hollywood eschews the traditional big-budget blockbuster and starts putting out their prestige fare in the hopes of garnering an Oscar... but this year is not looking especially strong in that respect either.

I'm not sure what the issue is here. Perhaps we're still seeing the effects of the writers strike earlier this year. Or maybe the independent arms of the big studios are in a bit of a crunch. Whatever the reason, the upcoming holiday movie season seems lacking. Will there be enough to round out my top 10, or will I need to reduce the list to a top 5? Regardless, here are some films I'm looking forward to:
  • Trick 'r Treat: This is the "wishful thinking" pick, as I'm pretty sure it won't be released this year (this despite the fact that the film has been in the can for well over a year and has garnered almost universally positive reviews). It's obviously meant for a Halloween release, but at this point, I'll settle for any release date and I've seen some rumors of a late December release (though again, I think those rumors have been squashed). The movie itself is a horror anthology featuring 4 different stories. I've tried to avoid learning too much about the movie because I don't want to ruin it for myself, but it seems to be a real crowd pleaser.
  • Slumdog Millionaire: This movie is in limited release right now and will be going a bit wider in the coming weeks (not sure how wide it will go). The story follows an Indian teen who becomes a contestant on the Hindi version of "Who Wants to be A Millionaire?" The story is told through flashbacks that accompany each question, detailing how this teen knows the answer. Directed by Danny Boyle (of Trainspotting and 28 Days Later... fame), the film is getting good reviews and sounds like my kinda movie.
  • The Wrestler: Darren Aronofsky's portrait of a down-on-his-luck professional wrestler (played by Mickey Rourke, who is getting raves for his performance) on a quest to re-enter the spotlight for one final showdown with his former rival. It doesn't sound like much, but neither did Requiem for a Dream, and that blew me away. Still, I was disappointed by Aronofsky's The Fountain, and I'm a little wary of this one.
  • The Brothers Bloom: I loved writer/director Rian Johnson's 2006 high school noir film, Brick, so I'm naturally a little excited about this long-con movie. I have to admit that the trailer doesn't do a whole lot for me, but I'm willing to give Johnson the benefit of the doubt.
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: This is another film where the trailer underwhelms me, but I definitely curious to see David Fincher's film about a man who ages in reverse.
  • Other Junk: Other films I'm not so sure about, but may check out anyway include Frost/Nixon, Australia, Waltz with Bashir, Gran Torino (I wasn't going to include this one until I saw that trailer, which features an aging Clint Eastwood literally saying "Get off of my lawn!") and Milk. Not sure I'll get to all those, but they're on my radar.
  • Stuff to see on DVD: Some movies that came and went earlier in the year that I want to catch up with include Man on Wire, Kung Fu Panda, Funny Games, Splinter, Chasing Ghosts: Beyond the Arcade, The Recruiter, and My Winnipeg. Some of these might be rather difficult to catch up with, but I'll give it a shot...
Unfortunately, it doesn't look like a lot of the above films will be getting very wide releases (some will go wide in mid-January though). There are a few mainstream movies that could also pop up, and I'll definitely be watching a bunch of them, but I'm not expecting anything particularly great... Will I be able to fill out my top 10 spots with the films above? It's certainly possible, but I have my doubts. This season's lineup isn't that great. Here's to hoping that my low expectations will lead to some surprises this holiday season...