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Holiday Movies 2013: Big Films With Vintage Flair

We talk with top film critics about this holiday season’s gusher of new movies, from Disney’s “Frozen,’ to “The Wolf of Wall Street” to “American Hustle.”

Stills from the upcoming films "American Hustle," "Frozen," "The Best Man Holiday" and "The Wolf of Wall Street." (Clockwise from top left, courtesy Sony Pictures, Disney Pictures, Universal Pictures and Paramount Pictures)

Stills from the upcoming films “American Hustle,” “Frozen,” “The Best Man Holiday” and “The Wolf of Wall Street.” (Clockwise from top left, courtesy Sony Pictures, Disney Pictures, Universal Pictures and Paramount Pictures)

We’ve got screens all over these days and maybe the best television ever.  But still, when it gets a little colder, darker, when the holidays roll around, there’s something about a movie theater that calls out.  Hollywood knows that very well.  The holiday films are rolling out.  More “Hobbit.”  More “Hunger Games.”  Now “Her,” with Scarlett Johansson as Siri.  The 70s are back with “American Hustle.”  The 60s with “Inside Llewyn Davis.”  ”Black Nativity.”  ”Oldboy.” “The Wolf of Wall Street.”  This hour On Point:  A.O. Scott and Carrie Rickey on the season’s haul of holiday films.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

A.O. Scott, chief film critic for the New York Times. (@aoscott)

Carrie Rickey, longtime film critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer. (@CarrieRickey)

From Tom’s Reading List

New York Times: The Big Picture Strikes Back — “Maybe the failure of so many overblown, mediocre movies would inspire the flowering of smaller, better ones. Maybe the audience, fed a steady summer diet of sequels, merchandising tie-ins and animated family fun, was finally saying ‘enough.’ Maybe a lesson could be drawn from the success of the previous year’s crop of Oscar movies, and the future would belong to the Argos and Djangos and Lincolns rather than the Avengers and Transformers.”

The Daily Beast: Holiday Movie Preview: ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,’ ‘The Wolf of Wall Street,’ And More – “It’s been a pretty dismal summer movie-wise. Remember ‘The Internship’? ‘After Earth’? We hardly do, either. The fall brought some welcome relief in the form of ‘Gravity’ and ’12 Years a Slave’, but now, we’re getting into the real bread-and-butter: awards season. The next six weeks will see a bevy of awards-bait films—and grand blockbuster entertainments—hit theaters, including ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,’ Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Wolf of Wall Street,’ and much more. ”

The Wall Street Journal: Hollywood’s Gift List: Holiday Film Preview — “The film calendar is always heavily backloaded with Oscar contenders, in part so the films are fresh in the minds of Academy members when they are voting. But this year, studios seem to be conceding that they have packed far too many films into too few weekends. Some are pulling movies out of the fray. One big film was delayed until late December and five more have already been pushed into 2014, even if it means deferring Oscar aspirations until the 2015 ceremonies.”

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  • http://onpoint.wbur.org/about-on-point/sam-gale-rosen Sam Gale Rosen

    Here is what I am most excited for:

    “American Hustle” — (Jennifer Lawrence + David O. Russell = win)
    “Catching Fire” — (Jennifer Lawrence + anything = win)
    “The Hobbit 2: Electric Boogaloo” — (elves)
    “Inside Llewyn Davis” — (folk singing)
    “The Invisible Woman” — (Dickens)

    • J__o__h__n

      I think the Hobbit should have been one movie. Padding it with extraneous scenes and the always awful Sylvester McCoy resulted in a bit of a mess.

      • http://onpoint.wbur.org/about-on-point/sam-gale-rosen Sam Gale Rosen

        I was with you until “always awful Sylvester McCoy.” We have no more to discuss.

        • J__o__h__n

          Other than Tom not knowing what a dalek is, why didn’t On Point cover the 50th? It was great to see Tom Baker again.

          • Ray in VT

            I was listening to ESPN radio yesterday, and Scott Van Pelt said that he had never heard of Doctor Who, and that shocked me. Tom Baker was my first Doctor, and I think that I’ll always think of him as the Doctor in some regard, despite the fine work of some other actors in the role. My wife loves Tennant in the role.

          • J__o__h__n

            Tom Baker is also my favorite. He is pretty funny in the audio commentaries. David Tennant is my second favorite. John Hurt was great. I’m looking forward to Peter Capaldi based on his performance in Torchwood.

          • Ray in VT

            My wife has been putting a ton of Doctor Who stuff on the DVR, so we haven’t gotten to the 50th special yet. Maybe tonight…

            My wife hadn’t really heard of the show much before the reboot, and she was a bit on the fence in the lead up to it, but I had seen it on PBS back in the 1980s. Now she’s a proper Whovian. Every once in a while I will say something about seeing a girl in the mirror or there being some statue on our lawn just to creep her out.

          • J__o__h__n

            Leave work early and watch it. There was a 6 min movie on youtube showing the end of the 8th Doctor that you should watch first.

          • Ray in VT

            I think that my watched that one. The idea of leaving early is tempting, but the kids don’t go to bed until 8:00, so it probably isn’t in the cards until then (if I can stay awake).

      • Ray in VT

        I don’t know if it could have been done properly in 1. I think that two parts would probably have worked best.

  • Ray in VT

    Why is there no love for Anchorman 2? Is it going to be stupid? Sure. Will it also be really funny? Most likely.

  • TFRX

    Disney w/o Pixar has been going downhill for a number of years. I don’t hold a lot of hope.

  • TFRX

    Walt Disney (the man, and the company with his name) has a number of incredible accomplishments spun out of whole cloth to the name:

    The first sound-synchronized cartoon.

    Betting the house on the first full-length animated feature.

    Building Disneyland and Disney World.

    Getting the gang back together for the rebirth of The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast.

    Putting a big chunk of their money and reputation into live theater shows when it was soooo not the safe thing to do.

    I don’t count Mary Poppins among them, and as much as I can be a sucker for movies about moviemaking, that one doesn’t seem like it’s for me. I hope I’m wrong.

    PS I’m not picking on Disney, I swear.

    • Labropotes

      Don’t forget Sugar Bowl Ski Resort in Tahoe. Disney was first investor in that. Possibly his finest legacy!

  • J__o__h__n

    P. L. Travers’s parrot-headed umbrella is currently on display at the NY Public Library.

  • Labropotes

    I know these are passe, but Pacific Rim and The Lone Ranger were two wonderful movies that never got their due. Del Toro, who wrote and directed Pacific Rim, is one of Tom’s faves, I believe.

    • J__o__h__n

      I like Del Toro (and had hoped he would direct the Hobbit) but I thought Pacific Rim was awful.

      • Ray in VT

        Was it really? I had some high hopes for it. I’ll still probably watch it at some point.

      • Labropotes

        I happily overlook zeitgeist weaknesses, like women and men being exactly equal in everything. But somehow I dig the whole-world fabric he creates. I respect your opinion.

    • TFRX

      At what point the pieces of The Lone Ranger get assembled? I’m guessing the order is: Known actor, a known title, a big budget, some set pieces of action.

      I guess I’m tangenting this example, opening it up as to the almost randomness of how a movie gets greenlighted, and sometimes viewers are lucky.

      Since you’ve seen both, what lessons would you like moviemakers to take away from Pacific Rim and The Lone Ranger?

      • Labropotes

        Jeez, I wish I had an answer worthy of Zizek for you. I feel like an airhead. First, I’d say that I don’t see the glorification of selfishness in either one, or easy answers about morality. I find Johnny Depp to be a really good actor, possibly the best among those that are known as Stars. Rim has amazing visuals that provoke a sense of physicality comparable to an NFL game. Tell you what, I’ll ruminate on this, and one day, out of the blue, I’ll reply to one of your comments with a good answer.

        • TFRX

          Looking forward to it.

  • ToyYoda

    “Boys won’t go to movies with heroines.” I guess the critic doesn’t know who Angelina Jolie is.

    • Ray in VT

      Guys will go to just about any movie that prominently features a hot chick wearing relatively little.

      • J__o__h__n

        How empowering!

        • Ray in VT

          But it’s true, isn’t it?

      • Labropotes

        Hi Ray, I read a lot of novels from the cannon and they all feature the equivalent in elegant prose. The Bronte sisters almost always give the dimensions of a female character’s breasts and waist. So does Scott, who adds delicate fingers and tumbling locks. A novel without a love interest, or two, is hardly a novel at all. Thus the fact that Romance came to mean a story about love. When it’s absent in a movie or a novel, it is generally symptomatic of the world being out of balance.

        • Ray in VT

          Giving dimensions? Really? I don’t read much fiction, so that does come as a bit of a surprise, but maybe it doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a sucker for a pretty face, and I can be a bit of a sap, but there is more than a little dog in me in certain regards.

          • Labropotes

            from The Professor by Charlott Bronte, “…bust much developed but not compactly moulded, waist disproportionately compressed…” and “Her noble bust heaved with her regular breathing…” Yes, reader, she shagged him.

          • Ray in VT

            Something for a cold winter evening perhaps?

          • TFRX

            +1 for the twist on the last sentence alone.

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