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The end of the year is nearly upon us, which inevitably means the transition from “blockbuster”-type films and popcorn movies at your local multiplex to what can most aptly be labeled “Awards Season Movies.” Sure, there are still a few big Fall/Holiday releases slated – the new Twilight film (ummm), Happy Feet 2 (okay, kind of cute), yet another Mission Impossible (why??), along with a few others – but come December, it’s basically Christmas for the more serious film fans all month long.
Last year, drama The King’s Speech opened in December to gushing critical accolades (Rotten Tomatoes still lists it as 95% “fresh”), widespread audience acclaim, and a multitude of awards, including recognition at the Oscars, the British Academy Film Awards, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the New York Film Critics Circle, the British Independent Film Awards, etc. etc. Star Colin Firth won an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and a vertiable bucket of other accolades. Even the Queen liked it.
Now, of course, in the wake of The King Speech’s success, we wonder – what will be the next film to strike it big in America and clean up at awards time? Two upcoming British movies look especially promising, though both are quite different in tone. (And they both have Benedict Cumberbatch in them, which is really just an extra win for me.)
First up for your consideration is Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, or, as it should really be called, That Movie Where Every British Actor You Love Is There, Pretty Much. An espionage thriller based on the 1974 John le Carré novel of the same name, it follows the hunt for a Soviet double agent at the top of the British secret service. Tinker Tailor stars Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Ciarán Hinds. (Yes, all in the same movie. THE JOY.) Besides the obvious acting chops assembled for this, it’s got that overly intellectual, twisty, vaguely politically relevant feel that Academy voters always love to go for. (Never underestimate the desire of people to vote for something they think makes them look smart.) Tinker Tailor was released in the UK last month, to largely favorable critical reviews [Warning: Spoilers at those links], gushing over the cast, and decent box office. Americans will have to wait until December 9 to see it for themselves.
In this corner, we have War Horse. A Hollywood adaptation of a British phenomenon, War Horse is directed by Steven Spielberg and based on the children’s novel of the same name by Michael Morpurgo, as well as its 2007 stage version, which won significant critical acclaim and major awards on both sides of the pond. It is, by the way, still currently playing on Broadway, for any Yanks that may be interested. And if by chance you’re in London, there’s even a new exhibit based on the story at the National Army Museum.
War Horse is set during World War I, and is the story of a “remarkable friendship” between a horse named Joey and a young man named Albert and their various adventures and heartbreaking separation. Translation: Oscar bait. Also, bring Kleenex. Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Jeremy Irvine, and Benedict Cumberbatch star, which doesn’t exactly match the omg, it’s everyone British, ever feel of the Tinker Tailor cast, but seems about a thousand times more likely to make you cry in public. A lot. And, let’s face it, Academy voters LOVE to vote for things that make you cry, and that’s before you factor in the Disney marketing machine. So, unless War Horse is a complete bomb (unlikely), we can probably expect to hear a lot more about this film come awards season. It’s out on Christmas Day.