So many movies, so little time

You can have your summer blockbusters, the Nov-Dec holiday period is the cine-must-see time of the year. Problem is, our weekends get filled up with other things we also want to do.

For instance, there is the Christmas tree exhibit at the Carnegie Museum of Art with the 18th Century Neopolitan presepio, which is either a nativity display or a delicious Italian dessert.

The Austrian room.

The Austrian room.

There also are the 27 nationality rooms at Pitt’s Cathedral of Learning. They are all dressed up for the holiday celebrations of the various nations. This weekend, there is a free open house with ethnic dances and music and food.

For the little girl in me, there is the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s Nutcracker Suite. A little overdone? Perhaps. But it features Pittsburgh-centric scenery and the only music that truly gets me into the Christmas spirit. I just love me some Tchaikovsky.

So when am I going to see all these movies? Obviously, I must prioritize them to determine which ones I will see in the theater and which ones might have to arrive via Netflix.




Argo. I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about this from many sources with varying degrees of taste and preference. Yet, they all love it. It is probably Ben Affleck’s finest movie. And I can’t believe I just wrote that last sentence. Think I need to see this first, as it will probably disappear from the big screen first.

Lincoln. Being the stone-cold history geek that I am, a part of my soul probably will die if I don’t see this in the theater. Historians have been generally favorable toward it, with a few reservations. Here’s one review. (Historians need to get over themselves.) I love the fact that Daniel Day Lewis read more than 100 books on Lincoln in preparation for the role. I love it that the sound guy recorded Lincoln’s actual pocket watch and the opening and closing of the door to the coach that Lincoln took to Ford’s Theater.

Les Miserables. Besides being a history geek, I am also a theater geek. Back in the day, I worked, onstage and off, on dozens of productions, mostly musicals. If there is one show I regret never being in, it is this one. I remember scoffing at it when it first came out. “A French musical? Ha! Doomed to failure! Same goes for that one with the mask and all the opera music that is also based in France!” Yeah, now you know why I never made it in theater. And although I mostly stay away from filmed Broadway musicals, this one hooked me with the trailer showing how the actors sang live on camera, allowing the orchestration to be added later. Plus, Borat is in it. I’m in.

zero-dark-thirty-poster1Zero Dark Thirty. At first I thought this was a tawdry money grab trying to be the first to capitalize on the killing of Bin Laden. Then I realized that it is directed by Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) and that it was well underway before the bearded one’s death as a movie about the search for him. This one may be the kind that sneaks up on Oscar season and takes a bunch of awards.

Django Unchained. This one almost slipped down to the next level. But I don’t think I will be able to resist the combination of Tarantino, Foxx, and Waltz.

Want to See

Silver Linings Playbook. Don’t know why I want to see this, but I do. Maybe I’m just in the mood for a little holiday bipolar comedy.

Life of Pi. I really wanted to read this book before seeing the movie. But I can pretty much tell that isn’t going to happen. Don’t know why I find myself resisting this one. Maybe it’s the fact that I tend to stay away from movies that go heavy on the CGI. It’s probably one of those films that I should see, however, so I probably will.

Not Fade Away. Forget that this movie is by the creator of The Sopranos and stars James Gandolfini. This one is right in my wheel-house. I grew up playing in garage bands in the late seventies and early eighties. This one is set about a decade before that but I think I’ll go along for this ride.


This Is 40

This Is 40

This is 40. This one could definitely go the Netflix route. It’s a sequel to Knocked Up without the stars, which I have no problem with. The background family in that movie was much more interesting than Seth Rogan and Katherine Heigl. But it also has that feel of an SNL skit that has gone on too long. We’ll see. But, as a rule, I think Leslie Mann is entertaining doing just about anything.

May See

The Impossible. This movie is about the 2004 Christmas tsunami that hit the Pacific Rim. I suspect that it will be overly dramatic (special effects teamed with swelling orchestras) and primarily focused on whether or not the white people survive. But I’ll try to stay open minded until the reviews come out.

Jack Reacher. Formulaic Tom Cruise, but set in Pittsburgh. I’m a sucker for movies set in Pittsburgh and will watch even the bad ones. (I’m looking at you Sudden Death, Striking Distance, and Abduction!)

Jack Reacher. Watch it for the backgrounds.

Jack Reacher. Watch it for the backgrounds.

The Hobbit. Fair warning, here. I was never into The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I saw one, suffered through the second, and skipped the third. They bored me to tears. I just don’t go for fantasy, I guess. What scares me about this one is that they have taken one book and split it into three movies. Why? Because they want that sweet, sweet cash. I just don’t know that I want to make that kind of commitment.

Anna Karenina. Another movie that I wish I had read first. I’ve never been able to wade through a Tolstoy novel. I think I’ve started two of them.

Hyde Park on the Hudson. Even a history geek can only take so much history at the holidays.  Bill Murray as Roosevelt. Who woulda thunk it?!

On the Road. I’m holding out hope that this movie will do justice to the iconic Jack Kerouac novel, but the trailer looks like the cast of Twilight pretending to be beatniks for Halloween. The hair is too contemporary. Am I being too picky?

No Chance

As Coach Tomlin says, "The standard is the standard!"

As Coach Tomlin says, “The standard is the standard!”

Red Dawn. This movie is so flawed that they had to change the villains after it was filmed. During filming, the invaders were the Chinese. Then, the studio heads realized that China is not so much an enemy as a huge customer base for their foreign market. Freakin’ geniuses. So, special effects gurus substituted North Korean flags and banners for all the Chinese ones. Hey, they all look alike, right? Who’s gonna know? Certainly not the guy who played Thor! The only question for this movie is whether it will be “fun bad” or “piss you off bad.” And whether Patrick Swayze is rolling over in his grave.

Twilight, Breaking Dawn. I already satiated the little girl in me with The Nutcracker Suite. So, no. Just no.

Playing for Keeps. Teary Christmas romance? Not gonna happen.

The Guilt Trip. Road movie featuring Seth Rogan and Barbara Steisand? This has the feel of a movie that got made because somebody lost a bet.

Parental Guidance. The trailer for this movie actually makes fun of the fact that young people don’t get Billy Crystal’s jokes. And yet, he still did the film. Perhaps this film should have been called Billy and Bette Get Paid.

That’s the end of my list. No kiddie movies like Monster’s Inc., (Billy gets paid again!) or Rise of the Guardians. Left out foreign films like Rust and Bone, although that will probably get plenty of Oscar buzz, too.

What’s on your must-see list?

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About carpetbagger

Tom and Jean are just a couple of Chicago transplants in Lawrenceville, a neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

Posted on November 30, 2012, in Art, Pittsburgh and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. LES MIS! YES YES YES! I’m going to see it probably the day after Christmas.

    My only problem with the Nutcracker here is that it’s not a live symphony. At least when we saw it. And we vowed not to go back. Though, I do want to take the kids to see a Christmas Carol, but not until they get older.

    • I hear you on the orchestra. Last year, the PSO played the Nutcracker Suite on stage with no dancers. It was wonderful. Even when the music is live, you usually don’t get to watch the orchestra during a Nutcracker. I will probably look to see if the PSO will be doing that again.

      • Now THAT’S what I’m talking about. I saw them on Mozart’s birthday a few years ago and was literally blown away. You don’t always need to see things, rather feel it.

  2. I’m with you on all your must see list! And I feel there are so many that I’m tempted to break the law and theater jump one cold afternoon (don’t tell).

    Silver Linings Playbook was good: 2/3rds honest and surprisingly real and 1/3rd rom com. I can’t complain about any of it but I wouldn’t recommend the ticket price cause you don’t gain anything with the large screen.

    Anna Karenina makes me want to stay away on principle – they got a bunch of British actors with British accents to play Russians and thought no one would notice. come on.

    And Life of Pi was such a great book – having read it (and I don’t think I’m giving too much away here), its a boy re-telling what happened on that boat, so I love that the art director gave it a twist of some CGI fantasy. I think it adds to how the story works.

    in the end, I probably just watch a bunch of movie trailers in the warmth of my home then pop in some old holiday favorites like Die Hard and Love Actually, then read your review of what to drag myself to in the theater

  3. While I suppose its flown a bit under the radar, no mention of ‘Hitchcock?’ He may be too much of a icon for Anthony Hopkins to pull off.

    For the record, made it through War and Peace twice. Incidentally, I don’t remember partaking in many activities during high school years.

  4. Tom's Aunt Linda

    The Nutcracker is several things….a piece of “programmatic music”, a ballet and a theatrical production. Sometimes it can be all at once….sometimes 2 things at once….and if we are lucky…all 3 things. At whatever level you experience it, it’s a treat. Listen, watch, experience…or do all 3 at once.

  5. I’ve read Life of Pi and it was weird, but pretty good. And I hear the way to see the movie is in 3D per James Cameron, which makes me take the suggestion a little more seriously. And, of course, Les Mis is a must.

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