We're a little more than five weeks from next month's Oscar telecast, and while I don't think the Oscars are anywhere close to our finest arbiter of what's good in film, who am I kidding? The Oscars will be driving film discussion — and film viewership — for much of the next few weeks. If catching up with Les Misérables keeps someone from seeing French film Holy Motors at the Brooks Museum in a couple of weeks, that would be unfortunate. But the truth is, Oscar catch-up time for most filmgoers is more likely to mean finally seeing Lincoln or Silver Linings Playbook rather than dropping money on a January orphan like Broken City or The Last Stand. Can't complain about that.
If you've got open boxes on your Oscar checklist, there are plenty of options this week, with seven of the nine Best Picture nominees currently showing in Memphis — Lincoln (five theaters), Zero Dark Thirty (nine theaters), Les Misérables (nine theaters), Argo (at Wolfchase), Silver Linings Playbook (expanding this week to five theaters), Life of Pi (expanding to four theaters), and Django Unchained (12 theaters). The only ones missing are Beasts of the Southern Wild, which has long since come and gone, and the French drama Amour, which is currently scheduled to open in Memphis on February 15th.
And there are other nominated films still knocking around. You can catch Best Documentary nominee Searching for Sugar Man at the Brooks on Thursday night. Best Animated Film nominee Wreck-It Ralph is at Wolfchase. Naomi Watts joins performers in more heralded films in the Best Actress race for her turn in The Impossible, which is showing at the Ridgeway Four. Roger Deakins' nominated cinematography for the — best ever? — James Bond film Skyfall is on display at Malco Collierville and also Wolfchase. And while it didn't get a Best Picture nom, Flight is up for two major awards, Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor for Denzel Washington. It's still showing at both Malco Bartlett and Wolfchase.
I've even been playing this game myself, catching up last weekend with two films that didn't pre-screen in Memphis and which I ran out of time for when working on my year-end lists. Life of Pi is an enjoyable adventure yarn, but I really wish I'd seen it in 3-D — no longer available locally. Call it a deep honorable mention as a belated entrant on my 2012 lists. Better is Flight, which richly earns both of its nominations. I think Washington is better here — maybe much better — than in his winning turn in Training Day, and the script is daring in turning from bravura action into deep, personal drama. It wouldn't have made my Top 10, but definitely would have made my Top 20.