The Academy Award nominations are announced on Tuesday, which means the studios are playing it safe this weekend — widening the runs of a couple of likely honorees (like “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Letters from Iwo Jima”), and bringing back a few Golden Globe successes (like “The Last King of Scotland”, which roars back onto screens after Forest Whitaker’s Best Actor – Drama award, and “Babel”, which expands considerably in the wake of its Best Picture – Drama win).
Also, there’s the week’s requisite dead-zone genre picture; today, it’s “The Hitcher”, which didn’t screen for critics until last night and therefore avoids a slew of opening-day reviews that will call it unnecessary, superficial and silly. (Don’t worry, I’ll be using those terms on Monday.)
And then, tucked away in small runs, there are two very good little movies:
“13 Tzameti“: In Gela Babluani’s striking debut, a young man (the director’s brother George) sees an opportunity for a big score and winds up trapped in a terrifying nightmare. Don’t watch the trailer, don’t read any other reviews, don’t even look at the poster — just go down to the Royal, buy a ticket and strap yourself in.
“Venus“: Age has not dulled Peter O’Toole’s magnificent screen presence, and he makes the most of his sympathetic wobbliness in this only slightly trite drama about a decrepit actor who’s smitten with a comely — if rather obnoxious — young woman. Director Roger Michell packs the film with marvelous performances: There’s Vanessa Redgrave as O’Toole’s tolerant ex, Leslie Phillips and Richard Griffiths turn up as O’Toole’s fellow luvvies, and newcomer Jodie Whittaker very nearly steals the picture as his yawpy crush object.
Also opening this week is “This Film is Not Yet Rated”, which Rick reviewed for Metro and therefore slipped past me. But since Mongrel’s releasing the DVD in a couple of weeks, I expect I’ll see it soon enough.