It’s around Christmas, traditionally, when studios and smaller distributors release their award contenders, hoping to be fresh in the minds of critics groups, guilds and most significantly members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which presents the Oscars, when they start voting.
For the 2020 awards, however, the eligibility window has expanded beyond the conventional calendar year through February, which accounts for the onslaught of prestige films arriving this month, through a combination of digital and theatrical platforms.
This month also offers directing debuts from two well-known actors, in movies in which they also star: Robin Wright’s “The Land,” about a troubled woman seeking refuge in a remote cabin; and Viggo Mortensen’s “Falling,” about a man dealing with his abusive father, who is suffering from dementia.
The next few weeks, meanwhile, bring “Nomadland,” director Chloe Zhao’s film starring Frances McDormand; “The United States Vs. Billie Holiday,” from director Lee Daniels, with Andra Day as the legendary singer; and “The Father,” starring Anthony Hopkins — nominated by both the Globes and SAG — and Olivia Colman, which offers a piercing window into the Hopkins character’s dementia.
Of course, one can argue that the emphasis on awards seems especially trivial in the current climate. Yet that overlooks several realities, among them that people in the entertainment industry still covet awards and prestige, regardless of where and how their work is being seen; awards are perceived to help boost revenue, giving people who care about such things an incentive to watch; and the robust industry devoted to the process, including news outlets that rely on income from “For your consideration” ads.
All that adds up to the current slate of February movies. And while the digital flurry of such fare won’t mean much to a lot of people, for those who do look forward to catching up on Oscar nominees toward the end of a normal year, let it snow.