I realize that for many, the September festival circuit is the official kick-off of awards season. But for those of us without press credentials or travel time to burn, October is when we actually get to see the buzzy titles we've been reading about for a month or more. And this October was chalk full of them.
The very first weekend of the month saw successful wide releases for a pair of genre-tinged dramas in Denis Villeneuve's Sicario (already praised by me in my last full review for the foreseeable future) and Ridley Scott's The Martian. The former, superb thriller though it may be, is probably too dark and bleak to win the Academy's favour outside of Roger Deakins' cinematography and Benicio Del Toro's chilling performance.
But the latter, which has earned Ridley Scott his best reviews in over a decade, is already been speculated as a potential Oscar heavyweight. Following in the vein of Apollo 13 and Gravity, The Martian is a thoroughly entertaining celebration of ingenuity and human spirit. Drew Goddard's witty adaptation of the Andy Weir novel of the same name is a huge part of its success, plying a perfectly judged sense of humour to an interplanetary survival drama without leaning into farce.
In other awards-related news, we had a couple of hosting announcements made, neither of which has me all that excited. Chris Rock was selected to emcee the Oscars for the second time, albeit 11 years following his first gig. I found his 2005 outing decent but forgettable, and honestly I don't hold it against him that the decision to bring him back fails to titillate me. I hold it against the show-runners for staunchly refusing to venture anywhere within sight of left field when it comes to picking a host. I guess the Seth MacFarlane year is still too fresh and unpleasant a memory for them (though not for this viewer).
But far more discouraging than the Oscar host situation is the Golden Globes situation. For three years in a row the Globes were among my awards season highlights, chalked up in part to the do-no-wrong tandem of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler who (perhaps wisely) didn't want to risk overstaying their welcome by doing a fourth show. I'd be game for a fresh face, but instead the HFPA has gone with the worst possible alternative, reverting back to the snide barbs of Ricky Gervais, who had trashed the show throughout his own three-year stint before Tina and Amy were brought in to right the ship. You can bet the mute button on my remote will be getting quite the workout during the Globes this year.
But we'll ruminate on that another time. Still lots of movies yet to see before we need to start considering the awards shows themselves.