Ladies and gents, I give you… November. You know, that glorious month where there’s at least three or four solid movie choices every week? This weekend alone we have “The Sessions”, “Flight”, “Holy Motors” and “Wreck-It Ralph” — all of which are riding on some fairly positive notices and various degrees of awards buzz.
November also means that we no longer need to rely on our cozy art house venues to give us stimulating cinematic experiences. With “Lincoln,” “Life of Pi” and “Silver Linings Playbook” all opening wide this month, we can almost drown out the shrieks of teeny-boppers gone bananas that will accompany “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2” in two weeks’ time. (We can also rejoice that this is indeed the last of the “Twilight” films before the imminent reboot.)
With the myriad of flicks to choose from, it’s been a bit difficult to deem which movies are “not to miss” (“The Sessions,” for example, has been one of my favorites this year, but was recently included on my Scottsdale Film Festival “must-see” list). From the awards-contenders to the experimental passion projects, though, here are at least five good reasons to hit the multiplex this November.
5. The House I Live In
This is far from the run-of-the-mill, “drugs are bad” documentary you might find on Netflix or the National Geographic Channel. Instead, “The House I Live In” opts to examine how over 45 million nonviolent addicts have been arrested for illegal drug possession in the past four decades, tearing families apart and overcrowding prisons nationwide. Director Eugene Jarecki’s heartbreaking investigation asks audiences to take a second look at the war on drugs, and has been called “one of the most important pieces of nonfiction to hit the screen in years” by The Los Angeles Times. (Nov. 9 release)
4. Keep The Lights On
Based on a long-term love affair director Ira Sachs once had, “Keep The Lights On” tells the story of two gay men who battle addiction, compulsion and their own dysfunctional relationship over the course of many years. Danish actor Thure Lindhardt gives an outstanding performance as the oft-unlikable, yet ultimately sympathetic Erik Rothman, a feat that recently earned him a Gotham Independent Film Awards nomination. (Nov. 9)
3. Anna Karenina
Keira Knightley once again unites with “Pride and Prejudice” and “Atonement” director Joe Wright for this inventive adaptation of the classic Leo Tolstoy novel. With a passionate love affair at its center, the film employs a unique concept where the entire story is set within the lavish confines of a theater. Despite mixed-to-positive reviews, “Anna Karenina” is well-worth checking out, if not solely based on the pedigree of Wright and Knightley’s former outings together. Plus, don’t we all need some chilly Russian romance in our balmy Arizona winter? (Nov. 21)
2. Holy Motors
Assassin, hobo, tycoon and patriarch, a mysterious man travels between parallel lives in this bizarre yet jaw-dropping feature from French director Leos Carax. A tip of the hat to those that love movies, this whimsical drama has had critics buzzing ever since its Cannes Film Festival debut in May. Featuring tour-de-force performances from Denis Lavant and pop star Kylie Minogue, “Holy Motors” could well be too peculiar for those with more conservative tastes. Factor in the five-star review from The New York Times and one doozy of a movie trailer? Well, consider my ticket already purchased. (Nov. 2)
It has all the ingredients of a crowd-pleasing, Oscar-nabbing feature, but will it deliver? Led by a top-notch cast including Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren and Scarlett Johansson, “Hitchcock” takes a peek behind the curtain at the making of “Psycho” and the master of horror himself, Alfred Hitchcock. Add some alumni of “The Social Network”, “Black Swan” and “The Fighter” behind the camera, and this little slice of awards bait may just be one of the best films of the year. Soaring expectations could potentially trigger some backlash, but having only recently been thrown into the awards mix, Fox Searchlight Pictures must be pretty confident they have a heavyweight on their hands. (Nov. 23)