Finding Movie Gems Among the Holiday Blockbusters by Kevin M. Thomas

Ho Ho Show!

The holiday movie rush is upon us. In the same month where everyone spends lots of money on presents, movies still do big business at the end of the year – even if they’re not “Twilight” or “Skyfall.”

Christmas time is the last chance for a movie to qualify for Oscars. Movies must show in New York and Los Angeles for one week to qualify for the Academy Awards and Christmas is their last chance.

I am excited about this Christmas movie season. On Christmas day I am seeing the musical “Les Miserables,” one of my favorite Broadway musicals, and movies with my divas: Barbra Streisand in “The Guilt Trip” and Bette Midler in “Parental Guidance.” I might even throw in a screening of the new Tom Cruise action movie or Paul Rudd comedy.

But it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle when there are so many choices. In fact, they’ve changed the release dates of many movies as the market is too saturated with films. Unfortunately, these days, movies that don’t come in #1 at the box office on opening weekend are often deemed failures.

But let’s take a look at those smaller films in SF, LA and NY that may be overshadowed by Barbra and Bette. Since I’ve seen none of these movies, my impressions are based upon the buzz of the film or awards it may have won (at film festivals or in other countries).

“Any Day Now,” a big hit on the gay film festival circuit, opens Dec. 14 and is playing at many art houses. The movie stars Alan Cumming, known to TV audiences from “The Good Wife” but is a Tony winning Broadway star, as a gay man in the 1970s who tries to adopt an abandoned mentally challenged teen. It won 8 awards in its run at film fests.

“Central Park Five” can easily be forgotten in the holiday season due to it being a documentary and dealing with such a heavy topic: it’s the story of the black and latino kids who were convicted of raping a white woman in Central Park in 1989. In the hands of Ken Burns,we’re sure the movie will be compelling. It also opens on Dec. 14.

Dec. 21 releases also need some extra attention – even if they are action or have famous casts.


“Deadfall” seems to be coming to town under the radar even though it is an action film about a botched casino heist combined with a family reunion. The underrated Eric Bana stars and is aptly supported by Olivia Wilde and Oscar winning Sissy Spacek. (It arrives in New York and Los Angeles sooner than Dec. 21).



“On the Road” is – surprise – a road picture based upon a novel by Jack Kerouac. The film makes it to the screen from the duo of writer Jose Rivera and director Walter Salles, who had a big hit with the film “The Motorcycle Diaries.” Additionally, there is some Oscar buzz for co-star Kristen Stewart. Yes, the girl from “Twilight.”

We get a nice mix of more offbeat movies on Dec. 28.



“Lore,” from acclaimed Australian director Cate Shortland, is a story of five children who embark on a life changing journey after the collapse of the Germany army. It’s won eight awards internationally from various film festivals.


“LUV” is the story of a young man who develops a bond with his troubled uncle, played by Common, who seems to be making quite a mark as an actor.


“Quartet,” about a bunch of seniors who live in a home for aging opera singers, may sneak into town but does have Oscar buzz for Maggie Smith and marks the directorial debut of Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman (even though rumor has it he directed himself in “Straight Time.”)

Most of these films are playing at A few titles will also be at and Some opening dates may change. In fact, some of these films are already in LA and NY.


One Response to “Finding Movie Gems Among the Holiday Blockbusters by Kevin M. Thomas”

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  1. stevev says:

    I saw “Any Day Now” at OUTFEST and our entire group was mesmerized by the story. Alan Cumming deserves an Oscar or at least a nomination for his dramatic, restrained and hilarious performance with a brilliant Staten Island accent – he’s British! Actually the entire cast is brilliant and the story will hit home on some level. See this film!!