January: Smart people don’t go to the movies in January. They talk about them as awards season ramps up. Expect the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s Golden Globe Awards to shower The Queen with accolades, including Best Motion Picture Drama, Best Director for Stephen Frears, and Best Actress for Helen Mirren (though Penelope Cruz might pull an upset in these international waters). Forest Whitaker will pull a Best Actor Drama for The Last King of Scotland, belying that great film’s weak box office, while Volver, the likely Best Foreign Language Film, stands a good chance of being trumped by Apocalypto — if only because Mel Gibson appears to be an anti-Semite, and that plays well overseas.
February: This is one of those mixed-bag months, when sometimes a few great movies are released, and sometimes a major studio cashes in big on a quasi-blockbuster since moviegoers are so damn desperate for something good to watch after January. Expect super-flick Ghost Rider to open big and maintain some interest, much like the equally shitty Daredevil did in 2003. The ones you should be looking out for, though, are Jim Carrey’s creepy The Number 23 and, even moreso, Craig Brewer’s follow-up to Hustle & Flow, Black Snake Moan. Samuel L. Jackson plays a blues man. Christina Ricci a damaged slut. Stuff happens.
February is also Oscar month, which, if it’s anything like recent years, is just another way of saying, “A month when Hollywood fucks over its best and brightest and rewards expensive campaigns.” Forest Whitaker will walk away with the Best Actor award here, too and Helen Mirren — who will have been looking over her shoulder for Penelope Cruz at the Golden Globes — is a shoo-in here. Martin Scorsese will finally will for Best Director, even though it belongs to Alejandro González Iñárritu. In the Best Picture category, despite a poor showing everywhere else, Clint Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers will inexplicably triumph because (A) Clint Eastwood is involved and (B) Paul Haggis wrote it — and Academy voters love anything “smart,” but written at a fourth-grade level. Biggest surprise? Seeing Ben Affleck nominated for an acting award; he’ll get a Best Supporting Actor nod for Hollywoodland.
March: David Fincher returns with Zodiac, Danny Boyle returns with Sunshine, and Simon Pegg of Shaun of the Dead returns with Hot Fuzz. But who the hell cares about any of this? Frank Miller’s 300 will be hitting the big screen!
April: Hope for a snowstorm; at least you’ll have an excuse not to leave the house. Nothing here to see except the Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarentino-directed horrorfest Grindhouse.
May: Apparently, three of the year’s four biggest movies thought it was a good idea to duke it out during the same month. So what exactly happens when you put a superhero, an ogre, and a pirate into a cage match that appeals to every demographic under 45? That one’s simple: Moviegoers spend the month of May waiting in long lines to see Spider-Man 3, Shrek the Third, and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. Huge openings, huge box office, but, ultimately, the booty will be too evenly divided for anyone to claim true victory.
June: More sequels. Ocean’s Thirteen, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, and Live Free or Die Hard all ask just what it is about the previous installments of their franchises that warranted another go. Evan Almighty, one of the most expensive movies ever made, will ask, “Do you really think Steve Carrell is bigger than Jim Carrey?”
July: This month only has one sequel to blab about: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. If you don’t know what to expect yet, you’re an idiot. (Sorry.) The real story here is the release of The Simpsons Movie, which, after 147 seasons on Fox, should have a few jokes left in it. Oh yeah — and Michael Bay will destroy the Transformers franchise before it even gets off the ground.
August: Brett Ratner follows up X-3 with Rush Hour 3. Let’s hope it doesn’t suck as bad. More interesting: Rob Zombie directs a remake of Halloween. Can we preorder tickets now?
September: David Cronenberg returns with Eastern Promises (again with Viggo Mortensen in the lead, along with Naomi Watts), George Clooney stars in thriller Michael Clayton, and Neil Jordan directs Jodie Foster in The Brave One. Since when are Septembers a good month for movies?
October: Only one movie matters this month: Golden Age. Shekhar Kapur’s sequel to Elizabeth finds Cate Blanchett back on the throne in what might be the most unlikely sequel Hollywood has ever financed. Run, don’t walk, to the box office.
November: This is stupid-kid’s-movie month, as Christmas looms. Ignore the schlock. American Gangster, starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe and directed by Ridley Scott, looks promising enough, though. Vince Vaughn as Santa Claus’s brother in Fred Claus? Another likely winner. More difficult to swallow: Robert Zemeckis’s Beowulf. Didn’t Tristan + Isolde and Alexander teach him anything?