A new year brings hope for the film world, but not immediately.
Even as the upcoming Oscars, (online) Sundance Film Festival and a slew of 2021 theatrical dates portend a little normalcy, reality hasn't budged. Above all, Oregon movie theaters are still closed indefinitely.
So how best to preview another film year in which release dates are basically placeholders? Much like the industry, we pivot mostly to streaming. Here, we'll focus on movies with reliable release dates this winter, so film lovers can mark their calendars, enjoy at home and keep hoping for better.
Some Kind of Heaven
Like an exposé stumbling into a dreamscape, Lance Oppenheim's documentary on the gargantuan Central Florida retirement community The Villages looks like a bizarre cure for the COVID blues. That is, if you want to watch partying septuagenarians—socialites, golf nuts, last-chance lovers, and a couple of dopers—who are all absolutely getting that vaccine before you do. Cinema 21, Hollywood Theatre, Virtual Cinema.
One Night in Miami…
Academy Award-winning actress Regina King's directorial debut stages an informal 1964 summit of Muhammad Ali, Sam Cooke, Jim Brown and Malcolm X, mostly in a hotel room. Based on Kemp Powers' play, it asks the world of its actors: embody famed prodigiousness while also revealing human conflict. The result is two remember-that-name turns from Kingsley Ben-Adir (Malcolm X) and Aldis Hodge (Jim Brown). Amazon Prime.
Two of 2020's seemingly best releases—Isaac Lee Chung's Minari and Chloé Zhao's Nomadland—weren't actually released last year. While the Minari rollout is still mostly a mystery (in theaters Feb. 12…somewhere!), Best Picture front-runner Nomadland hits Hulu next month. Writer-director Zhao, who arrived with The Rider in 2018 and has already entered the MCU with the forthcoming The Eternals, turns her watchful camera on Frances McDormand as a bereaved and laid-off woman traversing and surviving America in a van. Hulu, Feb. 19.
Judas and the Black Messiah
Onetime comedic director Shaka King chronicles the galvanizing hope and conspiratorial murder of Black Panther Party chairman Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya) in 1969. The trailer is electrifying, and Kaluuya and co-star LaKeith Stanfield are clearly in the prime of their hopefully boundless careers. Also on HBO Max in 2021: every single Warner Bros. movie, but also maybe not Dune anymore? We'll see. HBO Max, Feb. 12.
Malcolm & Marie
More than a few Hollywood productions braved the pandemic with skeleton crews and contained locations, but this Sam Levinson-directed bottle drama is the only one with real buzz. Here, Euphoria star Zendaya reunites with her showrunner Levinson for a two-hander defined by black-and-white photography and burbling domestic contempt. It also looks like the first time Zendaya will play an adult, and co-star John David Washington will dispense with his preternatural chill. Netflix, Feb. 5.
The world may not be holding its breath to see wonder boy Tom Holland portray a veteran addicted to opioids, but there's certainly curiosity to see what the Russo Brothers and their Spidey actor have wrought with an unrivaled blank check after Avengers: Endgame. Apple TV+, March 12.
Leading indie studio A24 mostly kept its powder dry during the pandemic, but finally plans to make director Rose Glass' much-anticipated horror film available. Sharing some of the high tones of The Witch and Hereditary, Saint Maud looks like a genuine skin-crawler. A medical caretaker (Morfydd Clark) feels a spirit guiding her altruism, but what kind of "spirit" exactly? On Demand, Feb. 12.
Lest this list basically rattle off the world's biggest media corporations and their properties, let's go off the beaten path. Mubi is a nifty cinephile-centric service that sometimes acquires foreign and indie titles like Beginning, a stunning-looking Georgian drama about a community of Jehovah's Witnesses who see their church burned to ash. You can watch a captivating scene from Dea Kulumbegashvili's film on YouTube now. Mubi, Jan. 29.
NW Film Center continues to offer ticketed movies at home this winter, now featuring Italian director Gianfranco Rosi's latest. Shot over three years across Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Kurdistan, Notturno is nominally a war film, but opts to comb the margins of carnage to see how violence disfigures civilian life and a natural order that will, hopefully, outlast geopolitics. NW Film Center.