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Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti star in Palm Springs.

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Just as most everyone would like to fast-forward to Christmas 2021 (or 2022), a large swath of Hollywood has written off the rest of the year. But there is hope – it just won’t be found in theatres (mostly). Presenting The Globe and Mail’s guide to the strangest holiday movie season ever. All dates and details are, naturally, subject to change.

Big Shiny Oscar Hopefuls

Mank

The simplest summary of David Fincher’s Mank is that it is about the battle for creative credit over Citizen Kane. In one corner is screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman). In the other is brash director Orson Welles (Tom Burke). But Mank isn’t a love letter to the Golden Age of Hollywood – it’s much more complicated, and interesting, than that. Expect the Oscars, however they might proceed next year, to spare lots of love for this epic. (Dec. 4, Netflix)

Let Them All Talk

The title of this new Steven Soderbergh film could also describe the filmmaker’s year. Thanks to his prescient 2011 film Contagion, the director has been on the tip of everyone’s anxious tongues. It’s doubtful that Soderbergh’s latest will be as widely discussed, but a good portion of industry eyes will be on how his experimental comedy, starring Meryl Streep and shot aboard the RMS Queen Mary 2 as it crossed the Atlantic, performs in the streaming world. (Crave, Dec. 11)

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Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Of the two big stage-to-film adaptations that Netflix invested in this year, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom has a few advantages over The Boys in the Band. First: August Wilson’s original play about a group of Black musicians losing their composures in 1920s Chicago has better withstood the test of time than Mart Crowley’s chamber piece about a group of gay men in 1970s Manhattan. Second: Ma Rainey features a knockout cast led by Chadwick Boseman, in his final performance. (Dec. 18, Netflix)

The Father

Anthony Hopkins already has an Academy Award for best actor. But he doesn’t have two, and The Father makes an excellent case that Sir Tony should have whatever he desires. Playing a man struggling with memory loss, Hopkins delivers the best on-screen portrayal of dementia ever produced. Director Florian Zeller, adapting his own play, pulls off a thrilling kind of cinematic magic trick here, too, placing the audience in the exact kind of discombobulating tailspin that Hopkins’s character is forced into. (In theatres, Dec. 25)

News of the World

Tom Hanks already saved the world’s stuck-at-home fathers this summer, when his Second World War thriller (and peak Dad Cinema offering) Greyhound skipped theatres to debut on Apple TV+. No such luck this winter, as his 1870s-set Western drama News of the World is debuting in theatres, and only theatres, on Christmas Day in the U.S. and Canada. (International audiences/dads get a reprieve, as the film’s global rights were picked up by Netflix.) But hey, maybe more cinemas will be open in a month’s time so everyone can enjoy this Paul Greengrass-directed epic? Right?? (In theatres, Dec. 25)

Pieces of a Woman

There are performances that shock you, ground you, and break you apart. It is not often when an actor is able to deliver all of those reactions and more in the span of two hours, yet here is Vanessa Kirby proving herself as one of the most capable stars of the moment. As Pieces of a Woman’s high-powered executive who loses her child during a home birth, Kirby digs deep into the muck of human frailty, emerging with a portrait of a woman devastated from the inside out. A warning, though: absolutely do not watch this if you’re pregnant. (Dec. 31 in select theatres, Jan. 7 on Netflix)

Holiday Comfort Food

Godmothered

If there are two fierce, often filthy comic actresses who deserve more attention than we have given them, they are Jillian Bell (Brittany Runs a Marathon) and Isla Fisher (Wedding Crashers). While both will surely be forced on their best PG-rated behaviour for Disney+’s new fantasy comedy Godmothered, at least they’ll also get the widest audience exposure yet. (Dec. 4, Disney+)

Soul

It is more than a bit crushing that Pixar’s first movie with a Black lead has been relegated to a streaming debut instead of the theatrical premiere that it deserves. But Soul’s straight-to-Disney+ release will also provide much-needed comfort and entertainment for millions of homebound children (and their pushed-to-the-brink parents) facing a bleak Christmas. Bonus: early buzz is that this is one of Pixar’s best since 2015′s Inside Out. (Dec. 25, Disney+)

Big Shiny Distractions

Palm Springs

It’s a Christmas miracle! I had all but given up hope that this Andy Samberg/Cristin Milioti spin on Groundhog Day would ever escape the clutches of U.S.-only streaming service Hulu’s digital borders since it premiered this past summer. But lo and behold, Amazon Prime Video Canada has picked it up, many months later. If you somehow haven’t already seen it through, um, other methods, then prepare for a delightful, bizarre, and ultimately beautiful romp. (Dec. 18, Amazon Prime Video)

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The Midnight Sky

George Clooney’s last directorial effort, 2017′s Suburbicon, was one of the worst movies of that year. But I have a hunch/hope that the actor’s new behind-the-camera exercise, The Midnight Sky, will be better. Because, from an odds perspective, it has to be. It also helps that the ever-charming Clooney is starring this time, too, playing an Arctic scientist trying to warn a group of astronauts led by Felicity Jones not to come back home to an apocalyptic Earth. Sounds, um, fun! (Dec. 18, Netflix)

Wonder Woman 1984

Perhaps you’ve heard of this superhero sequel? Pushed around the calendar so many times that it makes Tenet’s release hopscotch positively quaint, the Patty Jenkins-directed epic is the last big blockbuster hope of 2020. And maybe 2021. For those lucky (?) enough to live in the U.S., it will be available both in theatres and on upstart streamer HBO Max on Dec. 25. For the rest of the world, we’ll have to seek out the few remaining theatres that will be open in a month’s time. (Dec. 25, in theatres)

Promising Young Woman

After impressing Sundance attendees back in the halcyon days of January, the Carey Mulligan-led revenge thriller is doing the unthinkable: opening in theatres in 2020. Apparently packing one hell of a final act, in addition to a typically excellent Mulligan performance, Promising Young Woman is the twisty blood-spilling pleasure that could prove extraordinarily cathartic. (Dec. 25, in theatres)

Monster Hunter

Director Paul W.S. Anderson and actress Milla Jovovich have already pulled off two impressive feats: establishing the Resident Evil franchise as a bona fide cinematic success story, and proving that Hollywood marriages work. The husband and wife team up again for this self-explanatory thriller. Any other year, I couldn’t care less about a PG-rated video-game adaptation. But staring down a positively barren January release calendar, I might just watch Monster Hunter two-dozen times. (Dec. 25, in theatres)

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