We’ve heard it over and over again throughout the years. “January is a dumping ground.” “January movies are always bad.” “Uh oh, it’s January. No more good movies for awhile.” Etc. Take your pick, but you’re sure to have heard it time and time again. This year may be different and part of the reason for this is the number of prestigious filmmakers with indie and foreign roots who are helming the majority of the studio releases. Now, normally I’d hate writing this sort of thing because it’s usually something asked of me by an editor or publicist or marketing department trying to disguise advertising as a feature. (It’s a real thing called an “advertorial” and I hate ’em!!) But honestly, when I see interesting trends, I like writing about them, and the collection of directors with new movies this month has motivated me to write something.
First of all, this January brings a new movie from Oscar-winning filmmaker Steven Soderbergh with the spy action-thriller Haywire, his second movie in four months (though this one was made before Contagion). We’re also getting the survival thriller The Grey from director Joe Carnahan, whose earlier police drama Narc was considered awards worthy as well. (Oddly enough, both guys had some of their earliest work at the Sundance Film Festival–Soderbergh with Sex, Lies and Video Tape and Carnahan with Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane.)
Then we have Icelandic filmmaker Baltasar Kormákur who makes his English language debut with Mark Wahlberg’s crime-thriller Contraband, which itself is based on a little known Icelandic film. Kormákur first got attention with his 2000 film 101 Reykjavik and his serial killer drama Jar City debuted at the prestigious Toronto Film Festival.
The Sam Worthington crime-thriller Man on a Ledge marks the Hollywood debut of Scandinavian filmmaker Asger Leth of Ghosts of Cité Soleiland The Five Obstructions, the latter a collaboration with Lars von Trier. Leth actually won a DGA award in the documentary category for the former after it played a number of big festivals.
Even the directors of Underworld Awakening, Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein, are Swedish horror directors who have received accolades for their earlier film Storm, although it never received a US release.
Now mind you, I’m not saying that any of the movies above are good or bad, though I’ve seen a couple of them already. It’s just a really interesting way to start the year when you’re used to bad movies being dumped into the January release schedule and here you have six filmmakers who have done work that has received accolades and awards, including a couple foreign filmmakers making major studio debuts.
I’m curious to know whether anyone reading this was aware of the past credentials of some of these directors and whether that motivates you to see more movies in January than you migh have otherwise.