Holiday Movies 2016: All The Films to See This Month, and How They’re Being Marketed

From comedy to drama, and indie to blockbuster

Harry: "Every year I just try to get from the day before Thanksgiving to the day after New Year's."

Sally: "A lot of suicides."

Yeah, it's a stressful time of year. Many of us are dealing with extended family more than we do any other time of year, and so are looking for moments of respite and escape. We might disappear into our phones, we might hide a small bottle of wine in the linen closet, or we might drive to Target and just sit in the parking lot for a sec.

Hollywood is, of course, hoping we got to the movies. To that end, it's put together a December release slate that mixes in a little bit of everything, from family-friendly comedies to big-budget blockbusters to prestige dramas vying for awards consideration.

Let's have a look at the contenders.


Based on a True Story

Jackie (12/2)

Fox Searchlight created a campaign that focuses heavily on the style and visuals of director Pablo Larraín's biopic of one of the most famous First Ladies in U.S. history. Everything in the marketing emphasized the framing of the scenes of Natalie Portman in the title role moving through the stations of historical events that impacted the 1960s on a massive scale. We don't need to be told this is based on a true story because hopefully (if our Social Studies teachers did their jobs) we know that already.


Hidden Figures (12/30)

Less well known is this story of a group of black women who helped send the first U.S. astronauts to the moon. Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer star in this story of, essentially, racial equality in the workplace and that's been the tack the studio has taken with trailers that focus on the barriers the group faces as they just want to do their jobs. There's a clear message that this is a true story we may not be aware of as the movie is also obviously vying for award nominations.


Patriots Day (12/23)

Mark Wahlberg stars in his second movie of the year where he plays a real person who leaves his loving wife to go to work on a fateful day that will change everything. This one (the other was Deepwater Horizon) chronicles events from just a few years ago on the day of the bombings at the Boston Marathon and the manhunt for those responsible. The campaign has emphasized the drama, tears and other ground-level stories of the people involved in those events.



Indie Auteurs

La La Land (12/9)

Hey girl, how do you sell an original theatrical musical (most of which haven't fared well recently) about falling in love in L.A.? By leaning the hell into the premise and emphasizing, both in the marketing and the press, not just the starring turns by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling but also that it comes from the director of the acclaimed Whiplash. The movie will likely benefit not just from those stars but also with the almost universal praise it's earned from screenings at various festivals in the second half of this year. Oh, at it just looks incredibly damn charming.


20th Century Women (12/30)

Writer/director Mike Mills' follow-up to the critically-acclaimed Beginners seems genetically designed to dominate the Best Actress categories come awards season. Most importantly, it seems to be reminding everyone that Annette Bening is one of the most amazing actors around while selling what has constantly been referred to as a very autobiographical film from Mills about the women in his life.


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