Have you seen that film A Serious Man yet? No, wait, A Single Man. I mean A Solitary Man. Aaargh! Yes, three films are hitting us right now with remarkably similar titles. Let's differentiate them, shall we? We'll go alphabetically - which also will likely end up being the order I see them.
A Serious Man - This is the Coen brothers' latest. For a memory trick, just think, "Seriously, Coens?!" It's a Midwestern setting circa 1970: a professor and his life fall apart amid the swirl of his son's approaching bar mitzvah, his tenure review, and his wife leaving him. It has all kinds of really in-your-face Jewish things going on, but the "otherness" of them and the questions of identity, whether Jewish, Korean, or WASPy Midwest hunter, were totally the point. It is a blackly comedic and yet also quite serious film. I am so happy we attended John Serba's "My 2 Cents" discussion about it at Celebration! Cinema, because the discussers kept pointing out layer after layer that deserve consideration. It's quite the blend of physics, Jefferson Airplane, bureaucracy, religion, interpersonal relationships, mysticism, and so forth. I really think it's one of Joel and Ethan's best. Seriously.
A Single Man - This one's generating Oscar buzz for Colin Firth. Just think, "Is Colin Firth single?" which is a question on the mind of many a lady from time to time, right? (Answer: Sorry, ladies!) He plays a professor who tries to cope after the sudden death of his partner. Haven't seen it yet, and I want to first read the Christopher Isherwood novel on which it's based. I will probably have time to do so while I wait for the film to arrive in Grand Rapids.
A Solitary Man - This is the creepy one, with Michael Douglas getting together with a twentysomething. Just think: solitary = creepy, as in creepy solitary confinement. Honestly, I watched the trailer and thought, "Um - wow." It has quite the cast - Susan Sarandon, Danny DeVito, Mary Louise-Parker ... but we all make mistakes sometimes. I think it might be coming out in January? The release date appears to be up in the air. (Much like the wide release date of Up in the Air!) I read that Michael Douglas' performance is the only good thing about the film, and he plays a complete and total jerk. So there you go.
Well, I hope that clears up the confusion about A Serious/Single/Solitary Man. Because Awards Season is no time to be confused. And today is Golden Globes nominations day!!! I will weigh in later on what I think -- overall, there were few surprises -- but for the record, A Serious Man (Coens) got one GG nomination, for Best Actor (Michael Stuhlbarg) and A Single Man (Firth) got three, for him, Julianne Moore supporting, and original score.