Welcome to autumn. As we all know—and if you don't, WHAT THE FUCK, ARE YOU LIVING UNDER A ROCK?—it's the time of year when the studios, big and small, start pushing their awards fodder pictures. Some look great. Some look like turds. Here's a handy list of five movies you should see and five movies you probably shouldn't.

Note: The movies you should avoid probably never fell into the "awards fodder" category. For that matter, the movies you SHOULD see probably don't either. In recent years—and let's be honest, not-so-recent years—lots of awards fodder movies are crap. Whatevs.


12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave must be, to someone like me, what The Passion of the Christ is to evangelical Christians. 12 Years a Slave must be—it must be—the most compelling, heartbreaking, and horrifying movie about American slavery ever produced. Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free man in 1841 Saratoga, NY, is kidnapped and sold into slavery in Louisiana. The first plantation is inhuman. The second is worse, run by a sadist (Michael Fassbender) whose very self-esteem seems linked to how much physical and psychological damage he can inflict upon his human property. 12 Years a Slave is not enjoyable, but it is smart, well-made and truly a movie every person should see. (Opens Nov. 8)

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

It's episode two, and Jennifer Lawrence still doesn't look all that hungry, but now, perhaps, she has good reason: She won the hunger games. All those cakes and cookies Woody Harrelson was downing in the OG? J. La gets all those now, too! I wasn't excited at all to see The Hunger Games; I was surprised by the movie's toughness, Lawrence's performance (and Lenny Kravitz's), and disturbed by the idea that a movie in which children murder each other could be PG-13. Here's to more of the same—except I haven't read the books, so I don't know what to expect. (Opens Nov. 22)

Inside Llewyn Davis

There's already so much hype surrounding this not-released-until-late-December Coen brothers movie that I'm loath to the throw it on the "see" list; movies with this much hype aren't to be trusted. But as a Coen brothers devotee from Blood Simple through True Grit—even if they've directed their fair amount of shit (rhyme!)—I'm looking forward to it. Sure, Inside Llewyn Davis has a distinctly terrible title and mundane premise—a week with a folk singer in 1961 Greenwich Village—but Oscar Isaac is a good actor who weathered Madonna's W.E., so he can probably carry this movie, which will undoubtedly (I hope) have its share of surprises. (Opens Dec. 20)


For me, Alexander Payne has a mixed track record. There's Election (truly great), The Descendants (near great), Citizen Ruth and About Schmidt (OK), and the truly reprehensible Sideways. I'm in the minority on the last one, but I've never wanted to murder a movie character more than Paul Giamatti's Miles. Accolades and bitching aside about Payne aside, Nebraska's cast is intriguing: Bruce Dern (!), Will Forte (!!), Bob Odenkirk (!!!), and Stacy Keach and June Squibb (!!!!). This father (Dern)-son (Forte) road trip comedy/drama got mixed reviews at Cannes but did well at Telluride. All that tells us is diff'rent strokes for diff'rent folks (to coin a phrase). At least it won't be boring. (Opens Nov. 22)


It may seem as if Spike Lee disappeared from the radar, but he's been busy. Since Inside Man in 2006, he directed TV pilots (Shark), documentaries (Kobe Doin' Work), and a feature that came and went (Red Hook Summer). That, literally, ain't the half of it. Oldboy is based on a Japanese manga (eh), stars Josh Brolin (yay!), Sharlto Copley (double yay!) and Elizabeth Olsen (the one with talent). It also features Samuel L Jackson in his first Spike Lee movie since Jungle Fever (WTF?). As for Oldboy's story, Brolin is an ad executive who's been kidnapped and held prisoner for 20 years, but is suddenly freed. Sounds promising, and Spike Lee is rarely dull. (Opens Nov. 27)


Escape Plan

Well, this movie looks shitty. I'm sure everyone involved with the making of The Expendables franchise crapped their Depends when a non-Rocky non-Rambo Sylvester Stallone series made money, but now that they've made so much money—and because Arnold Schwarzenegger and Stallone are pals or something—we get Escape Plan: A prison movie! My God, how many prison movies is Stallone going to make? This one is at least his third. And aside from Escape from Alcatraz, are there any good prison movies? (Don't say Shawshank. Just don't.) (Now playing)

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

I e-mailed a friend and asked whether he planned on seeing the second part (!) of the The Hobbit trilogy (!!). He answered: "The Bullshit: The Desolation of My Balls? Fucking pass." And this is a guy who counts among his favorite things the Lord of the Rings books and director Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings film series. So take that for what it's worth. (Opens Dec. 13)


Jason Statham is an undercover cop (or DEA agent or something) and James Franco is the redneck that wants to kill him, while Kate Bosworth and Winona Ryder appear in the trailer in a why-are-they-here? kind of way. Statham kills as well as Machete, but is it worth the price of admission to watch him end Franco? And is it too late to move this flick to the "See" column? (Opens Nov. 27)

Last Vegas

Here's what I want to see: Old guys at a bachelor party. Hey, Michael Douglas: Old guys acting young didn't work for your father in Tough Guys, and it ain't gonna work for you in Last Vegas. Shit. I quote Nicky Katt from Steven Soderbergh's The Limey: "Wouldn't you watch a show called Big Fat Guy? I'd watch that fuckin' show." Last Vegas is filled with old, preternaturally thin guys, and I will not watch that show if I can avoid it. (Opens Nov. 1)


Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa

It sounds terrible but it looks funny, or least the two-minute and 36-second trailer looks funny. The most surprising thing is that any of the parents at the kids' beauty pageant look surprised when the little kid Johnny Knoxville's Grandpa character tows around starts doing a pole dance. (Opens Oct. 25)