At dinner the other day, I was telling a friend about a screening of a good movie I had just come from, called Amazing Grace. His response was, "If it's good, why is it coming out now?"
The question was completely valid. Oscar season focuses on movies that come out at the end of the year, and anything that comes out before early fall carries a potential stigma of not being among the best. That doesn't mean a good studio campaign can't make up the difference see "Crash" or "Little Miss Sunshine" in recent history but certainly many of us have been conditioned not to expect anything masterful in February.
While it probably won't contend for Best Picture honors, Amazing Grace is good, and its February 23 release has more to do with marking the 200th anniversary of a central plot point in its story, Britain's abolition of the slave trade, than any quality qualms. (Here's a Variety review that essentially dovetails with my feelings about the film.) That being said, it certainly would be nice if there could be more spreading of the film wealth throughout the year, rather than overwhelming us in the winter.
Fine performances are turned in by a cast including Ioan Gruffudd, Benedict Cumberbatch (what a great name), Michael Gambon and Albert Finney, who plays the repentant slave ship captain who penned the words of the renowned spiritual from which the movie takes its name.