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Holiday movie preview: Taking a chance on Oscar

Holiday movie preview » 14 movies between now and January take their shot at awards.

By Sean P. Means

| The Salt Lake Tribune

First Published Nov 22 2013 10:54 am • Last Updated Nov 25 2013 08:19 am

As the holidays approach, Hollywood is wrapping some special presents for moviegoers, working on the theory that if the studio gives, it will also receive.

What the studios hope to receive are shiny trophies, especially the gold-plated statuette called Oscar.

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Some of the holiday season’s most-anticipated movies are prestige pictures, those movies that won’t collect tons of box-office glory but will garner awards for their makers. Most of them are heavy dramas, dealing with dysfunctional families, criminal behavior, the Holocaust and the struggle against apartheid. The occasional comedy will pop up in the mix, but even those are on the serious side.

Here is a rundown of the major Oscar contenders arriving this holiday season, including a few that will arrive in a platform release in Utah in January (after a December Oscar-qualifying run in New York and Los Angeles). Mark your calendars in pencil, as some dates are tentative.

"American Hustle"

Opens » Dec. 18.

Synopsis » Christian Bale and Amy Adams star as flashy con artists who get involved with a madman FBI agent (Bradley Cooper) eager to lure New Jersey power brokers and gangsters into a trap. This ’80s-set drama is directed by David O. Russell, who guided Jennifer Lawrence (who plays Bale’s wife) to her Oscar in "Silver Linings Playbook."

Oscar chances » A major favorite for a Best Picture nomination, as well as likely nods for Adams and Russell and long-shot nominations for Cooper and Lawrence.

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"August: Osage County"

Opens » To be determined.

Synopsis » An adaptation of Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play, centering on the tough women of one family — with the matriarch, Violet (Meryl Streep), the toughest of all. The big cast includes Julia Roberts, Sam Shepard, Juliette Lewis, Ewan McGregor, Margo Martindale, Chris Cooper and Benedict Cumberbatch.

Oscar chances » Did I mention it’s got Meryl Streep in it? She’s favored for another Best Actress nomination. Roberts and Martindale may be slugging it out for a supporting nomination.

"Black Nativity"

Opens » Nov. 27.

Synopsis » A struggling single mom (Jennifer Hudson) sends her streetwise teen son (Jacob Latimore) to live with her estranged parents (Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett) in director Kasi Lemmons’ adaptation of Langston Hughes’ musical play.

Oscar chances » Slim hopes for Hudson and Whitaker, both previous winners; an Adapted Screenplay nod is a possibility.

"The Book Thief"

Next Page >

What’s opening, and when

Here is a tentative schedule for movies opening now through January.

Nov. 27

“Black Nativity” » See main story.

“The Book Thief” » See main story.

“Frozen” » Disney animates the tale of two sisters separated when one discovers a dangerous power to make snow and ice form.

“Homefront” » Jason Statham plays an ex-DEA agent protecting his daughter from a nasty drug dealer (James Franco).

“Nebraska” » See main story.

“Philomena” » See main story.

Dec. 6

“The Armstrong Lie” » Documentarian Alex Gibney finishes his profile of cyclist Lance Armstrong, begun before he admitted to doping during his Tour de France victories.

“Out of the Furnace” » See main story.

Dec. 13

“Bettie Page Reveals All” » The pinup legend tells her own story in this documentary.

“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” » The second of three movies in Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” prequel.

“Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy?” » Director Michel Gondry interviewed linguist and thinker Noam Chomsky, and animated the results.

“Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas” » America’s baddest grandma returns for the holidays.

Dec. 18

“American Hustle” » See main story.

Dec. 20

“Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” » Will Ferrell and the gang are back, this time taking Ron Burgundy to cable.

“Camille Claudel 1915” » Juliette Binoche stars as the temperamental sculptor and muse.

“Inside Llewyn Davis” » See main story.

“Saving Mr. Banks” » See main story.

“Walking With Dinosaurs” » A 3-D animated look at prehistoric creatures.

Dec. 25

“47 Ronin” » Samurai, including Keanu Reeves, are out for revenge in this action drama.

“Grudge Match” » Sylvester Stallone and Robert DeNiro play aged boxers returning to the ring.

“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” » See main story.

“The Wolf of Wall Street” » See main story.

Dec. 27

“Dear Mr. Watterson” » A documentary about the influence of Bill Watterson and his comic strip, “Calvin and Hobbes.”

Jan. 3

“Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” » The fifth installment in the horror franchise.

Jan. 10

“Her” » See main story.

“Hercules: The Legend Begins” » Kellan Lutz (from the “Twilight” saga) plays the muscular demigod.

“Lone Survivor” » Mark Wahlberg stars in this true story of a Navy SEAL mission to capture a Taliban leader.

“One Chance” » A biopic of Paul Potts, a shop assistant turned opera star on “Britain’s Got Talent.”

Jan. 17

“Devil’s Due” » A newlywed (Allison Miller) may be giving birth to the Antichrist in this horror film.

“Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” » Chris Pine takes over as Tom Clancy’s ace spy.

“The Nut Job” » Animated tale of a squirrel trying to rob a nut store.

“Ride Along” » A security guard (Kevin Hart) must prove himself to a cop (Ice Cube) before marrying the cop’s sister.

“Seventh Son” » A young man learns to fight evil spirits in this 18th-century action-adventure.

Jan. 24

“Gimme Shelter” » A drama about a homeless teen (Vanessa Hudgens) seeking her Wall Street father (Brendan Fraser).

“I, Frankenstein” » Aaron Eckhart plays the creature, caught in an ancient clan war, in this action drama.

“The Invisible Woman” » Ralph Fiennes directs and stars as Charles Dickens in a drama focusing on the author’s secret lover (Felicity Jones).

Jan. 31

“Labor Day” » See main story.

“That Awkward Moment” » Three single guys (Zac Efron, Michael B. Jordan, Miles Teller) each deal with commitment issues in this comedy.


“August: Osage County” » See main story.

“Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” » See main story.

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