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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.

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Synopsis » A biographical drama on the life of South African icon Nelson Mandela, played by Idris Elba ("Pacific Rim").

Oscar chances » In any other year, the movie and Elba’s performance would be strong contenders for Oscars. But the competition, namely "12 Years a Slave" and "Lee Daniels’ The Butler," may exhaust the Academy’s capacity for white liberal guilt.

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Opens » Nov. 27.

Synopsis » Director Alexander Payne’s black-and-white family drama follows an irascible old man (Bruce Dern) traveling cross-country with his estranged son (Will Forte) to pursue a million-dollar sweepstakes prize.

Oscar chances » A Best Actor nomination for Dern is likely, as is a supporting nod for June Squibb as his no-nonsense wife. And Payne could nail his third straight nomination as director (after "The Descendants" and "Sideways," for which he won screenwriting Oscars).

"Out of the Furnace"

Opens » Dec. 6.

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Synopsis » Scott Cooper ("Crazy Heart") directs this drama, starring Christian Bale as an ex-convict seeking justice when his brother (Casey Affleck) disappears after dealing with a ruthless crime ring.

Oscar chances » Bale is trying for a Best Actor nomination, but would be a long shot in a crowded field.


Opens » Nov. 27.

Synopsis » Judi Dench stars as a woman who seeks the son she gave up for adoption years earlier and enlists a jaded journalist (Steve Coogan) to help.

Oscar chances » Harvey Weinstein is pulling out the stops to get Dench a Best Actress nomination, and it’s likely to pay off.

"Saving Mr. Banks"

Opens » Dec. 20.

Synopsis » A fond look at the making of "Mary Poppins," especially the difficult relationship between its prickly author, P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), and the sunny Walt Disney (Tom Hanks).

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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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