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Fall movie preview: A change of seasons
82 titles » Still some blockbusters out there, but more of the serious fare considered Oscar hopefuls.
First Published Sep 05 2012 04:25 pm • Last Updated Dec 25 2012 11:31 pm

How do you know when it’s fall at the movies?

For one thing, the source material shifts from comic books ("The Avengers") and board games ("Battleship") to works of famous literature, such as Anna Karenina and On the Road.

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This is the season when the tone turns serious, as Hollywood aims to appeal to teen moviegoers as well as the tastes of Oscar voters.

Fall is also that time of year when the movies that wowed the crowds at January’s Sundance Film Festival finally find a slot in a distributor’s schedule.

It’s not all heavy lifting, though. There also are a fair number of comedies, children’s fare, a few horror films in time for Halloween and the occasional blockbuster — which this fall includes the latest James Bond thriller and the final chapter in the "Twilight" saga.

This season’s movies includes scenes of Kristen Stewart drinking blood — and hanging out with beat poets.

It’s also the season when you can see Amy Adams as a religious leader’s wife, a baseball scout’s daughter or someone hanging out with beat poets.

You can see Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt, watch the CIA save Americans in ’70s Iran or hunt down Osama Bin Laden. Or you can meet couples surviving a tsunami or making it through middle age.

Here’s a full rundown of this fall’s Oscar contenders and other treats.

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Oscar contenders

Getting presidential could lead to Oscar glory for Daniel Day-Lewis, as he portrays the guy on the penny in "Lincoln" (Nov. 9), a historical biography that teams director Steven Spielberg and playwright Tony Kushner ("Angels in America"). Bill Murray plays Franklin Roosevelt in "Hyde Park on Hudson" (December), navigating a romance with a distant cousin (Laura Linney) as he plays host to King George VI (Samuel West) and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman).

Writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson follows up "There Will Be Blood" with "The Master" (Sept. 21), a drama about a World War II veteran (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who forms a religious organization around himself, aided by his wife (Amy Adams) and his right-hand man (Joaquin Phoenix) — who becomes disillusioned by his leader. (Any similarities to L. Ron Hubbard and the founding of the Church of Scientology are for viewers, and teams of lawyers, to ponder for themselves.)

John Hawkes’ performance in the fact-based comedy-drama "The Sessions" (Oct. 26) — as quadriplegic poet/journalist Mark O’Brien, discovering sex for the first time with the help of a "sex surrogate" therapist (Helen Hunt) — has been generating Oscar talk from the first standing ovation at this year’s Sundance Film Festival (when it played under the title "The Surrogate"). Another Sundance hit, Nicholas Jarecki’s "Arbitrage" (Sept. 14), could land Richard Gere his first Oscar nomination, for his portrayal of a Bernie Madoff-like stock trader trying to keep his financial world from crumbling.

Literary adaptations are always sure-fire Oscar contenders. Director Joe Wright gives a theatrical sheen to Tolstoy’s "Anna Karenina" (November), with his "Atonement" star Keira Knightley as the tragic Russian heroine torn between her husband (Jude Law) and the brooding Count Vronsky ("Kick-Ass" star Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Bradley Cooper goes semiserious in "Silver Linings Playbook" (Nov. 21), an adaptation of Michael Quick’s novel by David O. Russell ("Flirting With Disaster"), about a teacher released from a mental institution and meeting a young woman (Jennifer Lawrence) with her own problems.

Ang Lee applies wondrous images and 3-D effects to "Life of Pi" (Nov. 21), an adaptation of Yann Martel’s novel about a zookeeper’s son stranded in the Indian Ocean with a Bengal tiger and other animals. Characters transport across millennia and through different lives in "Cloud Atlas" (Oct. 26), an ambitious adaptation of David Mitchell’s novel starring Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, and directed by Andy and Lana Wachowski ("The Matrix") and Tom Tykwer ("Run Lola Run").

Ben Affleck directs and stars in "Argo" (Oct. 12), based on a true story of a daring CIA plan to rescue Americans from the Iranian revolution — by enlisting a Hollywood producer (Alan Arkin) to help CIA agents pose as a Canadian film crew.

A parent (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and a teacher (Viola Davis) take over their school in "Won’t Back Down" (Sept. 28), a drama already being accused by teachers unions of demonizing them.

Denzel Washington stars in "Flight" (Nov. 2) as a pilot whose heroic crash landing leads to uncomfortable revelations, in the first live-action effort in some time by director Robert Zemeckis ("Forrest Gump").

An elderly couple (Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva) find their love tested by illness in "Amour" (to be determined), the drama from director Michael Haneke ("Cache," "The White Ribbon") that won the Palme D’Or at Cannes.

Approaching Christmas, much of the movie world is awaiting Peter Jackson’s return to Middle-Earth with "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" (Dec. 14), the first of three films to chronicle the journey of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) that leads to his encounter with the ghoulish Gollum (Andy Serkis) and his acquisition of a particular ring.

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