By Kam Williams
Right around the same time that visions of Santa and sugarplums start dancing around in children’s heads, matinee idols begin dreaming of winning an Academy Award. That’s because the studios wait until the Holiday Season to release their best films in theaters, given how Academy voters tend to forget pictures and performances from earlier in the year.
AND 2010 is no different, as we have a crowded field of late-arriving offerings being rushed into theaters to make what’s referred to in the industry as an Oscar-qualifying run. Among the cast and crew members generating buzz this go-round are not only plenty of the usual suspects, such as previous nominees like Natalie Portman and Jake Gyllenhaal but also a number of talented, relative newcomers like Kate Bosworth and Anthony Mackie.
Burlesque (Thanksgiving) Musical drama about an aspiring singer from the Midwest (Christina Aguilera) who moves to L.A. where she’s given a big break to perform on stage by the stripper-turned-owner (Cher) of a failing burlesque theater. With Kristen Bell, Stanley Tucci and Alan Cumming.
The King’s Speech (Thanksgiving) Costume drama, set in the Twenties, recounting the rise to power of shy and retiring King George VI (Colin Firth) with the help of a therapist (Geoffrey Rush) who helped his majesty to suppress his stutter. With Claire Bloom as Queen Mary, Michael Gambon as King George V and Oscar-nominee Helena Bonham Carter as Queen Elizabeth.
Love and Other Drugs (Thanksgiving) Academy award-winner Edward Zwick directs a couple of Oscar-nominees (Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal) in this romantic comedy based on Jamie Reidy’s mermoir “Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman” about a free spirit who meets her match in a charming ladies man. Support cast includes Oliver Platt, Hank Azaria and recently-deceased Jill Clayburgh, a two-time Oscar-nominee.
All Good Things (12/3) NYC crime saga, set in the Eighties, about the real-life case of the son (Ryan Gosling) of a real estate tycoon (Frank Langella) who falls in love with and marries a tenant (Kirsten Dunst) over his father’s objections only to have his wife subsequently disappear under mysterious circumstances. Support cast includes Philip Baker Hall and SNL’s Kristen Wiig.
Black Swan (12/3) Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler) directs this psychological thriller, set in NYC, revolving around a couple of ballet dancers (Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis) competing to land the lead role in a production of Swan Lake. With Vincent Kassel and Oscar-nominees Barbara Hershey and Winona Ryder.
I Love You Phillip Morris (12/3) Ewan McGregor handles the title role in this homoerotic comedy about a happily-married, police officer (Jim Carrey) who comes out-of-the-closet after a motorcycle accident and subsequently falls in love with his cellmate when he lands behind bars. With Lesley Mann, Rodrigo Santoro and Nicholas Alexander.
Night Catches Us (12/3) Prodigal Son drama, set in Philly in 1976, about a former Black Panther (Anthony Mackie) who returns to his ‘hood after a four-year absence only to be met with suspicion by his former comrades except for an old flame (Kerry Washington) who has become a lawyer in the interim. With Tariq Trotter, Jamie Hector and Wendell Pierce.
The Warrior’s Way (12/3) Western action fantasy, set in the Badlands, about a martial arts master (Jang Dong Ton) who emigrates from Asia to America to retire in peace, only to have to pick up his sword again to defend his adopted hometown and a beautiful local gal (Kate Bosworth) from the returning gang of marauders who had made her an orphan many moons ago. With Danny Huston, Tony Cox, and Oscar-winner Geoffrey Rush.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (12/10) The third installment in the film franchise based on the C.S. Lewis series of fantasy novels finds Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy Pensie (Georgie Henley), along with their cousin Eustace (Will Poulter), returning to the magical land of Narnia to embark on a dangerous, seafaring mission taking them to the edge of the world. Cast includes Simon Pegg and Oscar-winners Liam Neeson and Tilda Swinton.
The Company Men (12/10) Downsizing drama about the fallout visited upon a trio of fired corporate executives (Academy Award-winners Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper and Tommy Lee Jones) and their families following a restructuring by a conglomerate as a cost-cutting measure. With Maria Bello, Craig T. Nelson and Oscar-winner Kevin Costner.
The Fighter (12/10) Overcoming the odds bio-pic chronicling light welterweight boxer “Irish” Micky Ward’s (Mark Wahlberg) real-life journey on the road to redemption with the help of his half-brother trainer (Christian Bale) leading to a shot at the championship title. With Oscar-nominees Melissa Leo and Amy Adams.
The Tempest (12/10) Academy Award-nominee Julie Taymor’s iconoclastic interpretation of the Shakespeare play features Oscar-winner Helen Mirren in the lead role of Prospero, thereby transforming the beloved classic into a gender-bending tale of female empowerment revolving around a woman caught up in a volcanic struggle for survival and a quest for vengeance. Ensemble cast includes Russell Brand, Alan Cumming, Alfred Molina, and Oscar-nominees Djimon Hounsou, Tom Conti and David Strathairn.
The Tourist (12/10) English-language remake of Anthony Zimmer, the French thriller about an American (Johnny Depp) vacationing in Italy who finds himself falling in love with a manipulative British temptress (Angelina Jolie) being tailed by the police because of her hidden criminal agenda. With Rufus Sewell, Timothy Dalton and Paul Bettany.
Barney’s Version (12/17) Screen adaptation of Mordecai Richler’s picaresque novel of the same name featuring Paul Giamatti in the titular role as a heavy-drinking, cigar-smoking, politically-incorrect TV producer doing his best to reflect upon his life despite the limitations of advanced Alzheimer’s. With two-time Academy Award-winner Dustin Hoffman and nominee Minnie Driver.
Casino Jack (12/17) Two-time Academy Award-winner Kevin Spacey plays the title character in this political comedy revisiting the scandal which ruined the career of Jack Abramoff, the once-powerful DC lobbyist convicted of fraud, conspiracy, tax evasion and influence peddling. Cast includes Barry Pepper, Jon Lovitz and Kelly Preston.
Frankie & Alice (12/17) Oscar-winner Halle Berry stars in this psychological drama about a woman with a split personality’s struggle to get control over her self-hating, racist alter ego. Supporting cast includes Phylicia Rashad, Stellan Skarsgard and Chandra Wilson.
How Do You Know? (12/17) Three-time Academy Award-winner James L. Brooks directs this romantic comedy in which a free-spirited 27 year-old (Reese Witherspoon) lands in a love triangle where she has troubled deciding between a major league baseball player (Owen Wilson) and a corporate executive (Paul Rudd) who’s just lost his job. This film also features another triple-Oscar winner in Jack Nicholson.
Rabbit Hole (12/17) Relationship crisis drama about a grieving couple (Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart) whose world comes apart at the seams in the wake of the car accident which claimed the life of their son (Phoenix List). With Sandra Oh, Giancarlo Esposito and two-time Oscar-winner Dianne Wiest.
Tron: Legacy (12/17) Sci-fi sequel finds the tech-savvy son (Garrett Hedlund) of a missing video game developer (Jeff Bridges) pulled into a parallel, cyber universe where he searches for his father with the help of a fearless warrior (Olivia Wilde). Support cast includes Yaya DaCosta, Bruce Boxleitner and Michael Sheen.
Yogi Bear (12/17) Combination live action/CGI adventure finds “smarter than the average bear” Yogi (Dan Ackroyd ) and sidekick Boo-Boo (Justin Timberlake) joining forces with Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh) to save Jellystone Park from greedy developers. With Anna Faris, Christine Taylor and T.J. Miller.
Country Strong (12/22) Relationship drama about a fading country music star (Gwyneth Paltrow) whose marriage ends up in trouble when she goes on tour with an up-and-coming singer/songwriter (Garrett Hedlund) accompanied by her husband (Grammy Winner Tim McGraw) and a beauty queen (Leighton Meester) just breaking into the business.
Gulliver’s Travels (12/22) Overhaul of the Jonathan Swift classic, set in the present, stars Jack Black in the title role as an aspiring travel writer sent on his first assignment to investigate the Bermuda Triangle who ends up on the mysterious island of Lilliput where he towers over its tiny inhabitants. Cast includes Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Amanda Peet and Billy Connolly.
Little Fockers (12/22) Third installment of the Meet the Parents franchise finds overprotective dad (Robert De Niro) questioning whether his underachieving son-in-law (Ben Stiller) will be a good enough provider for his daughter (Teri Polo) and twin grandchildren (Daisy Tahan and Colin Baiocchi). Star-studded cast includes Blythe Danner and Oscar-winners Barbra Streisand and Dustin Hoffman, as well as nominees Owen Wilson, Harvey Keitel and Laura Dern.
Somewhere (12/22) Oscar-winner Sofia Coppola wrote and directed this redemption drama about a freewheeling Hollywood matinee idol (Stephen Dorff) who suddenly finds himself contemplating some serious lifestyle changes after his ex-wife (Michelle Monaghan) unexpectedly gives him custody of their 11 year-old daughter (Elle Fanning).
True Grit (12/22) Coen Brothers remake of the John Wayne Western about a U.S. Marshal (Jeff Bridges) who helps a 14 year-old girl (Hailee Steinfeld) track down her father’s murderer (Josh Brolin). With Barry Pepper, Ed Corbin and Oscar-winner Matt Damon.