Oscar Season Is Here — What You Shouldn’t Miss
1. The Master
Starring the inimitable Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix in his first post faux “retirement/breakdown” appearance, The Master tells the story of a magnetic cult leader, his belief system and his young protégé. Director Paul Thomas Anderson delivers a compelling story powered by some powerhouse performances.
Looper is Rian Johnson’s third movie after his debut (the surprisingly successful film noir set Orange County, Brick) and sophomore film (the con and caper tale The Brothers Bloom) — it’s a thriller/suspense/time travel movie that is a huge leap forward (no pun intended) for the filmmaker. With Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, playing an oddly convincing young Bruce Willis, Looper is a fast-paced adventure that grabs you up and doesn’t let you go until the very end.
Possibly the best movie of the year so far, Argo tells the true tale of the recently declassified mission to rescue six American hostages from Iran during the hostage crisis in 1980. Written by newcomer Chris Terrio and superbly directed by Ben Affleck, this movie is a master class on how to maintain nail-biting suspense even when your audience knows exactly how it’s going turn out.
It may be not Oscar material, but the first Bond movie after a four-year absence is chock full of Oscar caliber talent. Directed by Oscar-winner Sam Mendes (American Beauty), Skyfall brings Daniel Craig and Oscar-winner Dame Judi Dench (Shakespeare in Love) back as 007 and M and introduces what promises to be a Bond villain for the history books, played by yet another Oscar winner, Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men).
5. Life of Pi
An unlikely best-seller and award winner (the Man Booker Prize in 2002), the book Life of Pi has sold more than twice as many copies as the next best-selling Booker prize winner. About a boy, a tiger, a hyena, a zebra and an orangutan adrift at sea in a lifeboat, Life of Pi appears to be an unlikely movie as well. If anyone can pull it off, it would be director Ang Lee, who brought us Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and who won the Best Director Academy Award for Brokeback Mountain.
6. Zero Dark Thirty
She was the first woman ever to win the Academy Award for Best Director (The Hurt Locker). This year, Kathryn Bigelow (along with the writer who won the Oscar for Best Screenplay for The Hurt Locker, Mark Boal) is back with Zero Dark Thirty, which should be a mesmerizing look at the hunt for (and killing of) Osama Bin Laden by Seal Team 6.
7. Les Miserables
What are the chances that this December’s Les Miserables — a musical based on a 1990s movie based on a 1980s Broadway musical blockbuster based on an 1860s French novel — is going to be any good? Oscar winner Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) thinks they’re pretty good. Then again, with a cast that includes Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen it looks like the director may have stacked the deck.
8. Silver Linings Playbook
Oscar nominated director David O’Russell (The Fighter) is back this year with a tale of what you do after you lose everything. Starring Bradley Cooper and Oscar-nominated Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone), Silver Linings Playbook promises to be an emotional rollercoaster.