Year-end Oscar hopefuls coming soon to theaters

By Diana Saenger


Critics and movie fans alike agree that 2010’s movie releases have, for the most part, been a big disappointment.

Hollywood had high hopes that audiences would again embrace 3-D technology as it released “Toy Story 3” (which holds the top box-office spot this year so far) followed by “Alice in Wonderland,” but the jury’s still out on whether 3-D will win viewers over.

Among the many disappointments, even George Clooney’s connection to “The American” couldn’t draw much excitement to that slow and somber crime drama. “Iron Man 2” and “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” currently hold the third and forth spots for the year’s top-grossing films.

Traditionally, many of the best films arrive in the fall, when studios release what they hope will be Oscar contenders. To be eligible for the 83rd Academy Awards on Feb. 27, a film must have played in a major city in 2010.

September’s films offered an eclectic mix. “I’m Still Here,” a spoof on why Joaquin Phoenix quit acting, is a vile and contemptible film that no one should see. Ben Affleck’s “The Town” is a decent crime drama propelled by his expert direction and heartfelt performance.

“Easy A” is a witty comedy about Olive, a high school teen who makes up a sexual encounter to impress her friend. Rumors soon run rampant throughout the school and worse, Olive has to contend with the school’s Christian Club leader (Amanda Bynes) as well. Fans of the 1987 “Wall Street,” which earned Michael Douglas an Oscar, have eagerly awaited the sequel “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.” This updated version is still a plot about money, but Douglas, Shia LaBeouf and especially Carey Mulligan’s performances, along with the twists, keep the film tight and engaging.

“Catfish,” a documentary that’s definitely a fish out of water, is the story of a young man fooled by a Facebook connection with what he thinks is a great family. It’s somewhat predictable until a twist you never see coming. Another documentary worth checking out is “The Tillman Story” about Patrick Tillman, an NFL linebacker who gave up his lucrative career to join the Army Rangers and was killed in Iraq by friendly fire, but that’s not what the government reported. This tells the family’s more-than-six-year ordeal to get officials to tell the truth.

October blows in with more than 20 major releases.

  • “The Social Network,” a fictional film about how Facebook got started, is more about who really did and did not start the site and how it affected their lives.
  • Ryan Reynolds has an unforgettable experience staying in a coffin during the entire shoot for his role of a truck driver in Iraq in “Buried.” Even knowing how the real story of “Secretariat” ends, the excitement of this inspiring and heartfelt film had the audience members at the screening I attended clapping and standing throughout the film. Great performances by Diane Lane and John Malkovich.
  • “Waiting For ‘Superman’ ” has nothing to do with a flying superhero, but educational heroes who want better schools for our kids. The documentary juxtaposes several families of different racial and economic backgrounds who vie in a lottery for their kids to attend an urban boarding school.
  • Who better to stir up deception in “Stone” than Edward Norton and Robert De Niro? The battle between a convicted arsonist up for parole and a retiring police officer stirs passion and hidden secrets.
  • “Douchebag,” the Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury-nominated comedy, is about two estranged brothers who take a road trip to reunite before one gets married.
  • Clint Eastwood slips into the director’s chair yet again in the supernatural thriller “Hereafter,” about a psychic (Matt Damon) who resists his ability to communicate with the dead. Victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and 2005 London subway bombings figure predominantly in the story.
  • In “The Company Men,” three corporate workers (Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper, Tommy Lee Jones) lose their jobs. Each handles his fate differently, and one has to decide if getting kicked off the golf course is really the end of the American dream.
  • Will Ferrell will infuse his typically funny voice into the animated character of “Megamind,” who, once launched to Earth, ends up in a prison where he schemes to make superhero Metro Man (Brad Pitt) disappear.


  • “Slumdog Millionaire” Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle hopes to garner more raves for “127,” a film that James Franco is already getting Oscar buzz about. He portrays real-life adventurer Aron Ralston, who on a solo hike, fell and became trapped in a Utah mountain ravine. After five days of struggling to get out, he cut off his own arm.
  • Don’t expect a traditional Harrison Ford character in the comedy “Morning Glory,” in which he plays a former news anchor and now retired curmudgeon who is brought back to the station to raise morning show ratings.
  • “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” — the first half (the second and last of this series comes next year) will have all the magic and maybe more intrigue as Harry, Ron and Hermione are on the run from the Death Eaters.
  • Some men will do anything for love as proved in “The Next Three Days,” when a man (Russell Crowe) forms a scheme with a professional (Liam Neeson) to get his wife — convicted of murder — out of jail.
  • The seven-year wait for Cher’s return to the big screen ends when “Burlesque” hits theaters. The musical is about a nightclub stage manager (Cher) who has to deal with a temperamental singer (Kristen Bell) and mentor a greenhorn (Christina Aguilera).


  • Comedy fans get two doses of hysterical laughs with “Little Fockers,” the continuing family saga starring Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro and Barbra Streisand; and the 3-D “Gulliver’s Travels” with Jack Black as a newspaper mailroom clerk delegated to write an article on the Bermuda Triangle.
  • Jack Nicholson will add some laughs to the comedy/drama/romance “How Do You Know,” about a professional softball player (Reese Witherspoon). When she’s cut from the team, she commiserates with a businessman (Paul Rudd) who is accused of the financial misdealings of his father (Nicholson).
  • Cult followers of the 1982 sci-fi “Tron” are excited to see “Tron: Legacy” return to the screen and watch a programmer (Jeff Bridges) get zapped into a computer and try to get out.
  • A dark friendship develops between two ballet dancers (Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis) over one position in “Black Swan.”
  • The Coen Brothers make another push for the Oscar with the Christmas Day release of the remake (based more on the book than the film) of “True Grit.” Jeff Bridges plays the John Wayne role of a drunken U.S. marshal hired by a young girl to find her father’s killer.