The Hollywood Reporter's November 25, 2011, issue

What to See: Your Awards Season Movie Guide

The Hollywood Reporter's November 25, 2011, issue

Director Martin Scorsese, seen here on the Nov. 25, 2011, cover of The Hollywood Reporter, can bank on some Oscar attention for his latest film, "Hugo."

Oscar nominations are more than a month away, but you can be in the know by catching these buzzed-about films.

It’s that time of year when movie buffs–and those who fancy themselves movie buffs–are treated to the best movies Hollywood has to offer. And there’s a reason for it: ‘Tis awards season, folks, and every studio in Tinseltown is hoping to garner some extra industry praise (and cold, hard box office cash) just in time for the big dance with a fella named Oscar.

Of course, there are hints as to which films will be singled out, and they come via magazine movie guides and early award shows. When a film gets enough buzz, you know it’s worth seeing. Here are the films worthy of your consideration.

1. “The Descendants,” starring George Clooney, Shailene Woodley. Entertainment Weekly calls it “sharp, funny, generous, and moving.” I’ll tell you it’s definitely heavy but incredibly thoughtful. This is a film that will keep you engaged long after you leave the theater. Early nods: National Board of Review of Motion Pictures prize for Clooney (Best Actor) and Woodley (Best Supporting Actress) as well as Independent Spirit Award noms for Clooney (Best Actor), Woodley (Supporting Actress), and Alexander Payne (Best Director, Best Screenplay).

2. “Hugo,” Sacha Baron Cohen, Ben Kingsley, Asa Butterfield. When you think “kids’ movie,” director Martin Scorsese probably doesn’t come to mind. But “Hugo,” based on Brian Selznick’s spectacular children’s book “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” isn’t just for kids. It’s a sophisticated 3-D film The Hollywood Reporter calls “a dazzling family friendly film” and that effortlessly “conjoins the earliest days of cinema with the very latest big-screen technology.” Need more convincing? The National Board of Review of Motion Pictures named it Best Picture, and Scorsese Best Director.

3. “Beginners,” Christopher Plummer, Ewan McGregor. It might only be writer-director Mike Mills’ second film, but this one–autobiographical in nature–is both poignant and funny. It tied for Best Picture (with “Tree of Life,” see below) at the Gotham Independent Film Awards, and New York magazine describes it as “a marvelously inventive romantic comedy … pickled in sadness, loss.”

4. “Tree of Life,” starring Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Sean Penn. Terrence Malick’s take on the meaning of life seemed to marginalize American audiences–they love it or hate it. Entertainment Weekly dubbed it as “profound–and more than a little puzzling.” However, the film nabbed the Palm d’Or (Best Picture) at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and tied for Best Picture (with “Beginners”) at the Gotham Awards.

5. “Melancholia,” starring Kirsten Dunst, Kiefer Sutherland, Alexander Skarsgard. Dunst won best actress at the Cannes Film Festival in May for her portrayal of a clinically depressed woman facing the end of the world–literally. The film also garnered three awards at the European Film Awards earlier this month, including Best Actress for Dunst and an award for cinematography. Entertainment Weekly hailed it as a “movie masterpiece,” “a work of genius,” and “a giant achievement” for Danish director Lars von Trier.

6. “The Artist,” Jean Dujardin, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller. For a film paying homage to silent movies, “The Artist” sure is making a lot of noise. Most recently, it picked up Best Film at the Washington, D.C., Area Film Critics Association. Entertainment Weekly suggests that the real romance of the film is between us, “the jaded 21st-century audience, and the mechanical innocence of old movies.”

None of these films is necessarily a “blockbuster” right out of the gate, but with a little awards season help, their studios will be rolling in it.

What films are you anticipating?