From left: Rooney Mara stars as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; George Clooney is generating buzz for his role in The Descendants; Michelle Williams will likely get an Oscar nod for My Week with Marilyn, Michael Fassbender might get a nomination for Shame. (Flynet | Getty Images)
It's that time of year when nearly every weekend brings another critically-acclaimed movie to theaters, making Oscar bait as much a holiday tradition as egg nog and air travel. With an early eye toward the Academy Awards, here are seven films to catch as they hit theaters over the next two months.
1. The Descendants (Nov. 16th)
Alexander Payne's first full-length movie since About Schmidt is picking up Oscar steam thanks to some serious buzz at the Toronto International Film Festival and the kind of lead role that reminds us why we like George Clooney. The movie is expected to pick up a Best Picture nom along with nods for Clooney (Best Actor) and Payne (Director) and possibly newcomer Shailene Woodley for Best Supporting Actress.
2. My Week with Marilyn (Nov. 23rd)
We already know Michelle Williams bears a striking resemblance to Marilyn Monroe in the trailer for My Week with Marilyn, but the word is the performance is even better. This entire movie hinges on Williams' performance, which is expected to win her a nomination for Best Actress. Kenneth Branagh is also in the running for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as a frustrated Laurence Olivier, who was famously infuriated by Monroe's bahavior while filming The Prince and the Showgirl.
3. Shame (Dec. 2nd)
Director Steve McQueen has already been winning praise on the festival circuit for this NC-17 sex drama, which is only his second movie. He was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, but he's still a long shot for a Best Director nomination. However stars Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan are generating steam for Best Actor and Supporting Actress awards respectively.
4. Young Adult (Dec. 16th)
Twice-nominated director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody enjoyed acclaim when they teamed up on the 2007 film Juno, but this time most of the early accolades are going to the actors. Charlize Theron will likely be a Best Actress contender for playing Mavis Gary, a teen lit writer who heads back to her hometown to steal her high school flame away from his wife and newborn. Patton Oswalt is also looking like a safe bet for a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his role as her unlikely sidekick.
5. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Dec. 21st)
David Fincher has built up his credit with the Hollywood establishment by making the acclaimed Social Network and the saccharin Benjamin Button in the past three years. Now he's cashing in all his chips and coming back with a movie sure to be every bit as dark as his 1995 serial killer thriller Se7en. Early signs point to Rooney Mara winning a Best Actress nod for an incredibly aggressive performance as the title character. If the movie surpasses expectations, Fincher could find himself nominated for Best Director, and even a Best Picture nod wouldn't be totally out of the question.
6. War Horse (Dec. 25th)
Prolific workaholic Steven Spielberg turns in two movies in the coming months. The first, The New Adventures of Tintin, is expected to get a nod for Best Animated Feature Film, but War Horse is the real contender. The movie's protagonist is a horse recruited by the British army to fight zee Germans in World War I. It's expected to pick up nominations for Best Picture and Director, and possibly Cinematography and Adapted Screenplay.
7. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Jan. 20th, 2012; Dec. 25th limited release)
Producers launched a nation-wide talent search for a boy between the ages of 9 and 13 to find someone to play Oskar Schell, the precocious 10-year-old at the center of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. They found Thomas Horn on an episode of that most precocious of child TV endeavors, Jeopardy! Kids Week. The young newcomer bears much of the weight in this adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer's 2005 novel, but Sandra Bullock, Tom Hanks, Viola Davis, Max Von Sydow and John Goodman all round out the ensemble cast. The movie is expected to get nominations for Best Picture, Director (Stephen Daldry), Supporting Actor (Von Sydow) and Supporting Actress (Bullock).