No more giant presents under the tree this weekend, at least in the form of new wide-release movies. Instead, there are some limited-release indie gems, all of them fascinated with human frailties and relationships, and all of them poised for possible Oscar glory over the next couple of months.

In Limited Release

'Blue Valentine' (R)

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams
Directed by: Derek Gianfrance
What's It About? This romantic drama takes an intimate look at the relationship of a young couple (Gosling and Williams), both during the excitement and fear of their early courtship and a few years later during the bitterness and recrimination of their failing marriage.
Why Should You See It? Gosling and Williams both give awards-caliber performances of raw, occasionally shocking honesty and bravery in this drama, whose poignance stems from the contrast between the back and forth scenes of the couple both then and now. There was some controversy over the movie's handful of frank sexual moments, which almost earned it an NC-17, but this is one film where you can say that the sex scenes are not exploitative and really do serve the story.
You Might Like It If You Like: 'Revolutionary Road,' 'Eyes Wide Shut,' 'The Notebook'

Showtimes & Tickets | Read Our Review
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Watch a Scene From the Movie and Mr. Moviefone's Six Second Review


Also New and Noteworthy


'Another Year' is another comedy-drama from British kitchen-sink master Mike Leigh ('Secrets & Lies,' 'Vera Drake'), this time about an aging couple (Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen) and their loose-cannon, newly single friend (Lesley Manville, whose performance represents the movie's best shot at an Oscar).

Showtimes & Tickets | Watch the Trailer | Read Our Review

'Biutiful,' a Spanish-language drama from Mexican film titan Alejandro González Iñárritu ('Babel,' 'Amores perros'), stars Javier Bardem (in a performance likely to earn the 'No Country for Old Men' star a repeat visit to the Kodak Theatre) as a Barcelona black marketeer who must rearrange his complicated life when he develops cancer.

Showtimes & Tickets | Watch the Trailer | Read Our Review

Still in Theaters, Still Awesome


'True Grit' - There's a terrific performance in this Coen Brothers western - a turn that's fearless, fiery, commanding and full of horse-ridin', gun-shootin' action - from teen newcomer Hailee Steinfeld. Jeff Bridges is pretty impressive, too. Showtimes & Tickets | Watch the Trailer
'Country Strong' - There's a terrific performance in this Nashville soap -a turn that's full of sexiness, conflict, danger, and surprisingly good singing - from 'Gossip Girl' star/movie ingenue Leighton Meester. Gwyneth Paltrow is pretty impressive, too. Showtimes & Tickets | Watch the Trailer
'Gulliver's Travels' - There's a terrific performance in this kiddie comedy - all right, you know this drill. It's a Lilliputian Jason Segel who steals the movie from gargantuan Jack Black. Showtimes & Tickets | Watch the Trailer

Staying in This Weekend?

New on DVD This Week: Milla Jovovich returns to kick more undead butt in 'Resident Evil: Afterlife,' the fourth installment of the zombie-fighting franchise. This one upped the gore and special-effects antes with some state of the art 3-D, but the movie should still look pretty formidable at home on your 2-D TV. Buy or rent the DVD | More new DVD releases

Movie Homework: Ryan Gosling sealed his status as one of the top romantic movie heartthrobs of our day in 'The Notebook,' but his intense romance with Michelle Williams in the new 'Blue Valentine' owes more of a debt to the indie-before--the-word-was-coined films of John Cassavetes. The actor-director became known to his cult of fans (and to the many filmmakers he influenced) for his semi-improvisational, gritty, candid tales of passion, violence, betrayal and hard-won love. Like 'Blue Valentine,' his comedy 'Minnie and Moskowitz' (1971) depicts an unlikely courtship between a fiery slacker (Seymour Cassel) and a woman who thinks she's too good for him (Gena Rowlands). It's the sort of defiantly ragged movie that's unlike the generally polished, glossy, more traditional Hollywood romances like 'The Notebook.' Though there is a connection: Rowlands (who was also Mrs. John Cassavetes in real life) appeared in 'The Notebook' as the older version of Gosling's flame, and the film was directed by John and Gena's son, Nick Cassavetes. So maybe that's where Gosling picked up the affinity for the elder Cassavetes' work that so clearly informs 'Blue Valentine.' Buy or rent the DVD

On Our Netflix Queue: There's no better way to celebrate New Year's Eve than getting sloppy drunk with old college pals. At least, that seems to be the notion behind 'Peter's Friends,' a comedy set at an English country mansion that plays like 'The Big Chill' without all the politics or Motown songs and with more witticisms and heavy English cooking. Of course, the movie came out nearly 20 years ago, so looking at two-decades-younger versions of Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry, Kenneth Branagh, Imelda Staunton and token Yank Rita Rudner has its own added, unintentional nostalgia value. Buy or rent the DVD

•Follow Gary Susman on Twitter @garysusman.