Ah, mid-December -- a great time to catch quality flicks. As any movie buff knows, December is the prime time for studios to roll out their juiciest Oscar bait, so it's fresh in the minds of Academy voters in the new year. You're apt to find a lot of movies -- sorry, "films" -- that integrate plenty of classic Oscar bait like "true events," mental illness, period settings and quirky counter-cultural sentiments.
This year, almost all of the classic Oscar bait categories are covered. We have plenty of "real" characters, from J. Edgar Hoover to Margaret Thatcher to Marilyn Monroe. We have a 9-11 flick, 'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,' inspired by true events and starring two Oscar darlings: Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock.
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We also have a couple of quirky gems like 'Young Adult' and 'The Artist.' The former is the latest flick from Canadian director Jason Reitman, who at the tender age of 34 already has plenty of Academy accolades under his belt ('Juno,' 'Up in the Air'). 'The Artist,' on the other hand, is a silent film. You can't get more Academy-friendly than a silent film. It's a bold move to release such a thing, plus it's actually good. Such a feat likely won't go unrecognized.
Another good way to get the Academy's attention is by adapting an award-winning play ('Driving Miss Daisy,' anyone?). So 'Carnage,' based on the play 'God of Carnage,' already has that going for it. The fact that it's stacked with Oscar vets Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, John C. Reilly and Christoph Waltz certainly won't hurt its Oscar appeal. 'Albert Nobbs' is also based on a classic play, and it stars frequent Oscar-nominee Glenn Close. It also has two other very important factors to its credit: it's a period piece, and Close portrays a woman living as a man. It really ticks all of the boxes, doesn't it?
Of course, one of the safest ways to land on the Academy's radar is to play someone battling an addiction or mental illness. Michael Fassbender nails his role as a sex addict in 'Shame.' Plus he does full-frontal nudity, which signifies a "brave" performance in the Academy's eyes. Keira Knightley received mixed reviews for her portrayal as the mentally ill Sabina Spielrein to Fassbender's Carl Jung in 'A Dangerous Method.' Whether people loved or hated her performance, though, the important thing is that people were talking about it.
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[Photos: Alliance Films/E1 Entertainment]