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Originally published Sunday, November 27, 2011 at 5:31 AM

34 movies to watch this season

A list of 2011 holiday movie releases, many of which are likely Oscar-bound, including: "The Artist," "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" and "War Horse." More populist fare includes "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," "The Adventures of Tintin," "New Year's Eve" and "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows."

Seattle Times movie critic

quotes 2011 has already been a great movie year, and I say that as a 57 y.o. movie 'snob'. W... Read more
quotes While I find myself agreeing in spirit with the unenthusiastic folks who have... Read more
quotes Looking forward to Sherlock Holmes. Robert Downey, Jr. is always good. The Girl with... Read more

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The holiday movie season is in full swing, and consider this: Eight of the last 10 winners of the Academy Award for best picture were released in the final quarter of the year. So, what will it be this year? Consider the possibilities in this list of movies, large and small, and remember that release dates are tentative and as changeable as Lisbeth Salander's hairstyle.

Dec. 2

"El Bulli: Cooking in Progress": Avant-garde Spanish chef Ferran Adrià and his "cooking laboratory" are the subject of Gereon Wetzel's documentary.

"Empire of Silver": An epic, set in turn-of-the-century China, directed by Christina Yao.

"Hipsters": A Cold War musical (no kidding) set in 1955 Moscow and last seen at Seattle International Film Festival.

"Kinyarwanda": An audience award winner at the Sundance Film Festival, Alrick Brown's first feature takes place during the Rwandan genocide of 1984.

"Paul Goodman Changed My Life": SIFF calls the subject of this documentary "probably the most influential man you've never heard of." A figure in the 1960s counterculture, Goodman was a writer, poet, pacifist and out-of-the-closet homosexual.

"Seducing Charlie Barker": Amy Glazer's indie film, about an out-of-work actor in a dangerous relationship, was last seen here at Seattle's True Independent Film Festival.

Dec. 9

"Charlotte Rampling: The Look": We've all seen Charlotte Rampling give other actors The Look, in movies like "Never Let Me Go," "Swimming Pool" and (inexplicably) "Basic Instinct 2"; find out how she does it in this biographical documentary.

"New Year's Eve": Everyone you have ever heard of is in this romantic comedy, from the makers of "Valentine's Day." I'll just name the ones who've won Oscars (Robert De Niro, Halle Berry, Hilary Swank), been nominated for Oscars (Michelle Pfeiffer, Abigail Breslin), or will never win Oscars (Ryan Seacrest, Ashton Kutcher).

"Shame": The busy Michael Fassbender (seen earlier this year in "Jane Eyre" and "X-Men: First Class") stars, every bit of him, in this NC-17 rated tale of sexual addiction, directed by Steve McQueen. (No, not that one.)

"The Sitter": Adventures in baby-sitting with Jonah Hill, who plays a college student persuaded to look after the wild-child crew next door. Directed by David Gordon Green ("Your Highness").

"Sleeping Beauty": Not the one you knew as a kid; this grown-up drama from Australia is about a young woman (Emily Browning) who enters high-end prostitution.

"Tyrannosaur": British actor Paddy Considine wrote and directed this drama about an unemployed, rageful man, starring Peter Mullan and Olivia Colman.

Dec. 16

"Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked": OK, that subtitle leaves me with no further words. You know what this one is, and your kids do, too.

"I Melt With You": Mark Pellington's drama is about a group of four college friends who gather for a bacchanalian reunion.

"Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol": Tom Cruise returns to do a host of incredibly dangerous things in the latest installment of this spy franchise, this time co-starring Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg and Paula Patton. (It opens on this date in Imax only, expanding later in the month.)

"Outrage": A Japanese action drama set among several yakuza clans, directed by Takeshi Kitano.

"Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles": Documentarian John Foy attempts to understand the many cryptic plaques embedded in street asphalt around the country in this Sundance award-winning film.

"Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows": Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law are back, and guess who they've brought with them: Jared Harris (from "Mad Men"), Noomi Rapace (so good in the Swedish-language "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" movies) and Stephen Fry (ooh!).

"Young Adult": The writing/directing duo from "Juno," Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody, reteam for a dark comedy about a writer (Charlize Theron) returning to her small-town roots.

Dec. 21

"The Adventures of Tintin": Steven Spielberg enters the world of animation in 3D, with a story based on characters created by Belgian artist Georges Rémi (who used the pen name Hergé) and starring Jamie Bell (all grown up from "Billy Elliot") as the title character and Daniel Craig as the villainous Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine.

"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo": The trailers are calling David Fincher's thriller "the feel-bad movie of the holiday season." Yikes. Based on the blockbuster hit novel by Stieg Larsson, the movie stars Daniel Craig (who's competing in the box office against himself this week) and a very pierced Rooney Mara.

Dec. 23

"A Dangerous Method": A historical drama, from the always-surprising David Cronenberg: Viggo Mortensen plays Sigmund Freud, Michael Fassbender (again!) plays Carl Jung, and Keira Knightley is the troubled patient who comes between them.

"Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy": The classic John le Carré spy novel comes to the big screen, starring Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, John Hurt and a fresh-from-his-Oscar Colin Firth.

"We Bought a Zoo": The title of Cameron Crowe's new movie sounds like a metaphor, but it's not: It's based on a memoir by Benjamin Mee, who with his family bought an ailing zoo. Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson star.

Dec. 25

"The Artist": Something unique in this day and age: a black-and-white "silent" film (virtually no dialogue, though there's plenty of music), set in the late days of the silent-film era in Hollywood. Oscar buzz abounds.

"The Darkest Hour": An alien-invasion drama set in Russia, starring Emile Hirsch and Olivia Thirlby.

"War Horse": Spielberg's second holiday movie — by four days — is a young-man-and-his-horse tale, set during World War I and based on Michael Morpurgo's novel (which also became a stage play).

Dec 30

"Summer Pasture": This documentary about a young nomadic family in Tibet was a prizewinner at the Palm Springs International Film Festival.

Coming soon

Opening here in January, but Oscar-eligible for 2011:

"Albert Nobbs": Glenn Close co-wrote the screenplay and stars in this period piece, set in turn-of-the-century Ireland, about a woman who moves through life disguised as a man.

"Carnage": Roman Polanski's latest is an adaptation of Yasmina Reza's Tony Award-winning play "God of Carnage," starring Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly as two pairs of feuding parents.

"Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close": So, where's Sandra Bullock been lately? You'll spot her in this drama, based on Jonathan Safran Foer's novel about a boy who loses his father on 9/11. Tom Hanks, Max von Sydow and Viola Davis also star.

"In the Land of Blood and Honey": Angelina Jolie's first film as a writer/director, released in Bosnia's native language, takes place during the Bosnian war, focusing on two soldiers on opposing sides.

"The Iron Lady": Well, you know she'll nail the accent. Meryl Streep goes on an Oscar hunt yet again with this biopic about Britain's Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher; Jim Broadbent plays her husband.

"Pariah": Dee Rees' debut feature, winner of the cinematography award at Sundance this year, is a drama about a Brooklyn teen with a secret life.

Moira Macdonald:

206-464-2725 or

mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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