(WOMENSENEWS)–They just opened on Dec. 24 and Dec. 25 and are ready to brighten the darkest days of the year. And, they’re all attracting Oscars buzz.
"Beloved Sisters," a truth-based romantic drama, focuses on the three-way love relationship between 18th century German poet and dramatist Friedrich Schiller and two aristocratic-but-poor women, the unhappily married Caroline von Beulwitz and her spinsterish sister, Charlotte von Lengefeld. This exquisitely shot and costumed film shows them testing the limits of conventional love in the culturally liberal and inventive Weimar period. Fascinating. A must see.
"Two Days, One Night," written and directed by Luc Dardenne and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, stars Marion Cotillard as a working-class woman facing job loss due to cutbacks at her company, unless she can convince fellow workers – men and women – to vote to forego their annual bonuses to cover her salary. She has a weekend to get it done while her supervisor is advising them to throw her to the curb. Cotillard’s performance is subtly emotive and thoroughly convincing.
"Selma," directed by Ava DuVernay, is about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., (David Oyelowo) and the campaign for equal voting rights for the South’s black citizens. The violence against King and his followers, much of it grainy black-and-white archival footage, is shocking. Reverence for King never flags, not even when tensions in his personal life, especially in his relationship with Coretta Scott King (Carmen Ojogo), are shown. The stellar cast includes Oprah Winfrey (who also helped produce it), Lorraine Tousaint, Tom Wilkinson, Tim Roth and Martin Sheen. But fine performances don’t save "Selma" from wavering between political saga and intimate character study. The film never fully measures up to either. But this extremely important story must be seen; lest we forget.
"Unbroken," produced and directed by Angelina Jolie, is an epic biopic about Olympian and World War II hero Louis "Louie" Zamperini (Jack O’Connell). Adapted by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen from Laura Hillenbrand’s eponymous book, the script tracks the iconic hero’s survival of a plane crash, 47 days adrift at sea and a Japanese prison camp. Jolie’s direction of her all-male cast in this never-give-up story is masterful.
"Big Eyes" is director Tim Burton’s dramatic take on the truth-based story of superstar artist Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz), whose popular and commercially successful portraits of big-eyed children and celebrities were actually painted by his wife, Margaret (Amy Adams), whom he bullied into service. The film is a stunning example of a woman’s liberation. Adams’ performance is triumphant.
"Into the Woods" is Rob Marshall’s cinematic rendition of the hit Broadway musical that interweaves classic Brothers Grimm fairytales, including Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy) and a host of others. They are all brought together by a baker’s wife (Emily Blunt) who’s trapped in a witch’s (Meryl Streep) spell and trying to undo it. With all that magic, music and such a stellar cast, you can’t possibly go wrong. Streep is stunning in musical mode.