For a look at what's playing this weekend, this is a wrap-up of what's currently in theaters that isn't The Hunger Games or Frozen, two big releases that clearly don't need your attention. Other films in release however, could benefit from more of a spotlight.
First it's the Coen's Inside Llewyn Davis, which finally comes out this weekend, nearly six months after its debut at the Cannes film festival. This movie has been ecstatically reviewed and has already garnered attention from the early critics awards, taking the Best Picture Prize at the Gothams, as well as Cinematography from the NYCC, and Screenplay along with a place on the top ten of the National Board of Review. Look for a lot more to come, as I think it's almost guaranteed a nomination for Best Picture at the Oscars, and look for it playing in your area soon. Oscar Isaac in particular is a breakout performance in the title role, and this guy's going to be in a lot more movies in the near future.
"It may be the saddest, sweetest, most beautiful and most tragic work of art these great American filmmakers have crafted yet." (Salon)
"While the bleak, funny, exquisitely made 'Inside Llewyn Davis' echoes familiar themes and narrative journeys, it also goes its own way and it becomes a singular experience, one of their best yet." (LA Times)
In wide release this weekend is Out of the Furnace, the second feature from director Scott Copper, after 2009's Crazy Heart, and starring Christian Bale. The performances have been lauded, but the movie itself has gotten a mixed response from critics. Despite some saying it may be Bale's best ever performance, the movie is not expected to gain any traction in awards circles.
"A starkly powerful drama, that in some ways feels like an Iraq-era bookend to 'The Deer Hunter.'" (Variety)
"If the downbeat plot is depressingly familiar, it's partly savaged by the quality of the performances." (Globe and Mail)
Still in theaters and expanding is Alexander Payne's Nebraska, starring Bruce Dern and Will Forte, and a likely awards favorite in the coming weeks. It just won Best Actor and Supporting Actor from the NBR, a bit of a surprise in Forte's case especially. He remains an outsider for a Supporting Actor nod, and his chances are entirely dependent I think, on how passionate the love for Nebraska is. With so many great movies this year, it's hard to tell which ones will hit the voter's sweet spot.
"A desolate comedy-drama about fathers, sons, missed highways, and life's off ramps." (Boston Globe)
"'Nebraska' bears Payne's trademark combination of low-key humor, poignancy, and an overall feeling of Beckett-esque resignation." (Newsday)
Lastly, Philomena is still hanging around in limited release (although it's going wider than Nebraska), and remains the sentimental, feel-good favorite of the season. It was another well-reviewed movie and hinges on the shoulders of Judi Dench, who's a candidate for a seventh nomination. I thought just a few weeks ago that she was a virtual lock, but with new contenders like Amy Adams receiving some glowing notices for American Hustle, and Meryl Streep waiting in the wings for August: Osage County, I really am starting to think she could be vulnerable here. The category is so crowded this year (which is rare in the Best Actress race), and somebody will have to be left out.