Eleven December films angle for Oscar nods

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The Independent Culture

A stellar group of directors highlight the film offerings this December with some superstar actors' performances bound for recognition by the Academy Awards.

Movie studios bring out big US releases in time for the Oscar eligibility period, so this month's movies will take many nominations, along with recent releases, such as Precious and The Road, as well as movies from earlier in the year, such as Up.

Predictions about Academy Award nominations are already being speculated on. One source that is considered a possible indicator is the 100-year-old National Review Board, a 108-member organization of film enthusiasts based in New York.

Yesterday they selected their choice of winners for the year's "best." It has a strong record for matching Oscar winners and nominees and picked several of the following:

December 4:
Up in the Air
Director: Jason Reitman
George Clooney stars in this satire about a career transition counselor in transition from a vagabond lifestyle to being grounded. Selected yesterday as Best Film of the Year by the National Board of Review, the film also won for Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay by director Reitman ( Juno). www.theupintheairmovie.com

Director: Jim Sheridan
Stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman, Tobey Maguire, and Sam Shepard in a story of a woman and two brothers - one sent to war in Afghanistan and the other caring for his brother's family. Based on Brødre by Denmark's Susanne Bier. Recognition for Maguire and Sheridan ( In America, My Left Foot) possible. www.brothersfilm.com

December 11:
Director: Clint Eastwood
Academy Award winner Eastwood directs the story of Nelson Mandela and efforts to unite his country, post-apartheid, through the Rugby World Cup. Morgan Freeman is considered a likely Best Actor candidate with possible nods to Eastwood, if the NRB is right, and Best Picture nominee.

The Lovely Bones
Director: Peter Jackson
Adaptation of Alice Sebold's bestseller, told from the view of a young murdered girl watching over her family, as well as her killer. Stars Rachel Weisz, Mark Wahlberg, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, and newcomer Saoirse Ronan. Tucci expected to get recognition as Best Supporting Actor and possibly Jackson for his change in direction. www.lovelybones.com

A Single Man
Director: Tom Ford
Impressive directorial debut from the former fashion designer, this romantic story follows a gay British professor mourning the loss of his partner. Based on the novel by Christopher Isherwood, it is set in Los Angeles in 1962. Colin Firth could be recognized for Best Actor and Julianne Moore as supporting actress. www.weinsteinco.com

December 18:
Director: James Cameron
This much anticipated epic sci-fi adventure follows an ex-Marine torn between worlds and fighting to survive the indigenous Pandora population. Stars Sigourney Weaver and Star Trek's Zoe Saldana. Cameron is back to the big screen since his Oscar sweeping Titanic, designing the creatures and devising the technology to create his vision. Nods for Best Picture, Cinematography, Special Effects are expected. www.avatarmovie.com

Director: Rob Marshall
The award-winner for Chicago adapts another Broadway musical with dazzling performances by an all-star cast with Daniel Day-Lewis, Kate Hudson, Sophia Loren, Fergie, Marion Cotillard, Penélope Cruz, Judy Dench, and Nicole Kidman. The tale follows a famous Italian film director's struggles to balance work with all his loves. This crowed-pleaser is a shoe-in for music awards, if not more. www.weinsteinco.com/

The Young Victoria
Director: Jean-Marc Vallee
This season's lush historical biopic is produced by Martin Scorsese and Sarah Ferguson. Emily Blunt ( The Devil Wears Prada) as Queen Victoria during her early reign and romance with Prince Albert (Rupert Friend of Pride & Prejudice). Also features Miranda Richardson and Jim Broadbent. Blunt favored, plus Sets and Costumes. www.theyoungvictoria.co.uk/

December 25, Christmas Day:

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Director: Terry Gilliam
A fantastical traveling show with a con artist, theatrical performers and crazy characters with visually compelling Gilliam style ( Brazil, Monty Python & the Holy Grail). Cast includes Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Colin Farrell, Tom Waits, Lily Cole, Christopher Plummer, and Heath Ledger's final role. Best Director nomination is due. www.doctorparnassus.com

Sherlock Holmes
Director: Guy Ritchie
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's iconic detective turned superhero and his partner Dr. Watson using brains and brawn to save England. Stars Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law and Rachel McAdams. Time could to right to honor Downey again

It's Complicated
Director: Nancy Meyers
Middle-age romantic comedy. A version of Something's Gotta Give, also written and directed by Meyers with Meryl Streep in Diane Keaton's role and the men in her life played by the Oscar co-hosts, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin. Streep's nomination more likely for Julie & Julia, but best screenplay and Supporting Actors could happen.