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15 Films to Check Out Before December

October 3, 2011  |  9:21am

The film year is built around the summer blockbuster season and the December push for Oscar contenders. Yet one of the most interesting times for film fans is the period between. October and November boast their own fair share of future award winners from some fantastic directors. To help guide you though the next two months, here are 15 films to check out before December.

15. The Skin I Live In – October 14
Pedro Almodovar’s first film since 2004 without his muse Penelope Cruz, The Skin I Live In follows Antonio Banderas as a plastic surgeon who creates a type of skin that can’t be damaged. Almodovar has always been about what breaks past the flesh and penetrates what’s inside, and with Banderas and Almodovar working together for the first time since 1990, The Skin I Live In leads a pack of promising-looking foreign films getting an American release this year.

14. The Rum Diary – October 28
Johnny Depp has never hidden his love for Hunter S. Thompson. Not only did he star in the adaptation of Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas but he also narrated the documentary Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. Now Depp will be starring in another Thompson adaptation, “The Rum Diary,” about a freelance writer in the 1950s going to Puerto Rico and dealing with the self-destructive individuals who he meets. In another tale of debauchery from Thompson, Depp is definitely worth checking out.

13. The Artist – November 23
In the era when multimillion-dollar 3D films rule the box office, making a silent, black-and-white film set in the 1920s is a daring move. In The Artist, a silent movie star falls in love with a young dancer while fearing the oncoming revolution of talking films. Featuring a great cast that includes John Goodman, Malcolm McDowell and James Cromwell, The Artist is an ode to the glory days of cinema, where singing and dancing were the norm and films didn’t need computer-generated fighting robots to stand out.

12. A Dangerous Method – November 23
Director David Cronenberg examines two of the first psychoanalysts and their relationship in A Dangerous Method. Viggo Mortensen plays Sigmund Freud and Michael Fassbender (who’s been on a roll of great performances this year) plays Carl Jung. Cronenberg examines how their patients, especially the difficult Sabina Spielrein, played by Keira Knightley, splits them on analytical ideas. Mortensen and Cronenberg have united for two great films, and their third outing together should be no different.

11. In Time – October 28
In Time is a wide-release sci-fi film with a unique idea. In the future, people quit aging at the age of 25 and work to earn more time on their clock. With his time running out, Justin Timberlake’s character fights against the corrupt system that determines everyone’s fate. Timberlake’s film choices have been quite original, ranging from Southland Tales to Alpha Dog to last year’s The Social Network, and with the writer of The Truman Show and Gattaca involved, In Time has enough promise to be worth checking out.

10. My Week With Marilyn – November 4
It’s pretty surprising that there haven’t been more films about Marilyn Monroe. The star lived a tragic life that ended at the age of 36 from a heart attack brought on from a drug overdose. With My Week With Marilyn, the film documents the relationship between Laurence Olivier and Monroe over the span of a week. With inspired casting like Kenneth Branagh as Olivier and Michelle Williams as Monroe, My Week With Marilyn should be a great look at a life that ended much too soon.

9. Like Crazy-October 28
In Like Crazy, a young Brit falls in love with an American student, but is kicked out of the United States after she overstays her U.S. visa. Drawing from among the best of young Hollywood (Anton Yelchin and Jennifer Lawrence), the film looks like a heartbreaking take on young love and the distances it’ll go.

8. Red State – October 19
Kevin Smith’s supposed next-to-last film has been available on several on-demand outlets for a few weeks now, but his shocking non-comedy Red State will get a theatrical release on the anniversary of his first film Clerks. Red State is Smith’s darkest film that criticizes fundamental extremism, political bureaucracy and his critics, as he moves far outside his comfort zone.

7. Ides of March-October 7
After the bombing comedy Leatherheads, George Clooney goes back to directing dramas with The Ides of March. An idealic staff member for a presidential hopeful discovers the dirty side of politics. The Ides of March features one of the greatest casts this year with Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti and Marisa Tomei.

6. Martha Marcy May Marlene – October 21
After performing well at both Sundance and Cannes, Martha Marcy May Marlene is one of the big independent films of the fall. MMMM’s title character (Elizabeth Olson, sister to Mary-Kate and Ashley) joins—and then runs away from—a cult. The film also stars John Hawkes, who earned an Oscar nomination last year for his portrayal of Teardrop in Winter’s Bone, and reportedly gives just as strong a performance here.

5. The Descendants – November 18
It’s been seven years since Alexander Payne released his last film, Sideways. He returns with Clooney in The Descendants about a distant father who tries to reconnect with his two daughers after his wife is in an accident. Payne is great at awkward family relationships (see About Schmidt), and it will finally be great to see his humor return to cinema.

4. Hugo – November 23

On the surface, Hugo may look like just another Thanksgiving release vying for the attention of children. But Hugo is not only Martin Scorsese’s first foray into both 3D and children’s movies, it’s also a beautiful story that discusses the wonder of silent film and those who got left behind when sound and color dominated the cinema. Scorsese also brings some of his “Boardwalk Empire” cast to the film, as well as Johnny Depp, Sasha Baron Cohen and Ben Kingsley. Children and parents should equally enjoy this one.

3. The Muppets – November 23

It’s been too long since The Muppets have been given a film that does them justice. This time, the troupe is poor and struggles to keep its theater. Thankfully, they have Jason Segel and Amy Adams to help restore them to glory. With a script by Segel, Flight of the Conchords director James Bobin and a plethora of star-studded cameos, The Muppets will hopefully bring Jim Henson’s gang back into the limelight.

2. Melancholia – November 11
Plenty can be said about director-writer Lars von Trier, but he’s at least always interesting. His last film, Antichrist, was a horrifying look at the destruction of a marriage and gender roles. Melancholia appears equally fascinating. Kristen Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg play two sisters who have always struggled with their relationship. But when a new planet is on a collision course with Earth, these sisters have their relationship tested even further. Melancholia looks as gorgeous as every von Trier film, while testing his audience in new ways.

1. J. Edgar – November 11
The Oscars might as well just go ahead and nominate J. Edgar now. The film is directed by Clint Eastwood, written by Oscar winner and Milk scribe Dustin Lance Black and stars Leonardo DiCaprio as J. Edgar Hoover. The film will look at his career as FBi director and explore the possibility of Hoover being gay. J. Edgar has handled biographical films with success and failures in the past years, but his newest film looks like it should be engaging in every way.

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