Lights, Camera, Action. Hollywood often puts out its best work to celebrate the holidays and to prepare the stage for the Oscars. From action-packed thrillers, to rich classics, and larger-than-life fables, these films transport audiences for a few hours into far away and fantastical worlds.
Director Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina, based on the Tolstoy novel, is a quintessential holiday production. It offers rich costumes, enchanting music, and stellar actors.
“The rules of a period film have been completely broken. Anna Karenina is a story that has been done a lot. What is the point in doing a safe adaptation?” asks Keira Knightley, who plays the doomed Karenina.
She is a married woman of social stature, who falls in love with cavalry officer Count Vronsky. Their affair goes against the grain of a seemingly virtuous society and Anna pays the consequences.
In his film, Wright emphasizes the pretense of 19th century Russian aristocracy. He stages Anna Karenina’s world in a controlled space that is lavish, but claustrophobic, and tragic.
Life of Pi, about survival and faith, is more upbeat. It’s also adapted from a book, and it requires a willing suspension of disbelief. For the shots in the boat, the production team created a digital tiger. Oscar winning director Ang Lee enchants us with his other-worldly cinematography.
Those who like an intelligent plot have hailed Argo, a spy drama. Tony Mendez, a CIA operative, undertakes to smuggle six American diplomats out of Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis.
The film is directed by Oscar winner Ben Affleck, who also stars as Mendez. It’s based on a true story that is so unbelievable it feels like fiction.
The Hobbit, also coming out this holiday season, is a fantasy. With this prequel, director Peter Jackson promises a spectacle for the millions of fans of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel.
The holiday films will be capped by the musical Les Miserables, directed by Oscar winner Tom Hooper. Unlike Anna Karenina, Hooper’s adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic is traditional and sticks close to the book.
The famous cast – including Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman – doesn’t skip a note of the original score. The film, about brotherly love and redemption, reflects the holiday spirit.
These movies – and more – not only have the ingredients for a lucrative season at the box office. They also raise the curtain on January’s Academy Award nominations.