Aspen Film’s Academy Screenings series presents films considered contenders for the Academy Awards. The series, which opened Monday, runs through Thursday, with several presentations daily. (No films will be shown on Tuesday.) All screenings are at the Wheeler Opera House.
Here is a look at what’s to come:
‘The Past,’ today at 5:15 p.m.
Iranian-born director Asghar Farhadi made his reputation with 2011’s “A Separation,” a masterful work that earned a nomination for the Oscar for best foreign film. For “The Past,” Farhadi relocates the setting from Iran to France, but he remains on similar emotional terrain — the unnerving tension of family life. In “The Past,” a man returns to France to settle a divorce proceeding and finds his wife entangled in family dynamics involving her new boyfriend, her children and the mystery of recent events. Where “A Separation” made no missteps at all, “The Past” stumbles toward its conclusion. Still, it memorably captures the difficulties that trap families, and it won honors for best foreign film from the National Board of Review.
‘Philomena,’ today at 8:15 p.m.
Stephen Frears (“The Queen,” “Dirty Pretty Things,” “High Fidelity”) directs a comic-tinged drama about a political journalist (Steve Coogan) who picks up the human-interest story of a woman (Judi Dench) searching for the son who was taken away from her decades earlier. The film stands nominated for three Golden Globes, including best drama and best actress.
‘Blue Jasmine,’ Saturday at 3 p.m.
Having exhausted many of the great Western Europe capitals (Paris, Rome, London, Barcelona) as settings for his stories, Woody Allen returns home. Sort of. “Blue Jasmine” is set in the States, but most of it takes place in San Francisco — which to the New York-obsessed Allen could be as foreign as Bucharest. But for whatever reason, Allen finds magic in Northern California; “Blue Jasmine” is his best work in decades.
In fact, it’s not the choice of city that lights up “Blue Jasmine” but the choice of actor. Cate Blanchett is extraordinary as Jasmine, a former New York socialite whose husband (Alec Baldwin) has taken a Bernie Madoff-like fall. Jasmine is reduced to moving in with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) in a middling apartment that includes a couple of kids and Ginger’s rough-edged boyfriends. Flashbacks set in New York reveal a life built on an uncertain foundation, and in present-day San Francisco, Jasmine descends into a Blanche DuBois-type fog. Blanchett’s performance not only is a good bet for an Oscar but seems to elevate the level of the entire film.
‘Fruitvale Station,’ Saturday at 5:30 p.m.
This edgy indie about a California man who finds himself at a personal crossroads on the last day of the year earned two top awards at the Sundance Film Festival.
‘Blue Is the Warmest Color,’ Saturday at 8 p.m.
This French drama of two young women embarking on a deep, sensuous relationship is earning attention for its sex scene. But there must be more to it — it’s earning numerous award nominations. And it runs three hours.
‘Gloria,’ Sunday at 3 p.m.
Chilean director Sebastian Lelio built his film around Paulina Garcia, a well-known stage actress who has been largely overlooked in cinema. Lelio corrects that oversight here — Garcia’s Gloria is never off-screen — and the story somewhat mirrors the behind-the-scenes action. Gloria, in her late 50s and single, is the kind of person who could be overlooked by society. But she is determined to remain visible and vital — she goes dancing at night, sings in the car and strikes up a romance with a man who is not nearly as strong and fearless as she is. Garcia’s performance earned her top-actress honors at the Berlin Film Festival.
‘All Is Lost,’ Sunday at 5:30 p.m.
Robert Redford stars — and is the only actor — in a tale of an older man alone at sea, in a sinking boat, merely trying to stay alive. Hushed in sound, action and emotion, it is a unique take on the survival genre.
‘The Grandmaster,’ Sunday at 8:15 p.m. (replacing the originally scheduled ‘August: Osage County’)
Chinese director Wong Kar Wai builds an epic action film around Ip Man, the martial artist who trained Bruce Lee.
‘Dallas Buyers Club,’ Monday at 5:30 p.m.
Part daring indie film (it’s about a bad-tempered, homophobic man with AIDS, battling to get unapproved treatments, and is set in a low-rent part of Dallas) and part mainstream storytelling (inspiring tale of an underdog taking on the establishment and finding his strength). Audiences might overlook how those elements mix; co-stars Matthew McConaughey — as Ron Woodroof, the real-life operator of the Dallas Buyers Club, set up to help others get treatment for AIDS — and Jared Leto, as a transgender woman, both lose themselves in excellent portrayals.
‘12 Years a Slave,’ Monday at 8:15 p.m.
Based on the true story of a free black citizen of New York state in the 1800s who is abducted and sold to a Louisiana plantation owner. Director Steve McQueen doesn’t spare in depicting the brutality.
‘Nebraska,’ Wednesday at 3 p.m.
Bruce Dern earned best-actor honors at Cannes for playing the quietly ornery Woody Grant, who is determined to travel from Montana to Nebraska to pick up the million-dollar prize he believes he has won. Road-tripping with his estranged son (Will Forte), Woody gets stuck in the small town where he grew up and where old ghosts still wait for him. Director Alexander Payne has had past success in warming up badly flawed characters, but he probably tops himself here.
‘Tim’s Vermeer,’ Wednesday at 5:45 p.m.
Teller, of the magic duo Penn & Teller, makes his directorial debut in this fascinating documentary of Tim Jenison, an inventor on a years-long quest to shed light on the technique used by the Dutch painter Vermeer.
‘Prisoners,’ Thursday at 5 p.m.
A smart thriller about the search for a young girl who has disappeared. The acclaimed cast is led by Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman and features Viola Davis, Melissa Leo, Terrence Howard and Mario Bello.
‘Before Midnight,’ Thursday at 8:15 p.m.
For the third time, filmmaker Richard Linklater goes in for a look at the romance between Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy), who first met in “Before Sunrise” back in 1995.