Aspen Film’s Academy Screenings gift-wraps 19 award contenders |

Aspen Film’s Academy Screenings gift-wraps 19 award contenders

Stewart Oksenhorn
The Aspen Times
Director Jason Reitman's "Labor Day," starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin, is among the 19 films to be shown in Aspen Film's Academy Screenings series, opening Dec. 23 at the Wheeler Opera House.
Dale Robinette |

Aspen Film’s Academy Screenings Series

Dec. 23-Jan. 2

Wheeler Opera House

Four calling birds? Pish posh. Twelve drummers drumming? Hey, thanks for that racket. And only 12? Stingy.

The truly fortunate gift recipients this coming holiday season in Aspen are movie lovers, who can count 19 reasons to be merry. The generous giver here is Aspen Film, whose Academy Screenings series is loaded with 19 films, all considered contenders for Oscar awards. Titles to be presented in the series include such likely nominees as “Blue Jasmine,” “Nebraska,” “12 Years a Slave” and “All Is Lost.”

The 22nd annual Academy Screenings series is set for Dec. 23 through Jan. 2 at the Wheeler Opera House. (No films will be shown Dec. 24 or 25.) The series is predicated on the idea that many members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who vote on the Oscars, vacation in Aspen during the holidays, but the screenings are open to the public.

Tickets for Academy Screenings go on sale Dec. 13 at the Wheeler box office or through the Wheeler’s website,

The series includes several films that will not be in general release until after they are screened in Aspen.

“Her,” the latest offbeat work by writer-director Spike Jonze, won’t open until mid-January. The film stars Joaquin Phoenix as a writer who develops an intimate relationship with his computer’s operating system, voiced by Scarlett Johansson. Co-stars include Amy Adams and Rooney Mara.

“Labor Day,” directed by frequent Aspen Film participant Jason Reitman, is not scheduled for wide release until late January. The film, adapted from Joyce Maynard’s novel about a mother and son who become involved with an escaped convict, stars Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin.

Among the awards front-runners to be presented at Academy Screenings are Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine,” starring Cate Blanchett as a fallen New Yorker who moves in with her sister (Sally Hawkins) in San Francisco; Alexander Payne’s “Nebraska,” starring Bruce Dern as a taciturn old man who goes on a road trip of the Midwest with his son (Will Forte) to collect a million-dollar prize; “12 Years a Slave,” about a black man in the 19th century who is kidnapped and sold to a New Orleans plantation owner; and “All Is Lost,” starring Robert Redford as a man stranded alone at sea.

Several films that proved popular at Aspen Filmfest earlier this fall will return for Academy Screenings: “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” the portrait of South African political prisoner-turned-president Nelson Mandela, which was voted the Filmfest audience favorite; “The Past,” a tense drama of an Iranian-French family by Oscar-winning filmmaker Asghar Farhadi (“The Separation”); “August: Osage County,” an adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning stage drama with a cast that includes Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Juliette Lewis and Dermot Mulroney; and the British film “One Chance,” about a bullied man who becomes an opera star after appearing on the TV show “Britain’s Got Talent.”

Additional English-language features in the series include director Stephen Frears’ “Philomena,” which earned eight awards at the Venice Film Festival; “Fruitvale Station,” the story of a young man at a personal crossroads, which earned two top prizes at the Sundance Film Festival; “Dallas Buyers Club,” starring Matthew McConaughey as an AIDS patient in 1985 battling with the medical establishment; “Prisoners,” a thriller about a missing child starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal; and “Before Midnight,” the third in Richard Linklater’s romantic series starring Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke.

Foreign films to be screened include the French sexual drama “Blue Is the Warmest Color,” which earned the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival; and the Chilean film “Gloria,” about a free-spirited middle-aged woman who embarks on a relationship with a man she meets in a club.

Rounding out the Academy Screenings program are two documentaries: “20 Feet From Stardom,” a portrait of rock ’n’ roll backup singers; and “Tim’s Vermeer,” the directorial debut by the magician Teller, about an inventor who seeks to understand the painting techniques of Dutch master Jan Vermeer.

The Academy Screenings will mark the debut of the Wheeler Opera House’s digital projection system.

For a full schedule, including screening dates and times, go to