Aspen’s Academy Screenings: A stocking stuffed with movie treats |

Aspen’s Academy Screenings: A stocking stuffed with movie treats

Stewart OksenhornThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO, Colorado
Scott GreenMatt Damon stars in Gus Van Sant's "Promised Land," showing later this month in Aspen Film's Academy Screenings series.

ASPEN – OK, who asked for an exclusive, front-row seat to this year’s Oscar race? Whoever it was must have been good this year because Santa is hooking them up.Aspen Film has announced the lineup of movies for the 21st annual Academy Screenings. The series, which runs Dec. 25 through Jan. 1, gives audiences in Aspen an advantageous position from which to view the Academy Awards races. Academy Screenings presents a few handfuls of films – 16 this year – considered contenders for Oscar glory. Those films are then wrapped in a neat package, all showing in one theater in an intense eight-day burst, with multiple movies screening each day. As a bonus, several of the films will not get a wide release until days or weeks after they have been shown here, so Aspen viewers get to help start the Oscar buzz. Just what any true cinema lover would hope to find under the Christmas tree. (A note for those who might have trouble locating this bounty: All of the Academy Screenings this year are at the Wheeler Opera House and not at the customary location of Harris Hall.)Topping it off, Academy Screenings has a solid track record. The past three winners of the Oscar for Best Picture – “The Artist,” “The King’s Speech” and “The Hurt Locker” – were all included in the series. This year’s Academy Screenings spotlights such perennial Oscar contenders as actors Daniel Day-Lewis, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marion Cotillard and Amy Adams and directors Paul Thomas Anderson, Kathryn Bigelow and Steven Spielberg.Probably the most notable title in this year’s series is “Zero Dark Thirty,” Bigelow’s first big-screen project since she became the first woman to win the Best Director Oscar, for 2009’s “The Hurt Locker.” Bigelow returns to war stories with “Zero Dark Thirty,” which chronicles the hunt for and eventual killing of Osama bin-Laden by the U.S. military. The film, starring Jessica Chastain, Chris Pratt and Joel Edgerton, shows Jan. 1, 10 days before it is scheduled to open nationally.Other strong contenders for Best Picture honors to be shown in Academy Screenings include “Silver Linings Playbook,” David O. Russell’s portrait of a bickering Philadelphia family, which stars Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro; “Argo,” director Ben Affleck’s thriller about the rescue of American hostages from 1979 Tehran, which opened in October; and “Lincoln,” Stephen Spielberg’s account of Abraham Lincoln’s effort to pass the 13th Amendment, starring Daniel Day-Lewis and currently showing in local theaters.Aspen audiences will get an early look at “Not Fade Away,” a rock ‘n’ roll coming-of-age story set in 1960s New Jersey, directed by “Sopranos” creator David Chase; director Gus Van Sant’s “Promised Land,” starring Matt Damon as a salesman for a natural gas company who encounters opposition in a small town; and “Quartet,” the directorial debut of Dustin Hoffman, about a group of musicians in a retirement home preparing for their annual concert.Other new films to be screened include “Hyde Park on Hudson,” starring Bill Murray as President Franklin Roosevelt, having an affair with his distant cousin (Laura Linney); “Ginger & Rosa,” starring Elle Fanning and Christina Hendricks as teenagers in 1962 London balancing their ambitions and realities; and “On the Road,” director Walter Salles’ adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s book, starring Kristen Stewart, Steve Buscemi, Amy Adams and Viggo Mortensen.Foreign features in the Academy Screenings lineup include “Amour,” a story of late-in-life romance by Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke, which earned the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival; “Rust and Bone,” French filmmaker Jacques Audiard’s gritty look at family and romance, featuring Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard (“La Vie en Rose”); the Danish historical drama “A Royal Affair,” which earned two awards at the Berlin Film Festival; and “The Intouchables,” a French film about an aristocrat who hires a man from the housing projects to be his caretaker.Also to be screened: Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master,” starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix; “Anna Karenina,” an adaptation of the Tolstoy novel, starring Keira Knightley and Jude Law; “The Sessions,” about a man in an iron lung (John Hawkes) who contacts a sex surrogate (Helen Hunt) about losing his virginity.Tickets go on sale Dec. 14. For further information on the Academy Screening series, including specific dates and times, go to

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