Every year is like clockwork for me: I struggle through the first quarter, desperately hoping to find some fun in the Dumping Grounds season (January through April) -- and then I start getting excited for the big-time summer tentpoles. By the time September rolls around, I'm usually fed up with superheroes, machine guns and CGI orgies -- and that's when we start getting ready for all the "prestige picks." From mid-September until the end of December (and all of its "NY/LA award-qualifying" releases) we're offered a pretty steady barrage of "grown-up" movies, several of which are quite welcome indeed.

But since I'm not much of a "grown-up," even my Oscar Season picks are pretty genre-intensive. Here are the three I'm most looking forward to:

The Prestige -- Based on a book that my friend Josh swears is "amazing, seriously," this big-screen adaptation comes from Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins, Insomnia, Memento) and stars folks like Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson and the always-fun Michael Caine. Toss in a few supporting players like Piper Perabo, Andy Serkis and David Bowie (as Nikola Tesla!) and you can color me officially intrigued. And then I saw the trailer. Wow. And the story sounds nifty enough: A pair of 19th-century London magicians start off as fast friends, only to have their friendship dissolve into vicious hatred with the passage of years. Plus, murder is involved. (Touchstone, October 20th)

The Fountain -- It's not just that Darren Aronofsky's previous films (Pi and Requiem for a Dream) pretty much floored me, but also that this outrageously ambitious-looking sci-fi adventure/romance has been percolating for the last 4+ years. Needless to say, I can't wait to see how the thing turned out. Then we get the one-two punch of Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz, combined with some contributions from reliable actors like Ellen Burstyn, Cliff Curtis and Mark Margolis -- and one helluva "high concept" conceit: A conquistador's 16th-century search for the fountain of youth leads to a modern doctor's mission to cure his wife's cancer, with a 26th-century astronaut's quest for the meaning of life thrown in there somewhere along the way. Okay, I might be off a little bit plot-wise, but all I have to go on is this dazzling trailer. Uh oh, and these brand-new reactions from festival-goers and critics alike. Argh. (Warner Bros., November 22nd)
categories Cinematical