Did Someone Say Oscar? The 10 Films To Watch This Winter

10 Films You Need To Watch This Winter


by Contributor |
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The clocks are about to go back and the scarf and woolly hat are hanging on the coat hook once more. But let’s not feel too sad about the season of staying in and snuggling up.

With a dramatic drop in temperatures, there also comes a whole raft of fabulous new films to enjoy in the coming months, without worrying you are wasting a single second of sunshine.

Grazia got a head start last month at the Toronto Film Festival, where many of the year’s biggest releases – and potential Oscar contenders - are screened for the first time. Then it was London’s turn, with the capital’s own annual film festival in full swing earlier this month. We’ve selected 10 of our favourite silver screen releases for the winter. So grab the popcorn and hunker down…

1. Room

Fans of Emma Donohue’s acclaimed 2010 novel - inspired by the case of Josef Fritzl, who kept his daughter prisoner in his Austrian cellar for 24 years and fathered seven children by her – are unlikely to be disappointed by the big screen adaptation of Room, which won the People’s Choice Award at Toronto.

Brie Larson, who stars as Ma, the young woman who has been locked in a garden shed for seven years, and given birth to a son, Jack, by her captor, is already one of the frontrunners for the Best Actress Oscar next year, and the film is being tipped for a nomination for Best Picture too.

To prepare for the role, Larson spoke to trauma specialists, stayed out of the sun and even gave herself an at-home silent retreat, locking herself in her own apartment for a month. ‘I was surprised to discover that I had some memories myself that were sort of similar to* Room* - in the metaphorical sense,’ she has said of living in a studio apartment, aged 7, with her mother and sister after her parents broke up.

UK release: January 15 2016

2. The Danish Girl

In a year in which the world met Caitlyn Jenner, and transgender politics took centre-stage, the story of Danish artist Einar Wenegar’s transformation into Lili Elbe feels timed to perfection. But director Tom Hooper has actually been working on the film since he and Eddie Redmayne – who plays Lili, one of the first people to attempt risky male to female surgery - made Les Miserables together five years ago.

The film draws heavily on material from Man Into Woman, the 1933 account of Lili’s life, drawn from her personal papers, but Redmayne (who makes an extremely attractive woman, it must be said) also sought the experiences of members of the contemporary transgender community.

‘Across the board, all of the people from the trans community I’ve met have been so open with the idea that any question is a good one,’ he says. ‘That sense of education is also what’s going on in the world at this moment.’

There’s a strong chance the actor may win a second Oscar in a row for the role, following his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, while his co-star, Alicia Vikander, is tipped for a nomination too.

UK release: January 1 2016

3. Beasts of No Nation

The first feature film release from Netflix, Beasts of No Nation is written and directed by the hotly-tipped (and, frankly, just incredibly hot) filmmaker Cary Fukunaga, who was also behind the camera for the first season of True Detective.

Starring Idris Elba as the leader of a gang of child soldiers in Africa, it doesn’t make for easy viewing; violent and brutal in the extreme, it does not sugar-coat the horrible realities of the story in Hollywood gloss, tracking the transformation of a young boy, played by Abraham Atta, into a ruthless killer.

‘There was a part of me that was always like, 'Who's going to see this film?', Elba has said. ‘Now the answer is, thanks to Netflix, potentially millions of people, all of whom are getting a little education about what's going on in the world.’

UK release: streaming on Netflix now

4. Brooklyn

Be prepared to fish out the tissues from about ten minutes into Nick Hornby’s adaptation of Colm Toibin’s bestselling 2009 novel.

Saoirse Ronan is luminous as Eilis Lacy, the young Irish woman arriving in Brooklyn, New York in the 1950s, and negotiating her way through work, romance and homesickness before having to decide between divided loyalties.

Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters steal scenes as Eilis’s parish priest and boarding house matriarch, respectively, while Mad Men’s Megan, Jessica Pare, is her unspeakably glamorous boss at the local department store.

Ronan was born to Irish parents in the US but raised back in Ireland, and understands the film which ‘tells a story that examines the tough choices a lot of people have to make in life when it comes to love, community or culture.

‘My own mother, though she came to a very different New York in the ’80s, told me she could relate to the homesickness experienced by Eilis,’ she says.

UK release: November 6

5. The Program

Directed by Stephen Frears, and based on the book by The Sunday Times journalist David Walsh, The Program tracks the course of Lance Armstrong’s fall from grace, from his position as the most celebrated cyclist in history to drugs cheat, stripped of his seven Tour de France medals and much of the money he made from sponsorship.

Shot and narrated in a semi-documentary style, the film elucidates Armstrong’s role not just as a user of banned substances in the sport, but the architect of ‘the program’ among his teammates too.

Ben Foster, who plays Armstrong, trained with professional cyclists for his role, tackled stretches of the Tour de France route, and also took performance-enhancing drugs, under the supervision of a doctor.

However, he did not tell Frears or his fellow cast members during filming; many of them only found out days before the film's premiere at Toronto.

UK release: on release now

6. Our Brand Is Crisis

In an unusually non-comedic role, Sandra Bullock plays Jane Bodine, a highly experienced political strategist tasked with helping a candidate win the Bolivian Presidential elections, where a machinating Billy Bob Thornton is working for his rival.

Though this story is fiction, it is based on an acclaimed documentary of the same name in 2005, about the American political strategies employed in the 2002 Bolivian election. There’s one major difference, however: Bullock’s character was originally a man.

So keen was the actress to tackle the role that she lobbied the film’s producers - which include George Clooney – to have the script rewritten for a woman. ‘There was not a lot of hesitation,’ she says. ‘The only hesitation was: can the writer do it? So that, hopefully, shows a shift in the climate for women in film.’

UK release: January 22 2016

7. Steve Jobs

Aaron Sorkin’s much-talked-about biopic of the late Apple founder, Steve Jobs is based heavily on Walter Isaacson’s book, but also on the long periods of time Sorkin spent with Jobs’ daughter, Lisa, and Apple’s co-founder Steve Wozniak (both of which might seem a little surprising given the spin of the film).

Essentially a three-act play, directed by Danny Boyle, the audience meets Jobs backstage before three major product launches: the Macintosh, the Next computer and the iMac, spanning a period of 14 years.

Jobs is arrogant and uncompromising in his genius, and yet, because he is played by Michael Fassbender, not quite as easy to dislike as he might be, while Kate Winslet plays Joanna, his right-hand woman and unflappable marketing director with aplomb.

UK release: November 13

8. About Ray

If The Danish Girl shows how far we have come in acceptance of transgender lifestyles, About Ray hammers the point happily home. Elle Fanning stars as the teenage Ray – formerly Ramona – who is preparing to transition to living as a male, in a New York household with her mother, played by Naomi Watts and her grandmother, played by Susan Sarandon, who thinks Ramona should just follow her example and become a lesbian.

The ordinarily ultra-feminine Fanning is almost unrecognizable as Ray, who works out to build his skinny frame and binds his chest as he waits to begin testosterone treatment. ‘I never thought about saying no, but I was so afraid to touch it,’ admits the actress. ‘What if I don’t do it right? But I know transgender kids — I am honoured to help tell their story.”

UK release: TBC

9. Where To Invade Next

The ever-provocative filmmaker Michael Moore takes on his own country in his latest, highly personal project. Filmed in the style of a travelogue, Moore, disillusioned with certain aspects of US culture, journeys to other countries to ‘invade’ and ‘bring back what need to the United States of America’.

He makes stops in countries including Italy, where he discovers the allure of eight weeks of paid holiday a year, France, where the schoolchildren eat gourmet, healthy school meals, Finland, which has the best education system in the world, Iceland, where bankers were held accountable and sent to prison after the financial crisis, and Norway, where rehabilitation of criminals involves trusting murderers with large knives in the kitchens of an open prison.

‘The American Dream appears to be alive and well everywhere but America,’ notes Moore.

UK release: TBC

10.The Dressmaker

Kate Winslet’s been busy. Along with her role in Steve Jobs, she’s been pouring herself into eminently more glamorous garb for The Dressmaker, a rather absurd but highly watchable revenge comedy drama.

Based on the novel by Rosalie Ham, a Paris-trained seamstress returns to her small home town in the Australian outback of the 1950s – from which she was exiled as a child for allegedly killing a boy - and ends up bringing elegant couture to the town’s female population.

Winslet became heavily involved in the creation of her character, Tilly’s, wardrobe, which includes spectacular corsetry and colour. ‘I loved playing a character who just looked so different to everybody else and didn’t care. She relished it,’ says Winslet. ‘So much of what she wears is completely inappropriate and impractical for the climate and where she is, but she wasn’t going to suddenly put on something different just because of that. I really admire that.’

For her part, Winslet had only recently given birth to her third child, Bear, before shooting began, and was, ‘still in that had-only-finished-breast-feeding type of thing,’ she says. ‘It was actually just great because that shape lends itself so well to that particular period.’

UK release: November 20

- By Jane Mulkerrins

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