by Luke Baumgarten & r & Oscar season is upon us. This is the time of year when all the studios, having given us explosions and silly sex scenes for the preceding nine months, really buckle down and go straight for the arthouse crowd's jugular. There are more than a few such films on this list that might not make Spokane by the opening date. We've included them because we need your help. If there's a film you're interested in that doesn't make it, pound the pavement, make some calls, drive interest. Get the theaters to bring it. Call the Met or even AMC. Make your voice heard. Stranger things have happened than a little successful grassroots film advocacy. This is a season of movie miracles, after all. Gaze ye upon it and rejoice.

Of course, the holiday season is also upon us, and the kids will soon be on vacation, which means there's no shortage of puerile, family-oriented claptrap coming up as well. Most of these films promise to be pretty bad, so we've taken the liberty of making fun of them so you don't have to. If you get stuck taking Junior to one of these films, and you like it, so much the better. If, however, a film turns out as infantile as we suggest, remember to consult this guide more thoroughly when you plan your next trip to the multiplex.

Everything here is listed by scheduled opening date; for stuff opening this weekend, like Jarhead and Chicken Little, check our film section, starting on page 35. --Luke Baumgarten

Nov. 9

Get Rich Or Die Tryin' & r & At first glance, this seems like the most honestly titled film ever. The producers are being so forthright about this shameless product tie-in that they've put one of their core corporate values right in the title. Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, former thug and dealer turned platinum-selling rap star, plays Marcus, thug and drug dealer who might someday become a platinum-selling rap star? Pretty much screams "Let's piggy-back on Fiddy's album sales." But GRoDT is directed by Jim Sheridan, a six-time Oscar nominee who helmed 2003's In America, so it might be one of those rare movies that's well received and still scores billions of dollars in merchandising. Probably not, though. Rated R (LB)

Nov. 11

Zathura & r & "She's frozen in cryogenic sleep. Dad's going to kill us." Shoot, campers, how many times has Dad told you not to cryogenically freeze your sister?! If this movie looks like Jumanji in outer space without Robin Williams, you've got good instincts. That's basically what it is. The x-factor here is director John Favreau, who has written and directed the cult-classics Swingers and Made. So Zathura may have some zest. Rated PG (LB)

Derailed & r & For all those people who think their one night of forbidden passion is no big deal, here's Derailed -- the story of a fling that goes horribly wrong. Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston are too damn sexy to resist each other after meeting on the train. But their tryst is put on hold as car chases and heavily armed baddies get in the way of their cheap, tawdry sex. This is the first feature from the Weinstein Company -- the new version of Miramax Studios. Rated R (TSM)

Pride and Prejudice & r & Mark Twain once said you can make a library better by leaving out Jane Austen. Hollywood seems to be taking the exact opposite approach, studiously adapting and re-adapting Austen's work, building in layers and layers of Austen to their ever-growing film libraries. Sure, the themes are always more or less the same -- marrying for love vs. marrying into wealth, class prejudice and other early 19th-century proto-feminist tropes -- but damned if those don't still carry weight today. Austen films are also a good showcase for fine emerging actresses to try their hand at biting dialogue and period wankery. This time, it's Keira Knightly's turn. Rated PG (LB)

Bee Season & r & If you were distressed, at their concert last week, when the Decemberists failed to play their ebullient "Song for Myla Goldberg," then you'll be glad to hear Ms. Goldberg's beloved novel Bee Season is getting a big screen treatment. It's about spelling bees, parental expectation, the power of words and, most of all, we're told, love. It could well be the best family film of the season. Or at least, the best film about families. It may also be the last time we get to see Richard Gere as anything other than an old womanizing creep -- first and last time, that is. Rated PG-13 (LB)

NOV. 18

Walk the Line & r & Biopics come in two distinct flavors: good and bad. There's very little in between. The good are measured and unsensationalized, focusing on the person more than his or her celebrity and public persona, engaging and salacious as those elements might be. They help us make sense of the person behind the image. Let's hope Walk The Line -- directed by James Mangold and starring Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash and Reese Witherspoon as June Carter Cash -- is one of those biopics. Rated PG-13 (LB)

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire & r & Nothing like an angst-ridden teenager with a magic wand. Lash out at the world? Ka-ZAM! Been hosed by your friends? Ka-POW! Daniel Radcliffe is back as the wizard Harry Potter, who is becoming an increasingly moody and misunderstood lad at Hogwarts School of Wizardry. Harry even has blowups with his pals Ron and Hermione. There's the love interest, as well as a tournament so dangerous even wizards haven't staged one in 100 years. Guess who gets entered even though he's too young? Guess who goes face to face with the lord of evil? (Hyperbole alert: The Web site says "Ralph Fiennes plays the coveted role of one of literature's most terrifying villains -- the evil Lord Voldemort.") Coveted? Literature? This is Harry Potter, for crying out loud, though this film looks just as moody and cool as the previous ones. Rated PG-13 (KT)

NOV. 23

Rent & r & Nine years after its Broadway premiere, six of the leads (including Taye Diggs and Jesse L. Martin) recreate their roles in this rock musical about artists and their East Village angst. The late Jonathan Larson spun hope out of various entanglements: Mark loves Maureen, but she loves Joanne; Mark's roommate Roger loves Mimi, but they're both HIV-positive. And after four directors were attached to the project and dropped out, the fifth choice for a gritty urban musical was ... Chris (Home Alone, Harry Potter) Columbus? Let's hope this one doesn't feel 525,600 minutes long. Rated PG-13 (MB)

Yours, Mine & amp; Ours & r & In its never-ending quest to remake every film and TV show of note, Hollywood may have actually stumbled on a winner -- 1968's Yours, Mine & amp; Ours, which starred Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball. In the remake, it's Dennis Quaid and Rene Russo who fall in love with tons of baggage -- 18 children between them, that is. The kids join forces to break up the happy couple. Rated PG (TSM)

In The Mix & r & Usher, impossibly cast against type as hot item DJ, explores the problems of gang violence in this dramatic action flick. The young DJ, after saving the life of a mob princess (Emmanuelle Chriqui), is assigned to be her bodyguard by her father (every-mobster Chazz Palminteri). Stop laughing, this is serious! Usher has to, like, get out of bed and do yoga, be treated to lunch and face her resentment at how pretty he his. I'm betting that she harbors a secret crush on him that gets him into even more trouble before the movie's over! Don't tell, though. Let it be a surprise for everyone else. Rated PG-13 (JS)

The Ice Harvest & r & The cold makes a great character. Snow and ice have been used to heighten the absurdism of films like Fargo, the claustrophobia of films like The Ice Storm and the drug-trance effluvia of Angels in America. In The Ice Harvest, cold may well do all of those things. John Cusack is a mob attorney who, along with Billy Bob Thornton, tries to extricate himself from his life as a crime barrister. He just needs a little skrilla to do it -- a little paper. So he steals a couple hundred Gs from his boss (Randy Quaid) in the middle of an atrocious ice storm. Much slipping and slow-motion black-ice-skidding ensue. Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Russo writes and genius comedy director Harold Ramis (Caddyshack, Groundhog Day, Analyze This) directs. Rated R (LB)

Just Friends & r & If we can use Eddie Murphy's recent career resurgence as a guide, Ryan Reynolds will do movies where he plays a hapless fat man, then a hapless scientist, then a hapless cartoon character -- then, hopefully, he'll become a hapless ex-star who never bothers us again. Just Friends is his hapless fat man movie. Kinda. He was huge in high school, but he dropped that weight -- big time -- and now he's a huge music mogul with a second chance to make a first impression on the chick he was big time crushing on in high school. Anna Faris plays a pop idol exactly the way she played a starlet in Lost in Translation. Rated PG-13 (LB)

The Libertine & r & Everyone looks elegant in costume dramas, as if they'd all come straight from the dry cleaners. But in The Libertine, we know John Malkovich is King Charles II because he's the only one who looks good. Johnny Depp stars as the notorious Earl of Rochester, debauching himself all over his mistress (Samantha Morton), then delivering straight-to-the-camera monologues full of self-loathing. It's all dim interiors and Depp's disfigured face (syphilis), you see, because The Libertine is the story of magnificent talent wasted. Miramax held this back a year to increase Depp's Oscar chances. Not Yet Rated (MB)

Syriana & r & You're paying $3 at the pump so Exxon/Mobil can rake in $100 billion just in the third quarter? Writer/director Stephen Gaghan won an Oscar in 2000 for Traffic, his expose of international drug-trade corruption; in Syriana, he goes after international oil-trade corruption. Think of it as Traffic meets the 1980 George C. Scott/Marlon Brando thriller, The Formula. George Clooney has ruined his life working for the Company; Matt Damon is an oil broker in cahoots with an Arab prince; Jeffrey Wright merges oil companies without regard to morality. Clooney put on 35 pounds to play his based-on-a-real-CIA-spook role. Kind of like a certain company's bloated profits. Rated R (MB)

DEC. 2

Aeon Flux & r & When it debuted on MTV -- of all places -- in 1991, Aeon Flux, the cartoon, went a long way toward making cartoons acceptable to the twenty-somethings of mainstream America. One good turn deserves another, and Aeon Flux is getting a live-action adaptation that looks, if I may be so bold, pretty damn good. The absurdist dystopian futurist feel seems intact, and, to play the lead, the producers got the sexy and brilliant Charlize Theron. It's just about as much as a young nerd could hope for. Rated PG-13. (LB)

A Good Woman & r & Since it's adapted from an Oscar Wilde play, you can expect great dialogue in this one -- and the location is opulent, too, having been reset on the Amalfi Coast of Italy in the 1930s. Helen Hunt is a scheming kind of gold-digger fresh out of Manhattan who runs astray of the young wife (Scarlett Johansson) of one of her prey. Rated PG (TSM)

DEC. 9

Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe & r & C.S. Lewis's best work is getting the full treatment from the WETA Digital workshop. And once you combine their phenomenal creature design work along a cast that includes Tilda Swinton, Rupert Everett and Liam Neeson, you get pure fanboy heaven. The current trailers are enough to send me into ecstatic fits, but Hollywood has failed me before and this (like LOTR or Harry Potter) is a body of work that many hold dear. Will it be able to withstand the scrutiny? With only the Shrek movies to judge director Andrew Adamson's skills by, I hope to Aslan it will. Not Yet Rated. (JS)

Memoirs of a Geisha & r & Ziyi Zhang is like China's Hansel, so hot right now. Her first-ever English-speaking lead role (Rush Hour 2 doesn't count) will be that of a gorgeous, blue-eyed geisha. The plot swirls around the search for love amid a culture built on lust and Japan's changing identity against the backdrop of World War II. Co-starring a magnificent pan-Asian cast including Michelle Yeo (Crouching Tiger) and Ken Watanabe (Batman Begins). Directed by Rob Marshall (Chicago). Rated PG-13 (LB)

Brokeback Mountain & r & Ang Lee and cowboys? Gay cowboys? When rodeo cowboy Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Wyoming ranch hand Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) team up for a spell of sheep herding, it turns into "a raw, powerful story," according to the studio hype. Expect plenty of taciturnity. Hollywood did a great job with E. Annie Proulx's The Shipping News, so stay hopeful for a big ki-yippie yippie-yay. Rated R (KT)

DEC. 14

King Kong & r & This will be the third remake of the gigantic-ape-out-of-jungle story that first thrilled moviegoers in 1933. This time, it's the team behind the stunning Lord of the Rings trilogy, led by Director Peter Jackson, who is sticking close to the original RKO Pictures script. Expect lots of CGI stuff recreating 1930s New York City, and Jackson should have lots of fun with Skull Island. Naomi Watts seems well cast in the Faye Wray/Jessica Lange part, but we may have to do some extra suspending of disbelief when Jack Black commands the screen. Adrien Brody also stars. Not Yet Rated (TSM)

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada & r & Tommy Lee Jones wanted to make a movie about West Texas, so Guillermo Arriaga obliged with a script intended for Jones as lead actor and director (and Dwight Yoakam as Sheriff Belmont!). Pete Perkins, a ranch foreman, discovers that his best friend, Estrada, has been found dead in the middle of the desert. The cops do nothing, so Pete investigates the murder himself and sets out for a Mexican village. The corpse, while tracing a story arc from "dumped" to "hastily buried" to "properly buried," also inspires the soon-to-be-classic line, "Hey, Pete -- the ants are eating your friend." Not Yet Rated (MB)

DEC. 16

The Producers & r & Is this Mel Brooks simply cashing in? His 2001 musical won 12 Tony Awards and was itself based on his 1967 movie starring Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder. The plot features two shady Broadway producers who hope to strike it rich by putting on the worst play ever -- the crazy musical Springtime for Hitler. Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick created the Broadway musical versions of Max Bialystock and Leopold Bloom -- and they're back to recreate their roles, joined by Uma Thurman (redefining the term "voluptuous") and Will Ferrell (as the cracked playwright Franz Liebkind). Rated PG-13 (KT)

The Family Stone & r & I loved "Dance to the Music." I used to play "Hot Fun in the Summertime" all the.... What? ... Sly's not in this? Oh. Apparently, this comedy is simply going to rip off the Bay Area's all-time most funkalicious band. With Luke Wilson and Rachel McAdams, I suppose it wants to be this year's Yuletide Wedding Crashers. Wilson wants to marry Claire Danes, who plays a hard-driving New York businesswoman, but his parents (Diane Keaton and Spokane's Craig T. Nelson, in full teddy-bear mode) can't tolerate her. Sly could've taught this Family Stone a lesson: different strokes for different folks, baby. Rated PG-13 (MB)

The White Countess & r & Again we're back in the 1930s, this time in Shanghai, where American diplomat Ralph Fiennes is stationed. Nearly blind, he meets up with a mysterious Japanese man, who becomes his business partner, and a tragic Russian refugee (Natasha Richardson). As China's bloody destiny comes closer, his relationships get more complicated. Directed by James Ivory. Rated PG-13 (TSM)

DEC. 21

Fun with Dick and Jane & r & What do you do when the company you work for turns out to be run by a bunch of criminals? Newly unemployed Jim Carrey decides to join the fun, and turns to a life of crime to maintain his little slice of the American Dream. Yet another remake (this time of the mid-1970s film starring Jane Fonda and George Segal), this one also stars Tea Leoni and Angie Harmon. Not Yet Rated (TSM)

Cheaper by the Dozen 2 & r & Now even cheaper, with more dozens! You'll cry as you watch another little piece of Steve Martin's (and Eugene Levy's) comedy magic chip off and die in this formulaic sequel filled with kids, physical comedy, kids and, well ... kids. While Martin and Levy engage in a competition to see whose family is the best (seeing as how they seem to be neck and neck in the breeding department), ask yourself: Is this the same man who wrote The Underpants and Picassso at the Lapine Agile? For the extra bit of waterworks, remember how good L.A. Story was, then watch how far he's fallen. Not Yet Rated (JS)

DEC. 23

The Matador & r & Pierce Brosnan has gotten typecast big time post-Bond. Luckily he's always found films with an interesting angle on the man of intrigue thing. Tailor of Panama was an especially good example of this. The Matador looks to be as well. Brosnan is an aging assassin who helps an out-of-sorts Everyman (Greg Kinnear) get a job he really needs by, we're assuming, killing off all the other applicants. Or something. But then Brosnan -- who's getting old, remember -- blows the hit, and suddenly he needs a favor of his own. Not Yet Rated (LB)

Freedomland & r & It's racism shoved into the pressure-cooker of a heinous crime, and tensions get pretty high between people from both sides of the tracks. Julianne Moore tells the police her child was kidnapped by a black man; Samuel L. Jackson is the suspect who doesn't seem quite guilty. A young reporter and hardened detective try to untangle the mess. Based on the Richard Price novel. Rated R (TSM)

Munich & r & You just want to tell a story and, sheesh, you can't make anybody happy. Stephen Spielberg seems to be having such troubles as he makes Munich, a film about Israeli Mossad agents (Eric Bana, Geoffrey Rush) tracking down Palestinians tied to the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. The lone surviving member of the Palestinian Black September group says the movie ignores how Palestinians with no ties to the organization were gunned down anyway; residents of Budapest are steamed that their cars are being towed and lives disrupted by arrogant American film crews. One resident said "The best part is [Spielberg's people] keep saying, 'This is the biggest thing ever to happen to Budapest,' which is true if you discount the whole Roman and Ottoman empires, World Wars I and II, the fall of communism and the European Union's accession." Spielberg, though, says the movie explores the personal and political stresses as the Mossad does its work. Not Yet Rated (KT)

The Ringer & r & It was bound to happen: Johnny Knoxville has met up with the Farrelly brothers. Though hitless since Me, Myself and Irene, and good-movie-less since Something About Mary, the Farrelly brothers have realized they don't have to direct a film to run it into the ground -- they just have to produce it. So they've let Barry Blaustein take the reins. Knoxville plays a guy who gets recruited to jazz up the Special Olympics. Like all other sports, they need a superstar athlete to help market it. Johnny just has to pretend to be handicapped. If I may prognosticate: It's going to start with a lot of jokes about "retards" then end with a syrupy-sweet everyone's-special-in-their-own-way type message. Johnny will, of course, get the girl. Rated R (LB)

DEC. 25

The New World & r & In The Thin Red Line, director Terrence Malick created a film of dreamy metaphysical brilliance against a backdrop of incomparable human loss (WWII in the Pacific). Now, he's bringing that to another of America's darker hours, the Jamestown Settlement in 1607 and Europe's first permanent contact with North America's native peoples. Malick's films are highly allegorical, and though the film is ostensibly about the ill fates of John Smith (Colin Ferrel) and Pocahontas (Q'Orianka Kilcher), this will be more Eastern philosophy than English butchery. Also starring Christian Bale. Not Yet Rated (LB)

Rumor Has It & r & Even when Rob Reiner makes a bad movie, it's worth watching because the stories are usually strange as all get-out. That seems to be the case here. When Jennifer Aniston finds out her grandma slept with a man her mom eventually ran off with, it takes only a short leap of imagination to theorize that her family was the inspiration for Mike Nichol's film The Graduate. The theory is confirmed and the model for Dustin Hoffman's character (now played by Kevin Costner) shows up, creating more weird-vibe tension. Then, in good Graduate fashion, everyone sleeps with everyone else. Rated PG-13 (LB)

Match Point & r & Woody Allen has made a career telling you everything you ever wanted to know about sex but got bored of asking. Oh, he talks a lot about fame and talent, too, but isn't that just a way to get laid? His singularity of neuroses has led to some thematic overlap in his 40-odd movies -- some redundancy, and more than a few films that just aren't very good at all. Match Point might very well be a return to form for Allen, a stark, haunting tale of betrayal. Or it might be another boring, talk-us-to-death tale of betrayal. Starring Scarlett Johanssen, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers and Emily Mortimer. Rated R (LB)

Casanova & r & Between this and The Libertine, we'll be up to our elbows in man-whores come December. Lasse Hallstr & ouml;m needs to get back to his Chocolat form after the disappointing An Unfinished Life, and he's employing Heath Ledger to do it. Ledger as Casanova? We're not convinced either. You can bet there'll be some swashbuckling and maiden-bedding on the way to Casanova finding the one thing that has always eluded him: his true love, played by Siena Miller. Rated R (LB)

Dreamworks Animation: The Exhibition @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Sept. 11
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