Cover Story

Holiday Preview Movies

Santa's L.A. workshop has a ho-ho-whole lotta goodies in store this year

What does Hollywood want for Christmas? The usual: movies that make money and win Oscars. This season's lineup has its share of ambitious and quite possibly worthy performances — like Jodie Foster's turn as a Tennessee wild child and Tommy Lee Jones' at bat as a baseball great. Plus there's a holiday assortment of supporting roles getting great buzz. Shopping for pure pleasure? Tom Cruise, Jim Carrey, Demi Moore, and cocaptains Shatner and Stewart are all charting courses for a boffo yuletide gross. Why do you think they call it Tinseltown?

Paging Ms. Oscar

It's said that women need to work twice as hard as men to get the same rewards. It may work out that way for Susan Sarandon, whose Safe Passage (Dec. 25, limited release), in which she shepherds seven sons through a crisis, comes out just in time to compete for a nomination with her lauded performance in The Client. Jessica Tandy's death in September may make her a favorite for her role in Camilla (Dec. 16, limited) as a concert violinist who reunites with a long-unrequited love. (She's also radiant in a supporting role, her last, as Paul Newman's landlady in Nobody's Fool.) Other contenders: Sigourney Weaver wreaking revenge on the man she believes to be her torturer in bad boy Roman Polanski's adaptation of the political fable Death and the Maiden (Dec. 25); Miranda Richardson, playing Mrs. T.S. Eliot opposite Willem Dafoe, enacting scenes from a troubled marriage in Tom & Viv (Dec. 9); and Jodie Foster exposing herself, literally and figuratively, in Nell (Dec. 14, limited), as a backwoods recluse who speaks a language all her own.

Paging Mr. Oscar

Maybe Gump guy Tom Hanks should be practicing another acceptance speech, but then again, there's Ron Shelton's Cobb (Dec. 2, limited), in which Tommy Lee Jones, last year's Best Supporting Actor for The Fugitive, is said to give an uncompromising performance as raging bigot and premier ballplayer Ty Cobb. There's Robert Benton's Nobody's Fool (Dec. 25, limited), in which Paul Newman does a turn as a construction worker down on his luck (and Bruce Willis once again impresses). There's the ever-intense Gary Oldman as lovestruck Ludwig van Beethoven in Immortal Beloved (Dec. 16, limited). And there's Ed Zwick's Legends of the Fall (Dec. 2, limited), whispered to be a poky vehicle for Oscar purposes, but with Anthony Hopkins on board you never know.

Best-Selluloid

So Anne Rice is converted: She's delighted to report that Tom Cruise's Lestat hasn't turned her beloved Interview With the Vampire (Nov. 11) into Top Gums. But the rest of us will have to wait and see who's praised (the early line: You'll want more of young Kirsten Dunst and Cruise) and who's buried (Brad Pitt, who's in almost every scene, and director Neil Jordan are the most vulnerable). And if all those fatal hickeys in Interview proved too much for Oprah Winfrey, how will she like the sexual-harassment switcheroo of Michael Crichton's Disclosure (Dec. 9)? Preview audiences are reportedly cheering Michael Douglas and jeering villainess Demi Moore in what looks to be a holiday blockbuster with a witty bonus: Dennis Miller as a computer whiz.

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