the book thief

Great work isn’t enough; every Oscar contender also needs strong talking points. As awards season enters the key phase when a flood of screeners go out, it’s time to look at a few titles that may have fallen through the cracks.

Some films clearly defined themselves early on and have stayed in the awards conversation. They have easy selling hooks (the performances, the script) — and their talking points have stuck. “12 Years a Slave”: Why haven’t there been more films about slavery until now? “Dallas Buyers Club”: Jared Leo and Matthew McConaughey deliver hard-hitting performances.

However, some titles flared up and then fell out of the conversation. So as studios begin their Thanksgiving deluge of screeners next week, here’s a look at six films that could use a shot of adrenaline.

“The Book Thief,” which opens today. The book was a young-adult hit, so awareness may be high for those readers, but it’s barely on the radar for many industry folks. Thirteen-year-old Sophie Nelisse gives a breakout performance, and Oscar voters traditionally have a soft spot for Holocaust-themed movies.

“Prisoners” and “Rush”: Both were hailed when they opened at the Toronto Film Festival, but newer films have stolen the spotlight. Voters need to be reminded that these are movies that offer great storytelling, below-the-line work, writing, direction and acting. And “Rush” needs to remind folks that there’s more to Ron Howard’s movie than 1970s Formula One racing.

“All Is Lost”: Awareness level is high due to praise for Robert Redford, but that title is a problem. When you’re home with family after a holiday meal, do you want to grab a film that sounds like Ingmar Bergman at his bleakest? And the struggle-to-survive story is being overshadowed by “Gravity.” They need to emphasize the ingenuity of the character and of the filmmakers, and the film’s message of hope.

“Short Term 12”:  A heartfelt pic written-directed by Destin Cretton based on his experiences at a foster-care facility, this low-budget indie had stellar reviews but a very small release. Actress Brie Larson steals the movie with an understated but emotional turn while Cretton’s original screenplay is also a winner.

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