'Les Miserables' and 'Zero Dark Thirty' Stun Critics at Early Screenings

December is right around the corner, when studios save features that likely will compete for top Oscars at next year’s Academy Awards. Two major films with awards potential – Les Miserables and Zero Dark Thirty – screened for critics and Oscar trackers over the Thanksgiving weekend, though, giving us a better picture of which movies might be frontrunners in the Best Picture race. 
 
“No movie musical has seriously contended for the best picture Oscar since Chicago (2002) won it a decade ago, though several have tried,” wrote Scott Feinberg of The Hollywood Reporter about Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables, which screened multiple times in New York and Los Angeles. “But, judging by the loud applause that followed every one of Les Mis' big numbers … and the raucous standing ovation that the film and its key talent received once its credits started to roll, that could certainly change this year.”
 
Our own Dave Karger, Chief Correspondent for Fandango, took to Twitter after his Les Mis screening, saying, “I'd call it a sure thing Picture nominee for Oscar and the probable Globe winner. Anne Hathaway could easily win supporting actress. Her ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ is the showstopper. … [Hugh Jackman also] has a great shot to bump out Denzel [Washington] or Joaquin [Phoenix] in the Best Actor race. His singing is quite impressive.”
 
The Los Angeles Times movie writer Steven Zeitchik was one of the film’s few naysayers, writing, “Tom Hooper's Les Miserables is a very well done if methodical take on the musical staple. Hathaway is a stand-out, albeit in very few scenes; Jackman and Crowe singing is solid but doesn't reach for as much.”
 
Days later, Sony unveiled Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty – documenting the military’s hunt for Osama Bin Laden – to equally favorable reviews. 
 
“I can't tell you for sure that the film has anything to do with the unvarnished truth, but I can tell you that this feels accurate. It has an integrity to it that is bracing and adult, and it manages to deliver a major visceral experience without ever once bending to Hollywood convention,” writes Drew McWeeny of HitFix. “This is a film that knows exactly what it's doing, and does it without compromise.”
 
On The Hot Blog, David Poland adds, “This is as fine a piece of filmmaking as you will see. And while many will prefer other types of films – and that doesn’t make them wrong, just with different taste – this film hits to all fields in a way that others just don’t even try for.”
 
Sounds like audiences are in for two major players in the coming weeks. And that’s not even factoring in The Hobbit, Django Unchained, Jack Reacher and the rest of the films opening in theaters throughout December. Grab your tickets now!
 
Check out our brand-new video series featuring predictions and star interviews, The Frontrunners!
 
Plus get all our awards coverage in our annual Awards Watch!
 
Follow along on Twitter @Sean_OConnell and @Fandango
 
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