What: Comedy/drama of small-town Southern life.
Why: Jenna's pregnant, and she's not happy about it. She won't abort the baby, but she's got an open mind about selling it. That kind of realistic ambivalence is just one of the surprising charms of Adrienne Shelly's vision, which treats serious issues--abuse, adultery, unwanted pregnancy--in unexpected and unsentimental ways. The characters are stylized, almost cartoonish, yet they also have believable emotional lives--especially Keri Russell and Nathan Fillion as improbable, pie-fueled lovers and Six Feet Under's Jeremy Sisto as an alarmingly insecure abuser.
There Will Be Blood Trailer
What: Preview of late-December release.
Why: Daniel Day-Lewis is like a one-man history of acting. He's got the brooding intensity of Method actors like Brando, with the grandstanding of old-schoolers like Olivier or Welles. He defies the idea that you have to choose one style, and he wraps himself in the enigmatic charisma of a James Dean. Yet he's getting more and more baroque: Watch the pauses, tics, mannerisms and stagy accent he loads into just this two-minute preview. He gets more out of the word "people" than some actors squeeze out of whole scripts.
What: Indian-American family chronicle.
Why: Mira Nair likes to nestle domestic dramas inside large-scale epics. This saga, told across two continents and 30 years, stays intimate and detailed, focused on faces, climates, motives, memories and emotions. We follow the story of Gogol Ganguli (Kal Penn), from before his birth, as his parents emigrate from India to frozen upstate New York, through his postcollege career as an assimilated New York architect. On the commentary track, Nair's chatty, haughty manner makes her feel like a lively narrator--or maybe a vivid character in her own story.