Long Holiday Weekend Preview: Notes on a Scandal, Pan's Labyrinth, More

And now we're down to the last openings of the year, and not a wide release among them: here, instead, are the last flicks getting in under the wire of Oscar eligibility. All these movies have at least some chance of ending up with Oscar nominations, and all have, at minimum, elements that make them worth your time and attention.

Opening on a few screens today, Wednesday, is Notes on a Scandal, the deliciously soapy drama starring Cate Blanchett as a high school art teacher and Judi Dench as the colleague who torments and manipulates her -- think slo-mo metaphorical catfight with a British accent; the performances are a hoot. For accents somewhat slightly further east, there's the fantasy drama/thriller Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, about a French serial killer with, ahem, a killer sense of smell. Director Tom Tykwer achieves the near impossible: he visually depicts odors and aromas with a vivid clarity.

And then on Friday, we have the grimly eloquent The Dead Girl, about how the murder of one of society's seemingly lowest members, a drug-addicted prostitute, sends ripples of influence far and wide. Also dark and bleak is the Spanish fantasy Pan's Labyrinth, which is more in the vein of the Brothers Grimm than we've generally seen in the genre; this one is absolutely not for the kiddies, and lots of adults will be deeply disturbed by it: approach with due caution. Miss Potter, about Peter Rabbit author Beatrix Potter, isn't as light and fluffy as you might expect either, but Renee Zellweger, as the writer, and Ewan McGregor, as her publisher and lover, bring delightful Victorian spunk and charm to a tale marred by tragedy.

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MaryAnn Johanson

author of The Totally Geeky Guide to The Princess Bride

minder of FlickFilosopher.com