Welcome back to Alt Weekly, a column in which we shine a spotlight on the independent films brave enough to open opposite Hollywood's behemoth blockbusters before rolling out in wider release.
This week sees two final awards contenders sneaking under the wire in the shadow of heavy-hitters "Django Unchained" and "Les Miserables."
Filmmaker Cred: This is the latest directorial effort from Gus Van Sant ("Milk," "Good Will Hunting") and the first screenplay co-written between stars Matt Damon and John Krasinski.
Star Power: Damon, Krasinski, Frances McDormand, Hal Holbrook, Rosemarie DeWitt.
Festival/Awards Buzz: This small-town drama skipped the festival circuit, and reviews so far have been mixed. You can read our very positive thoughts on the film right here.
Release Details: In several markets this Friday, with further nationwide expansion scheduled for next week.
See This If... You're in the mood for a rather Capra-esque character study over the holidays.
'WEST OF MEMPHIS'
Filmmaker Cred: Director Amy Berg made the heartbreaking 2006 documentary, "Deliver Us From Evil."
Star Power: The West Memphis Three themselves -- Jason Baldwin, Damien Echols and Jessie Misskelley, Jr. -- as well as advocates Henry Rollins, Eddie Vedder and producer Peter Jackson.
Festival/Awards Buzz: This comprehensive re-examination of the WM3 case, previously tackled in the "Paradise Lost" films, stirred up much righteous anger after its Sundance premiere last January. Reviews have been almost uniformly positive.
Release Details: NY/LA on Christmas Day, with more markets to follow.
See This If... You can stomach two and a half hours of (rightfully) infuriating true crime investigation.