The Oscar race goes into high gear this month with a number of promising contenders. Killing Them Softly, Andrew Dominik’s moody thriller, stars Brad Pitt as a Mob enforcer and, of course, James Gandolfini and Ray Liotta. Ava DuVernay’s Middle of Nowhere (below) looks at a marriage put on hold, as a young woman grapples with life after her husband is incarcerated. The film won DuVernay the best-director award in the U.S. drama category at this year’s Sundance Film Festival—the first for an African-American woman. The Sessions, meanwhile, tells of a man imprisoned in his own body. Written and directed by Ben Lewin, the drama, based on a true story about a paralyzed poet who hires a sex surrogate to help him lose his virginity, stars Helen Hunt and John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone). Hovering at the other end of the spectrum is Cloud Atlas, based on David Mitchell’s brilliant novel and directed by The Matrix siblings Lana and Andy Wachowski and Run Lola Run’s Tom Tykwer. Spanning centuries and film genres—from a 19th-century high seas adventure to a postapocalyptic drama—the movie features Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, and Hugh Grant in multiple roles.
October also brings a bounty of new books. In The End of Your Life Book Club (Knopf), author and former Hyperion editor in chief Will Schwalbe describes the reading group he formed with his dying mother—and the power of their shared love of words, which helped distract them from her cancer treatments. No less clear-eyed is Alex Witchel’s All Gone: A Memoir of My Mother’s Dementia. With Refreshments (Riverhead Books), a daughter’s chronicle of her attempt to recapture her mother through family recipes. And don’t miss Ben Masters’s caustic coming-of-age tale about an Oxford grad about to experience the real world: Noughties (Hogarth), natch, is his first novel.