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Hollywood offers its best throughout the holidays

| Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016, 2:54 p.m.

With barely four months until the Oscars, the movie landscape looks a little like the early presidential race: a few clear front-runners and countless contenders.

When it comes to movies, though, you can never have too many options. Through year's end, Hollywood will roll out its most ambitious dramas, its glossiest biopics, a last-minute entry from Martin Scorsese and even a musical called “La La Land” starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. That film, by the way, is already being called a shoo-in for the best picture Oscar.

As always, the studios will be competing for ticket sales as well as awards. That means a reliance on recognizable names such as Jennifer Lawrence, Will Smith and Denzel Washington, who stars and directs the Pittsburgh-shot and set “Fences.” One potential box-office gorilla is “Rogue One,” the first stand-alone film in the new “Star Wars” franchise, which arrives Dec. 16.

All told, a determined moviegoer could see at least one new Oscar contender each week until Dec. 28 — the last release-date of the year — and maybe even find time for a comedy such as “Bad Santa 2.” Here are some movies to put on your holiday season watch list.

Already in local theaters

“Bleed for This”: The true story of boxer Vinny Pazienza (Miles Teller), who recovered from a near-fatal car crash to get back in the ring. Aaron Eckhart plays his trainer, Kevin Rooney.

“The Edge of Seventeen”: A mopey high schooler (Hailee Steinfeld) goes berserk when her popular brother (Blake Jenner) begins dating her only friend (Haley Lu Richardson).

“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”: The Harry Potter universe relaunches with an adventure story inspired by the classic Hogwarts textbook. With Eddie Redmayne and Katherine Waterston. “Potter” veteran David Yates directs from J.K. Rowling's first-ever screenplay.

Opened Nov. 23

“Allied”: During World War II, an intelligence officer (Brad Pitt) and a French Resistance fighter (Marion Cotillard) fall in love. Directed by Robert Zemeckis.

“Bad Santa 2”: Billy Bob Thornton returns as Willy Soke, the reprobate mall Santa, this time planning to knock off a Chicago charity. Kathy Bates plays his mother.

“Elle”: Isabelle Huppert plays the ruthless head of a video game company who is attacked in her home and drawn into a different type of game.

“Loving”: The true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple, who were sentenced to prison in 1958 in Virginia for getting married. With Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga.

“Moana”: An animated Disney adventure about a Pacific Island teenager who must fulfill the ancient quest of her ancestors. With the voices of Auli'i Cravalho and Dwayne Johnson.

“Rules Don't Apply”: In his first directing effort since 1996, Warren Beatty delivers a romantic comedy starring himself as Howard Hughes. With Lily Collins and Alden Ehrenreich.

Dec. 2

“The Comedian”: An aging comic (Robert De Niro) accosts an audience member and must perform community service. With Leslie Mann and Harvey Keitel.

“Jackie”: Natalie Portman is already the subject of Oscar talk for her performance as the newly widowed Jacqueline Kennedy in this film from Chilean director Pablo Larrain. With Peter Sarsgaard.

Dec. 9

“Office Christmas Party”: This ensemble comedy with the self-explanatory title stars Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, Kate McKinnon and many others.

Dec. 16

“Collateral Beauty”: A New York ad executive (Will Smith) copes with a tragedy by writing letters to Time, Love and Death — and gets a response. With Edward Norton and Kate Winslet.

“La La Land”: Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone play Los Angeles dreamers in this original musical from Damien Chazelle (“Whiplash”) and his longtime collaborator, composer Justin Hurwitz.

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”: The first stand-alone film in the new “Star Wars” series stars Felicity Jones (“Inferno”) as an unlikely Rebel who must steal the plans to the Death Star. With Diego Luna and Forest Whitaker.

“The Founder”: Michael Keaton plays Ray Kroc, the man who turned a California hamburger joint called McDonald's into a global fast-food empire. With Laura Dern and Nick Offerman.

“The Space Between Us”: A teenage boy raised on Mars decides to visit the Earth girl he met online. With Asa Butterfield and Carla Gugino.Dec. 21

“Assassin's Creed”: This feature film based on the popular video game — about dueling secret societies — features an impressive cast: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons and Charlotte Rampling.

“Passengers”: Two astronauts on a spacecraft must learn why they woke from hibernation 90 years too early. With Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. Directed by Morten Tyldum (“The Imitation Game”).

“Patriots Day”: Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg (“Lone Survivor,” “Deepwater Horizon”) reunite for a drama about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

“Sing”: An animated musical about five animals who enter a singing contest. With the voices of Seth McFarlane, Scarlett Johansson and Matthew McConaughey.

Dec. 23

“Why Him?”: An overprotective father (Bryan Cranston) discovers that his daughter (Zoey Deutch) is dating a socially awkward Silicon Valley billionaire (James Franco).

“A Monster Calls”: A lonely preteen befriends an ancient creature in this fantasy-adventure based on Patrick Ness' novel. With Felicity Jones and a motion-captured Liam Neeson.

“Silence”: Martin Scorsese's last-minute entry — announced in late September — explores the lives of 17th century Christian missionaries in Japan. With Liam Neeson, Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield. Based on Shusaku Endo's 1966 novel.

Dec. 25

“Fences”: Denzel Washington directs and stars in this drama about a once-promising baseball player struggling to raise his sons in the 1950s. Based on August Wilson's Tony-winning play, the film was shot and is set in Pittsburgh. With Viola Davis.

“Gold”: Matthew McConaughey plays a prospector searching for gold in the jungles of Indonesia. Based on a true story. With Bryce Dallas Howard and Edgar Ramirez.

“Hidden Figures”: The true story of three African-American women (Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae) who played pivotal roles in NASA's mission to send John Glenn into orbit. With Kevin Costner.

“Live by Night”: Ben Affleck directs and stars in a Prohibition-era crime drama about a man who double-crosses the mob. With Brendan Gleeson and Elle Fanning.

Open now in limited release

These films are expected to open in Pittsburgh sometime during the holiday season, but no date has been announced.

“Nocturnal Animals”: A divorced couple whose relationship takes a dark turn after he writes a novel. With Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Armie Hammer, Laura Linney, Michael Sheen.

“Manchester by the Sea”: A reclusive Boston janitor (Casey Affleck) returns to his Massachusetts hometown after he unexpectedly becomes the guardian of his nephew (Lucas Hedges).

Rafer Guzman is a Newsday staff writer.

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