A CHRISTMAS TALE

Ignore the icky-cute title of this wine-fueled, snow-swept, droll family saga. Mathieu Amalric (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) is Henri, a drunken outcast son called home because Maman (Catherine Deneuve) needs a bone-marrow transplant. His feuding siblings and flirting in-laws are touching and wickedly funny (as Henri and his mom have a cigarette, she tells him--imagine the Gallic shrug here--that he's the kid she never loved). Director Arnaud Desplechin (the equally astute Kings & Queen) gives dysfunction a seductive French twist--the perfect escape from your own family's holiday-itis.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO

The not-so-dirty secret: It's a rom-com--brash, sweet, and very funny. Zack (ubiquitous Seth Rogen) and his BFF, Miri (almost-as-ubiquitous Elizabeth Banks), are so broke, they produce and star in skin flicks (e.g., Star Whores, a hilarious spoof), eventually waking up to mutually hot feelings. Writer/director Kevin Smith brings both his Chasing Amy gushy side and his Clerks-esque flair for crude slacker 'tude. No leers, not much sex, just big, knowing laughs and--helpful in this tanking economy--the idea of porn as an alternate career.

More From Marie Claire

SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK

Our favorite brainiac screenwriter, Charlie Kaufman (Adaptation), directs, too. In this dizzying drama, Philip Seymour Hoffman is spot-on as schlubby, soul-tortured Caden, a Schenectady, NY, theater director. His painter wife (the indomitable Catherine Keener) bolts; a meek assistant, Hazel (Samantha Morton), turns siren; and Caden spends 17 years creating a play-within-a-play-within-a-play. The literary term synecdoche (a part represents the whole) only hints at the mind-bending twists ahead. In Kaufman-world, buying a house whose walls are literally in flames seems only natural.

What do you think?