As everyone knows, December is the time when studios release their Oscar-contender films. People tend to see movies more with all those days off from work, school breaks and, if your family is anything like mine, then you get sick of your grandfather who always talks about your cousin who goes to Princeton right in front of you, even though you are following in his footsteps in the honorable profession of medicine – but because his school has more ivy leaves growing on it he is considered a genius. Family bonding like that always makes me want to hop in the car and head to the local cineplex. Though I did see a lot of movies over break, I unfortunately didn’t see too many that are now being hailed as Oscar quality. I didn’t see “Cold Mountain” because I felt like I should read the book first. “Lost in Translation” was out of theaters, I was never in a “Big Fish” mood and I didn’t really want to see Charlize Theron as a terribly ugly serial killer. Now I did see the third installment of “The Lord of the Rings” I feel I couldn’t give it a proper review because I literally had the most obnoxious 12-year-old boys sitting in front of me and I don’t even know if the King returned. Though the films I saw might be considered a bit more lighthearted and less meaningful than the films that centered on war, houses of sand and fog and the weight you lose when you die – 21 grams – I enjoyed them immensely.I thought Steve Martin was hilarious as a father of four in “Parenthood” so you can imagine the fun that began when he was the father of 12 in “Cheaper by the Dozen.” Although the film was very much geared for children with stunt after stunt and obvious jokes, I am sure that most parents could relate to the realistic personalities which Martin and Bonnie Hunt conveyed. There was also something to appease the teenage crowd – well let’s be honest, the female teenage crowd with the oldest brother being played by Tom Welling – oh, he is a super man – and a hilarious cameo by Ashton Kutcher. After the film, I dreamed of being in a family with 11 siblings. At least, I did until I came home to find that my sister was in my bathroom – I decided that that would probably happen more with 12 kids and that would be too annoying. The chick flick of December would have to be “Mona Lisa Smile.” With its all star cast of young chicks – Kirsten Dunst, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Julia Stiles – and old chicks – Marcia Gay Harden – and of course, the most successful chick in the coop – Julia Roberts – the film was a tour de force of estrogen. Though it was said to be a female version of “Dead Poets Society,” I don’t recall the scene in that movie where they talked about going on the pill. The plot centers on the prestigious Wellesley College for women in the early ’50s and on the eruptions that occur when Katherine Watson, a Californian, unwedded – which meant you were looked at basically the same way as if you were missing an arm or leg – hippie art history professor comes to the school. The film was poignant, funny and at times, absolutely shocking when you heard such things as, “it will be hard for her to go to law school in Philadelphia and then be home in time to get dinner on the table by five.” The actresses were wonderful, and though I couldn’t figure out why Stiles was doing this odd British/Connecticut lockjaw accent when she was supposed to be from Massachusetts, I still found it entertaining. However, my favorite holiday film was “Elf.” Will Ferrell could not have selected a better vehicle to launch his new leading man movie career. I was unable to stop laughing at any point in the music montage when Ferrell first arrives in New York City. That’s a lot of laughter.There is not much more to say about “Elf” except that many quotes from that movie have reached away message status and the expression, “I am a cotton-headed ninny muggins,” is very dear to my heart. I hope that “Elf 2” is in the works. Lepore can be reached at

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