Remember “Norbit,” the embarrassingly bad comedy that many believe cost Eddie Murphy a shot at an Academy Award for his sensational performance in “Dreamgirls”? Now, many are predicting that this formulaic, friends-with-benefits sex comedy could do the same damage to Natalie Portman, the frontrunner for Best Actress for her career-best work in “Black Swan.”

NO STRINGS ATTACHED


Remember “Norbit,” the embarrassingly bad comedy that many believe cost Eddie Murphy a shot at an Academy Award for his sensational performance in “Dreamgirls”? Now, many are predicting that this formulaic, friends-with-benefits sex comedy could do the same damage to Natalie Portman, the frontrunner for Best Actress for her career-best work in “Black Swan.” We shall see, but her chief competition, Annette Bening, sure hopes that’s the case. And with the always awful Ashton Kutcher as Portman’s co-star, Mrs. Beatty’s chances improve dramatically.


ANOTHER YEAR


Little-known Lesley Manville makes a convincing case for Oscar consideration with her searing portrayal of an aging, lonely woman desperate to be a part of a perfect family in Mike Leigh’s sad, haunting tale about a group of life’s losers who are their own worst enemy. Their only solace, ironically, is being in the company of a happily married middle-aged couple played by Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen.


THE COMPANY MEN


In a movie befitting our economically depressed times, Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper and Tommy Lee Jones play businessmen forced to re-evaluate their lives after they are laid off from their high-level corporate jobs. Kevin Costner co-stars in this affecting Boston-set drama written and directed by “ER” creator John Wells.


NENETTE


Nicolas Philibert’s documentary chronicles the life of a 40-year-old orangutan residing in the Paris zoo. Hey, I thought that was Jane Goodall’s job.


THE WAY BACK


A trio of refugees (Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris and Colin Farrell) flee a Siberian gulag and engage in a desperate fight for survival, as they and four others (including Saoirse Ronan and Mark Strong) traverse rugged terrain and the freezing cold to win their freedom. The fact-based story is directed and co-written by Peter Weir (“Witness,” “The Truman Show”), taking his first turn behind the camera since helming “Master and Commander” seven years ago.


The Patriot Ledger