A gleaming period melodrama based on a real-life corruption scandal in 1920s Los Angeles, Changeling stars Angelina Jolie as a single mother who is overjoyed when the LAPD returns her kidnapped son to her—until she realizes that he's not, in fact, her child. With the fearless Jolie diving into yet another intensely emotional role and the great Clint Eastwood directing, the film is likely to be one of the Oscar® season's big contenders.
Synecdoche, New York In theaters: November 14
Charlie Kaufman, the screenwriter behind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Adaptation, makes his directing debut with Synecdoche, New York, named for the figure of speech in which a part substitutes for the whole (e.g., "a nice set of wheels"). Alongside a fantastic who's-who of actresses (Catherine Keener, Samantha Morton, Michelle Williams, Dianne Wiest...), Philip Seymour Hoffman portrays a theater director who crams his life into a single, sprawling stage work—the play is the part that describes the whole of his existence. As art and reality begin to blur, the movie concocts an identity crisis that's as convoluted as an M.C. Escher drawing, and the results are messy, often hilarious, and sometimes sublime. A few minutes Why listen to all those phone messages when you can skim them instead? PhoneTag's voice-recognition technology will send a text-message transcript of your voice mails to your cell phone ($10 per month for up to 40; PhoneTag.com)
5 minutes Read the daily musings of both novice writers and literary celebrities on the lively RedRoom.com, an online social network for authors and readers (Amy Tan and James Patterson are among the frequent blog contributors).
An hour Watch a new episode of Iconoclasts, which pairs up innovators from different fields and lets the cameras and conversation roll (starts October 16 on the Sundance Channel).
90 minutes Meet female combat veterans of the war in Iraq in Lioness, just one of the far-ranging films in the superb series Independent Lens (starts October 22 on PBS).