Fall films: Now the Oscar race heats up

Sandra Bullock as an astronaut in trouble in "Gravity."
Warner Brothers

(CBS News) Movie-goers, take note: The new season is underway. And even though the calendar says it's the first day of fall, Hollywood producers already have a certain ceremony next March very much on their minds. Bill Whitaker has a preview of coming attractions:

The race is on for the Oscar as Hollywood gets serious in the fall.

Some of the season's new films are "quite, quite serious," says Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan. "And that's always an encouraging sign."

It's Turan's favorite time of year, making him "giddy" with anticipation.

"You have to be a little giddy in the fall, or else, you know, when are you going to be giddy?" he told Whitaker. "If you love films, these are the films you look forward to."

The film that stood out the most for Turan is "Gravity."

Directed by Alfonso Cuaron, "Gravity" stars George Clooney and Sandra Bullock as astronauts whose craft is hit by space debris. Bullock is stranded in space.

"I swear to you, you feel like you're in outer space," said Turan. "It's an amazing visual experience."

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Tom Hanks as "Captain Phillips," directed by Paul Greengrass. Columbia Pictures

Tom Hanks plays "Captain Phillips," whose cargo ship was hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009.

"You feel like this is happening in front of your eyes and you're right in the middle of it," said Turan.

"Captain Phillips" is one of many of this fall's films that are based on real people and events.

Naomi Watts plays a princess in "Diana"; Idris Elba plays the man who would become South Africa's first black president, in "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom."

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has a flair for the dramatic; now his early life has inspired a Hollywood drama, "The Fifth Estate," starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

Toronto International Film Festival kicks off with "The Fifth Estate"

In "Saving Mr. Banks," Walt Disney has to pull out all the stops to convince author P.L. Travers to let him turn her book, "Mary Poppins," into a movie. Tom Hanks plays Disney; Emma Thompson is Travers.

An 1855 memoir inspired "12 Years a Slave." Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Solomon Northup, a man born in freedom and sold into slavery.

"It's an intense film," said Turan. "This won the Audience Award at Toronto, which is often the precursor to Oscar. So this is one that people are going to feel they have to see."

Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender in "12 Years a Slave," based on the true story of a free African American sold into slavery in the 19th century. Fox Searchlight

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Watch: "12 Years a Slave" trailer

Directors shift into high gear in the fall. Ron Howard uses a real-life chapter from Formula One racing to explore passion, friendship and danger in "Rush."

"Inside Llewyn Davis" by the Coen brothers takes us to the Greenwich Village folk music scene in the early 1960s.

Oscar Isaac, Justin Timberlake and Adam Driver in "Inside Llewelyn Davis," directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. CBS Films

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Director David O. Russell takes his quirky characters through a 1970s FBI sting operation in "American Hustle."