Santa’s workshop isn’t the only production facility where the output is binary: What you get — a lump of coal or a shiny new toy — depends on whether you’ve been naughty or nice. Hollywood also operates in polarities, a division made more acute this time of year, when movies as entertainment are counterbalanced by Films of Substance — as often as not, ones that are based on true stories.
That doesn’t mean that fiction is all fun and games, nor that fact-based films also can’t be richly enjoyable. It depends on what you like.
For that reason, this holiday movie guide offers not one but two shopping lists: the first for the moviegoer with a taste for verisimilitude, and the second for anyone looking to get away from all that.
Eight movies ripped from the headlines (or the history books):
• “Ford v Ferrari”
Starring: Matt Damon, Christian Bale.
This underdog sports drama is about a car race: the 24 Hours of Le Mans, an annual French endurance competition that, in 1966, pitted the Ford GT40 Mark II against Ferrari’s 330 P3 after Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) and his lieutenant Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) got it into their heads to take on the Italians. Damon plays the implacable American Carroll Shelby, a previous Le Mans winner brought on by Ford to design its new muscle car, and Bale is British driver Ken Miles, a hothead who Shelby hopes will be Ford’s ticket to victory. (Nov. 15, PG-13)
• “Honey Boy”
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Lucas Hedges, Noah Jupe.
With a screenplay by LaBeouf that began as a therapeutic exercise during a court-ordered rehab stay, the sometimes-controversial actor’s semi-autobiographical telling of his troubled childhood and youth in Hollywood is sure to have confessional elements. Jupe and Hedges play the young performer Otis — a character loosely based on LaBeouf, who began acting as a teenager — at various ages. As for LaBeouf, he plays a version of his own father: a volatile, sometimes-abusive addict who nevertheless loves his son. (Nov. 15, R)