First up, Clint Eastwood's "J. Edgar" will hit theaters on a to-be-determined date in October. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio as former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and he's got a great supporting cast around him. Armie Hammer, the breakout star of "The Social Network," will play Clyde Tolson, Hoover's assistant/lover, while Naomi Watts will play Helen Gandy, Hoover's personal secretary. The film will also star Judi Dench, Stephen Root, Ed Westwick and Josh Lucas. Of course, the big question is not if the film will be Oscar bait, but just what categories it can contend in. Even "Hereafter," released in the same frame last year largely to muted reviews, wound up with a nomination for Visual Effects so anything is possible.
Next up, is Stephen Daldry's "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close," and with Warner Bros. setting it for sometime in December, they are clearing putting most of their Oscar push behind this one. Based on the book by Jonathan Safran Foer, the story focuses on Oskar Schell, a nine-year-old boy from Manhattan whose father died on 9/11. Two years later, the boy discovers a key belonging to his father, which sends him on a search through the city. Newcomer Thomas Horn will play Oskar, with Sandra Bullock and Tom Hanks as his parents, and John Goodman as a doorman who aids Schell on his quest. Viola Davis, Jeffrey Wright, Max Von Sydow and James Gandolfini round out the cast.
Best-selling and critically acclaimed book + three-time Best Director Oscar nominee + five-time nominee and two-time Oscar winning actor + Best Actress winner = instant awards horse. They would have to screw the pooch pretty hard to mess this one up.