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Hollywood puts Oscars on its holiday wish list

Posted 7:28am on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012

NEW YORK -- With less than two months left in the year, the big Oscar contenders are lining up for their debuts. Audiences can expect to see a Tolstoy adaptation, a true tale of American vengeance, even a drama about a shipwrecked tiger. And many moviegoers still haven't seen Denzel Washington's highly praised turn as a troubled pilot in Flight, which unfortunately opened the Friday after Superstorm Sandy.

Which coming attractions are already getting Oscar-caliber applause, and which seem to be still waiting in the wings? Here's a quick look at the hopefuls ahead.

Anna Karenina (Friday) -- Check the pedigree: Tom Stoppard adapts Tolstoy with an eclectic cast (Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Emily Watson and Aaron Taylor-Johnson) directed by Joe Wright (Atonement). But how will its unorthodox staging -- on an actual stage -- fare with Oscar voters?

Silver Linings Playbook (Friday) -- David O. Russell follows his Oscar-winning The Fighter with a comedy-drama starring Bradley Cooper as an unstable man who meets a troubled girl (Jennifer Lawrence). The film has played many a festival (including Fort Worth's) to positive reviews, but few critics are predicting Oscar gold.

Life of Pi (Nov. 21) -- Ang Lee ( Brokeback Mountain) adapts Yann Martel's acclaimed novel about a young man (Suraj Sharma, making his debut) stranded on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger. How viewers react to the computer-generated animal -- Time magazine already called the movie the "new Avatar" -- will decide its fate.

Hitchcock (Nov. 23) -- This last-minute Oscar entry, about the making of Psycho, stars Anthony Hopkins as the rotund director, Helen Mirren as his loyal wife and Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh. Early reviews suggest a crowd-pleaser, and a screening at Los Angeles' AFI Fest reportedly ended with hearty cheers. Could this be The King's Speech of 2012?

Zero Dark Thirty (Dec. 19) -- The first big-screen feature about the manhunt for Osama bin Laden comes from director Kathryn Bigelow and journalist-screenwriter Mark Boal, whose The Hurt Locker won best picture Oscar in 2010. That hard-hitting but low-grossing war film was an unlikely winner; whether the team can pull it off again remains to be seen.

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