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For Your Consideration: The 5 Films We Haven't Seen That Could Dramatically Alter This Year's Oscar Race

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire October 30, 2012 at 12:12PM

Five films are still major question marks in this year's race -- they've avoided fests such as Toronto and Venice hoping to steal all the buzz at the last minute. Like "The Iron Lady" and "War Horse" last year, there's a quintet of unseen movies waiting in the wings that could alter the Oscars.
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As November rears its (dreary) head, Indiewire has given its Oscar prediction charts an update, and while we're as confident as one can be at this time of year, the fact remains that five major films are still major question marks in this year's race.

There's usually always a few films that hold out until the last minute, avoiding fests like Toronto, Venice or New York and hoping to steal all the buzz at the last minute (last year it was namely "The Iron Lady," "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" and "War Horse," all of which ended with major nods -- despite the fact that few people seemed to like them).

This year, there's a quintet waiting in the wings that could totally alter the way this year's Oscar race seems to be going ("Argo" for the win?). They've all been reflected in the charts, but the truth is that it's all total guess-work. What do you think is the fate of the final five?

Hitchcock

Release Date: November 23rd (but it'll be at AFI FEST first)
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Director: Sacha Gervasi
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johannson, Toni Collette, Jessica Biel, James D'Arcy, Danny Huston

The Deal: A last minute addition to this year's race, "Hitchcock" has a secret weapon: It's about movies, and Oscar loves that. A year after "The Artist," "Hugo" and "My Week With Marilyn" all managed a bunch of major nods (and, in some cases, wins), "Hitchcock" (and to some degree, "Argo") aims to do the same with a movie about movies. One movie, to be exact. The film adapts Stephen Rebello's non-fiction book "Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of 'Psycho,'" and stars previous Oscar winners Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren as Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Hitchcock. Fox Searchlight definitely seems to think it has something special, rushing it to theaters (it was shot this Spring) in a clear bid for Academy gold.

Prediction: More of a "My Week With Marilyn" than a "The Artist," "Hitchcock" nabs a handful of nominations namely for acting (Hopkins and Mirren the most likely, but watch out of Johannson), but that's it.

Zero Dark Thirty

Release Date: December 19th
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Cast: Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton, Chris Pratt, Jennifer Ehle, Kyle Chandler, James Gandolfini, Edgar Ramirez

The Deal: The most mysterious of the films left to be seen, Kathryn Bigelow follows up her Oscar winning "Hurt Locker" with "Zero Dark Thirty," a take on the special operations forces mission to capture or kill Osama bin Laden. Written by "Locker" scribe Mark Boal, very little is known about the specifics of the film. Up until recently, we didn't even know James Gandolfini was even in the film, and only last week was it confirmed that Jessica Chastain is indeed the lead (which could very well shake up the best actress race).

Prediction: Could Bigelow and Boal strike again? We should keep in mind that Bigelow's pre-"Hurt Locker" track record isn't exactly perfect ("K-19: The Widowmaker," anyone?). While it's truly anybody's guess at this point, we're predicting the film ends up being pretty divisive, nabbing a few tech nods and a best actress bid for Jessica Chastain.

Les Miserables

Release Date: December 25th
Distributor: Universal
Director: Tom Hooper
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Samantha Barks, Eddie Redmayne, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen

The Deal: Some say -- sight unseen -- that it's the frontrunner, and it's easy to see why: An epic musical based one of Broadway's most beloved, the film has an huge cast in Jackman, Crowe and Hathaway and is directed by "The King's Speech" helmer Tom Hooper, who the Academy embraced just two years ago. Universal recently bumped the film back a week to a Christmas Day release, so -- like most of the films on this list -- they better start screening as soon as possible to get the film seen. This year more than ever (with the Oscar noms out on January 10th), the earlier is most definitely the better.

Prediction: The Academy hasn't fully embraced a musical since 2001's "Chicago" ("Dreamgirls" may have won best supporting actress, but it was snubbed for best picture), but this one certainly seems like the most promising in a good long while. Winning the big prize seems like a stretch (two in a row for Tom Hooper, and three straight years of non-US productions winning?), but a bunch of major nominations should be pretty much expected, with Hathaway seemingly poised to lead the best supporting actress race if she pulls off the baity role of Fantine (musicals fare very well in that category, see Jennifer Hudson and Catherine Zeta-Jones).

Django Unchained

Release Date: December 25th (but could very well screen at the Rome Film Festival first)
Distributor: The Weinstein Company
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins, Don Johnson, Jonah Hill

The Deal:  A take on the spaghetti western set in America's Deep South, Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" has been heavily anticipated since Tarantino first brought up the idea back in 2007. Featuring an all-star cast including Oscar winners Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz alongside the still-Oscarless Leonardo DiCaprio (in the villian role, no less... which has been a favorite in the best supporting actor category recently), the film is set for release by The Weinstein Company on Christmas Day (but there's rumors it will debut at the Rome Film Festival as a surprise screening next month).

Prediction: Is the Academy ready to embrace Tarantino twice in a row (it's kind of a theme here, with Bigelow, Hooper and Tarantino all coming off films the Academy loved)? They gave "Basterds" nods across the board, despite not being a typical Oscar film... but completely ignored the "Kill Bill" films. Our guess is this one ends up somewhere in the middle, not managing a best picture nom but with Harvey behind the campaign, sending Leonardo DiCaprio to the podium for best supporting actor.

Promised Land

Release Date: December 28th
Distributor: Focus Features
Director: Gus Van Sant
Cast: Matt Damon, John Krasinski, Frances McDormand, Rosemarie DeWitt, Hal Holbrook, Lucas Black

The Deal: Gus Van Sant directs a screenplay by Matt Damon and John Krasinski that takes on the timely topic of hydraulic fracturing (colloquially known as "fracking"). Damon and Krasinski also star, playing two men caught in a complicated scenario when Damon's character -- a corporate salesman -- heads to a rural town to buy drilling rights from local residents who seek relief after the recent economic decline. Focus Features pushed this up to a (very) late December release date back in August, suggesting they're confident with its Oscar chances. It certainly wouldn't be the first time Van Sant and Damon teamed up for a big awards film (though oddly enough this year they'd be competing against Ben Affleck's "Argo")

Prediction: Reviews are very kind, and "Land" quietly enters a couple races at the last minute (Oscar does love an issue movie), landing an original screenplay nom for Damon and Krasinski, and a best supporting actor bid for Hal Holbrook, who plays a schoolteacher that resists Damon's bid.

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This article is related to: Academy Awards, Promised Land, Django Unchained, Zero Dark Thirty, Les Miserables, Hitchcock