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.
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.