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OscarWatch: What are the fall's Best Picture contenders?

(Saeed Adyani)

If there’s one thing I dislike the most about the Oscar prediction game, it’s having to make guesses months before the movies in question are even seen. But people have come to expect some kind of Academy Award prognosticating in our annual Fall Movie Preview issue (on stands now), so I recently compiled a list of a dozen possible Best Picture contenders from the last four months of the year. I made a similar list last year and managed to include all six of the season’s eventual Best Picture nominees: The King’s Speech, The Social Network, The Fighter, 127 Hours, Black Swan, and True Grit. (Of course I also had How Do You Know, Love and Other Drugs, and The Tempest on there, so clearly you can’t win ‘em all.) It wasn’t easy to narrow it down to 12 this time, but here’s what I went with:

The Artist The delightful black-and-white crowd-pleaser from Cannes
Carnage Roman Polanski’s adaptation of the hit play God of Carnage, starring Kate Winslet and Jodie Foster
The Descendants Alexander Payne’s first film since Sideways, this time featuring George Clooney
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock in small roles for never-not-nominated director Stephen Daldry
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo David Fincher’s much-awaited follow-up to Social Network
Hugo A family-friendly film from Martin Scorsese
The Ides of March Clooney’s riveting political-campaign drama with a dream cast headed by Ryan Gosling
The Iron Lady Meryl Streep’s take on former British PM Margaret Thatcher
J. Edgar Leonardo DiCaprio and Clint Eastwood team up for a look at FBI pioneer J. Edgar Hoover
War Horse Steven Spielberg + war movies = awards (usually)
We Bought A Zoo The return of Cameron Crowe, with Matt Damon and echoes of To Kill A Mockingbird
Young Adult Juno duo Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody explore their darker sides with Charlize Theron

As for movies that just missed making the cut, there’s the Gary Oldman thriller Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; David Cronenberg’s Freud/Jung study A Dangerous Method; Michelle Williams and Kenneth Branagh’s My Week With Marilyn; the surprisingly affecting Tom Hardy/Joel Edgerton mixed martial-arts drama Warrior; and Angelina Jolie’s directorial debut, In the Land of Blood and Honey. We’ll see if I soon regret leaving them off the list.

Which fall movies seem like true contenders to you? And which of these predictions will leave me with egg on my face?

Dave on Twitter: @davekarger

Originally posted August 19 2011 — 9:00 AM EDT

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