Weeks before the Oscars were handed out Sunday, studios were already taking meetings with awards consultants for next year's best picture contenders. What movies might we be hearing about again (and again ... and again) later this year? An early stab at a top 10, in alphabetical order:
"Brooklyn," (Fox Searchlight, release TBA): Searchlight paid $9 million at Sundance for this exquisite immigrant love story — and that might end up being a bargain price. Set in 1950s New York, it follows a homesick Irish woman (Saoirse Ronan) struggling to adapt to her new life until she meets a sweet Italian plumber (Emory Cohen). It's beautifully crafted, emotionally turbulent and sports a superb lead turn by the 20-year-old Ronan, making good on the promise she first showed in "Atonement."
"Carol," (The Weinstein Co., fall): The latest from Todd Haynes ("Far from Heaven"), a drama about a married woman (Cate Blanchett) embarking on a lesbian romance with a younger woman (Rooney Mara) in the early 1950s, will likely premiere at Cannes this May.
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"Demolition," (Fox Searchlight, fall): Director Jean-Marc Vallee ("Dallas Buyers Club," "Wild") knows how to win Oscar nominations for his actors, which might mean Jake Gyllenhaal will finally get his due for this drama about an investment banker widower whose world is changed when he meets a single mother (Naomi Watts).
"In the Heart of the Sea," (Warner Bros., Dec. 11): Ron Howard's historical thriller about the 1820 sinking of the whaleship Essex was moved to a prime awards release date after being initially slated for March. The studio has a strong history of turning quality commercial movies ("Argo," "American Sniper") into Oscar contenders.
"Joy," (20th Century Fox, Christmas): David O. Russell. Jennifer Lawrence. They've been to the dance together twice before ("Silver Linings Playbook," "American Hustle"), so why doubt this biographical dramedy about the Long Island single mom who invented the Miracle Mop?
"Money Monster," (TriStar, TBA): George Clooney plays a self-serving TV stock huckster (paging Jim Cramer!) taken hostage by a gunman on air and forced to come clean. Jodie Foster directs; Julia Roberts costars. Expect Clooney to have plenty of fun promoting this one.
"The Revenant," (20th Century Fox, Christmas): In between stocking his mantle with awards, "Birdman" director-producer-writer Alejandro G. Inarritu spent the past few months shooting this revenge-themed western about a frontiersman (Leonaro DiCaprio) mauled by a bear and left to die by his companions. Expect to see plenty of Inarritu again on the awards circuit.
"St. James Place," (Touchstone, Oct. 16): Steven Spielberg's Cold War historical thriller reunites him with Tom Hanks, who plays attorney James Donovan, the man asked to negotiate the release of Francis Gary Powers, the pilot of the U-2 spy plane shot down in Soviet airspace in 1960.
"Steve Jobs," (Universal, Oct. 9): That biopic of the Apple co-founder that caused so much consternation between producer Scott Rudin and then-Sony studio head Amy Pascal will arrive in October via Universal and director Danny Boyle. Michael Fassbender stars. Burning question: Will Angelina Jolie be invited to the premiere?