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Forecasting awards season winners

As we head into November, the air is getting cooler, but things are heating up in terms of awards-season talk at your local theater.

With the release of several Oscar-ready films, such as “J. Edgar” and “Martha Marcy May Marlene” in November and December, it looks as if cineastes will have a welcome escape in their local cinemas from the cold.

While there are plenty of interesting-looking cinematic distractions, such as Martin Scorsese’s fairytale “Hugo” and Steven Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin” on the horizon -both of which seem to be locks for technical categories such as Best Visual Effects – there are only a handful of films slowly unspooling in theaters hoping for the big categories such as Best Picture.

While the verdict is still out on potential awards season contenders such as “Young Adult” and “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” Scene & Heard takes a look at a few films gracing the silver screen over the next couple months that already have people talking.

“J. Edgar”

Nov. 9 (Wide release)

When the trailer for director and actor Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar” hit the worldwide web, many critics where taken aback by the ham-handed acting of Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role and the films unexplainable use of digital effects, bringing back memories of Eastwood’s unfortunate 2010 film “Hereafter.”

Following the career of former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, the film is said to be a controversial take on Hoover’s life, possibly even delving into his supposed homosexuality. It’ll have to be seen how critics and audiences react to the typically unsubtle Eastwood’s directorial hand, as this seems to be some potentially sensitive territory.

Oscar Hopes:With awards season regulars such as Clint Eastwood at the helm, who last won an Oscar for directing 2004’s “Million Dollar Baby” and DiCaprio, who’s been nominated three times, this seems to be a sure bet to pick up some recognition come Oscar season.

“Martha Marcy May Marlene”

Nov. 18 (Tampa release)

“Martha Marcy May Marlene” is a somewhat difficult film to process. It follows a young girl (Elizabeth Olsen) who has escaped from a devious cult, only to wind up in the arms of an older sister who never really got to know her.

The scenes involving the cult are frightening, and those with her sister are heartbreaking, but Olsen and director Sean Durkin handle the film with an assured tone that keeps the audience engaged and ambivalent all at once.

Oscar Hopes:Considering the film has been gaining significant praise for Olsen’s performance along with Durkin’s direction, the pair deserves to be nominated for their respective traits, and there’s a very good chance they will. Curiously enough, this is Durkin and Olsen’s first feature film, and it says a lot that it’s receiving high praise from critics such as Roger Ebert and Rex Reed.

“The Descendants”

Nov. 18 (Limited Release)

George Clooney seems to be nominated every year, but surprisingly enough, he’s only won once for his performance in “Syriana.” The actor, nominated for his performance in 2009’s “Up In the Air,” helps mark the return of “Sideways” director Alexander Payne in the family drama “The Descendants.”

Clooney will probably be splitting Oscar voters’ ballots, as his performance in “The Ides of March” will certainly receive some awards attention, but it’s Payne’s return that seems most promising. Last seen accepting an award for “Best Adapted Screenplay” for 2004’s “Sideways,” Payne’s latest has been receiving some of the best reviews of his career after screening at festivals such as the Toronto International Film Festival.

Oscar Hopes:Since Clooney is such a big star, it’s a safe bet that he’ll at least receive a nomination for “The Descendants,” while it’ll be interesting to see if Payne can walk away from this one with a statue for Best Director.

“My Week With Marilyn”

Nov. 23 (Limited Release)

Seemingly tailor-made for actress Michelle Williams, “My Week With Marilyn” is the epitome of Oscar bait – a biopic of a memorable celebrity with a powerful performer in the lead role. This time it’s Marilyn Monroe, but we’ve already seen films such as “Walk The Line” and “La Vie En Rose” walk away with Oscars for the same subject material.

Chronicling a young man’s week spent with Monroe on the set of her film “The Prince and the Showgirl,” the film is said to feature a chilling performance from Williams, who received a Best Actress nomination for “Blue Valentine” last year.

Oscar Hopes:As previously mentioned, Williams has caught the eye of Academy voters before, and with powerhouse producers Bob and Harvey Weinstein behind this film, who also helped secure her “Blue Valentine” nomination, there’s a pretty good chance they’ll at least push to have a repeat Best Actress nod.

“Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”

Dec. 9 (Wide Release)

There’s perhaps no other film on this list with as much awards potential as “Let The Right One In” director Tomas Alfredson’s “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.” The film spends its time following a semi-retired MI6 agent brought in to help sniff out spies in the organization during the Cold War, with a cast including “The Dark Knight” actor Gary Oldman and last year’s Best Actor winner Colin Firth.

That’s not to mention the film’s other prominent talent, such as “Inception” star Tom Hardy and the highly regarded British thespian John Hurt. Even if the film isn’t a lock for several categories at the Oscars, it’s sure to walk away with many BAFTA Film Awards in its home country.

Oscar Hopes: The chances for this film making waves in America are pretty high -Alfredson’s previous “Let The Right One In” was a critically adored vampire love story, and the film’s cast all share a few Oscar nominations and wins amongst each other. There’s a good chance we could see a repeat of the British invasion that happened at last year’s Oscars with “The King’s Speech.”