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It's not even the New Year, and already the Tinseltown pundits are out with their Oscar predictions—well, predictions for the nominations, at least. (Mark those calendars: nominations announced, January 25; Academy Awards extravaganza, February 27.) How many of the following actors, directors, and producers will be holding their collective breaths as the time-honored ritual is repeated ("And the Oscar goes to... ") as it has been since 1929.

Two films here are remakes of Hollywood classics—will the leading ladies in new adaptations of Jane Eyre and Mildred Pierce (staples these days of Turner Classic Movies) be able to erase memories of those two stunning Joans, Fontaine and Crawford? And novels by three noted contemporary authors—William Boyd, Cormac McCarthy, and Mordecai Richler—are being adapted for the big screen as well.

Though this January–April frame isn't the typical blockbuster time of year, who are we to rule out the possibility of a dark horse. Might Unknown become "known"? Could The Rite demonstrate the right stuff? Any Human Heart touch every human heart? Place your bets.

| january |
The Rite
Starring Anthony Hopkins, Alice Braga, Toby Jones
Directed by Mikael Hafström
Release date January 28 (Warner Bros., wide)
Tie-in from Doubleday Religion: The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist by Matt Baglio (trade paper)
Prospects look good for this true-life story—good and scary. As reported October 16 by Variety, "The exorcism subgenre has consistently brought in the green—and not just the iconic pea-soup green Linda Blair made famous in The Exorcist"—a frightfest that hauled in some $400 million. And recent E-word flicks, though not up to that level, have scared up impressive b.o. results: Lionsgate's The Last Exorcism grossed $41 million in the U.S.; The Exorcism of Emily Rose, $140 million worldwide; and The Exorcist: The Beginning brought in $78 million worldwide. And of course Hopkins can always be counted on for a dose of creepy—think Hannibal Lecter.

Barney's Version
Starring Paul Giamatti, Dustin Hoffman, Minnie Driver
Directed by Richard J. Lewis
Release date January 14 (Sony Pictures Classics, limited)
Tie-in from Vintage Books: Barney's Version by Mordecai Richler (trade)
A sterling cast interprets the late Richler's much lauded, award-winning novel. Some critics have already weighed in, with—no surprise—typically divergent opinions. According to Boxoffice magazine, it's "one of those rare films whose caricature of life undeniably illuminates.... Richler had the knack for creating unforgettable characters and this film will be remembered for its performances." The New York Times, on the other hand, says, "The filmmakers have been, if anything, too dutiful, too careful, and the movie that results from their conscientious, devoted labor illustrates the terrible, paradoxical trap into which well-intentioned literary adaptations so often fall."

The Other Woman
Starring Natalie Portman, Lisa Kudrow, Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Directed by Don Roos
Release date January (IFC Films, limited)
Tie-in from Vintage Books: Love and Other Impossible Pursuits by Ayelet Waldman (hardcover, trade, Feb. 8)
PW loved Waldman's 2006 novel: "How a five-year-old manages to make the adults in his life hew to the love he holds for them is the sweet treat in this honest, brutal, bitterly funny slice of life.... Waldman has upper bourgeois New York down cold. The result is a terrific adult story." And Woman's b.o. is sure to benefit from Portman's current Black Swan performance, which has garnered rave notices and superloud Oscar buzz. (Interesting trivia: according to IMDb.com, Jennifer Lopez was once attached to play Swan's leading role.)

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