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Oscars 2012: Who's going to be on next year's best picture list?

February 25, 2011 |  8:00 am

Tree of life 
Are you as burned out on 2010's Oscar season as we are? If so, take a look into the future to see who we are going to be tired of by next February. We've compiled a completely arbitrary -- but intriguing -- list of what films could be making it to the winner's circle in 2012. Feel free to chime in with your predictions because, really, this time next year we will all likely have been proved wrong.

(Please note: these are in no particular order.)

1. "Contagion": Steven Soderbergh, Oscar winner for "Traffic," is back with another ensemble piece, this time an action-thriller centered on a team of doctors that must deal with a deadly disease outbreak. The film features an all-star cast with Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow and Marion Cotillard, along with this year's nominee in the supporting actor category John Hawkes. It may be too "Bourne Identity" for the academy but it's not a bad place to start. (Opens Oct. 21)

2. "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close": Stephen Daldry ("The Reader") helms this adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer's novel about a 9-year old boy who searches New York City for a lock that matches a key left by his father (Tom Hanks), who was killed in the Sept. 11 attacks. Eric Roth ("The Curious Case of Benjamin Button") adapted the book and the pedigree of cast and filmmakers has Oscar written all over it. And for that extra boost, uber-producer Scott Rudin is behind this one too. (Not yet dated.)

3. "The Descendants": Alexander Payne ("Sideways") is finally back with a new film, seven years after "Sideways" was released. Payne adapted Kaui Hart Hemmings' novel about a Hawaiian land baron, played by George Clooney, who tries to reconnect with his two daughters after his wife suffers a boating accident.(Not yet dated.)

4. "Tree of Life": Terrence Malick ("The Thin Red Line") has returned with Brad Pitt and Sean Penn starring in a story of a Midwestern family in the 1950s. The film has been kicking around a while but that seems to be more an issue of a corporate distribution shuffle than any knock against the film. (Opens May 27)

5. "The Iron Lady": Meryl Streep pairs up with her "Mamma Mia" director Phyllida Lloyd in this biopic of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The script is written by British playwright Abi Morgan and "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" writer Michael Hirst. Jim Broadbent co-stars as Mr. Thatcher. The British-financed flick does not yet have a U.S. distributor.

6. "The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo": "Social Network" director David Fincher returns with the highly anticipated adaptation of the bestselling Swedish novel. Starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara, the film has a lot to compete with considering the Swedish film version was so well-regarded. And with the book being so violent, it may not be arty enough for the academy. Still, Fincher is one of a kind when it comes to this kind of material, think "Zodiac" or "Seven", and I'm sure the director wants nothing more than to hit the campaign trail once again. (Opens Dec. 21.)

7. "The Help": Young filmmaker Tate Taylor has assembled an all-star cast for the adaptation of the bestselling novel from his childhood friend Katherine Stockett. With new "it" girl Emma Stone in the starring role opposite Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and Bryce Dallas Howard, this summer release is surely one of the more anticipated films of the year. Plus, it's got an incredible back story of real-life friendship, which the academy loves. (Opens Aug. 12)

8. "War Horse": It's been three years since Steven Spielberg made "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" and six years since "Munich," so it's about time we get some Oscar bait from one of the world's most acclaimed directors. Whether "War Horse" is that film remains to be seen. It's a Christmas movie centered on the friendship between a young man and his horse during World War I, and the biggest stars involved with the film are behind the camera, in Spielberg and screenwriter Richard Curtis ("Love Actually").

9. "Young Adult: Director Jason Reitman ("Up in the Air") has partnered again with his "Juno" screenwriter, Diablo Cody, to tell the tale of a divorced writer (Charlize Theron) who returns to her hometown to reconnect with an old flame, who's now married with children. (Not yet dated)

10. "One Day": "An Education" director Lone Scherfig returns to direct Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess in this adaptation of David Nicholls' bestseller about a man and woman who meet during their 1968 graduation and proceed to reunite one day each year for the next two decades. This mid-summer drama may be too commercial for the academy but perhaps it's Focus Features' attempt at some brilliant counterprogramming. (July 8)

 --Nicole Sperling

Photo: Brad Pitt and Laramie Heppler in Terrence Malick's Fox movie "The Tree of Life." Credit: Merie Wallace / 20th Century Fox