68th Anniversary Issue: The Contenders

Even in mid-December, you'll need Harry Potter's magical powers to handicap the Oscar race

Although Oscar season seems to be arriving earlier and earlier each year, that doesn’t mean the job of selecting the final contenders is getting any easier. In fact, it’s getting more complicated. Since many of the final players don’t deliver the goods to the critics and the public until the final weeks of December, the wisdom of award season watchers is often as reliable as Jean Dixon’s (or this year’s top TV psychic Miss Cleo’s) new year predictions.

Just as last year, when Oscar votes were divided between “Gladiator,” “Traffic,” “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “Erin Brockovich” and “Chocolat,” Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences members may easily divide the wealth among titles such as Sony’s “Ali” and “Black Hawk Down”; Universal’s “A Beautiful Mind”; Miramax’s “The Shipping News,” “In the Bedroom,” “Iris” “Amelie” and “The Others”; Warner Bros.’ “The Majestic”; and Fox’s “Moulin Rouge.” That’s not even including more populist choices such as “Shrek,” “Ocean’s Eleven,” “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.”

In this special issue, which also commemorates Daily Variety‘s 68th anniversary, we highlight 20 films that have a solid shot at getting nominated in more than two categories next year. Of course, this is not an exact science, and we all expect to hear certain gasps when the final list of nominees is announced Feb. 12. The unpredictable nature of the game is perhaps the most delightful aspect of the season. And who’d want 20-20 foresight to get in the way of that?