Hollywood is in its usual hazy head space when it comes to the Academy Awards race.
The dilemma: handicapping the players when so many of the potential front-runners have yet to show their game face.
Films such as Ben Affleck's Argo and Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman's The Master already are proven contenders through rapturous reactions from festival crowds. A handful of summer releases have a shot at Best Picture slots - but that depends on the movies still to come.
Late prospects include Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, with Daniel Day-Lewis as the 16th US president; The King's Speech director Tom Hooper's Les MisÚrables, starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway; The Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty chronicling the hunt for Osama bin Laden, and Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
A late-summer threesome of film festivals - Venice, Toronto and Telluride - premiered many potential contenders for the Oscars, whose nominations come out on January 10. The ceremony follows on February 24.
Among festival prospects are Anna Karenina, a fanciful Leo Tolstoy adaptation starring Keira Knightley and Jude Law, as well as the comic drama Silver Linings Playbook from The Fighter director David O Russell, featuring Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro.
Earlier independent releases might creep into the Best Picture race, among them the youthful dramas Moonrise Kingdom and Beasts of the Southern Wild, the latter of which will screen at this month's Abu Dhabi Film Festival.
Other forthcoming contenders: Robert Zemeckis's airline drama Flight starring Denzel Washington; the Alfred Hitchcock tale Hitchcock starring Anthony Hopkins; Quentin Tarantino's Civil War-era bounty-hunter saga Django Unchained featuring Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio; and the shipwreck story Life of Pi from the director Ang Lee. - AP