Oscar nominations are hard to predict in the weeks before they're announced, let alone a full year ahead. At this point last year, all bets were that Sofia Coppola's quiet character drama Somewhere, Clint Eastwood's heady Hereafter, George Clooney's wonky thriller The American and what was at the time still being referred to as "Untitled James L. Brooks Romantic Comedy" (which became How Do You Know) would be future Best Picture Oscar nominees. As became quite obvious in the ensuing 12 months, those pictures didn't exactly deliver on their early awards promise—but it didn't make it any less fun to track the ups and downs of their Academy Award chances.
Now that the King's Speech-Social Network battle royale has finally been settled, what films can we look forward to watching in 2011? The year will see major releases directed by Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, and Robert Redford, and returns to the awards race by newly crowned Oscar winners Aaron Sorkin and Colin Firth. Here are 16 frontrunners for next year's awards season. Any or all of these films could fizzle or tank, but given their pedigrees and buzz out of festivals and early screenings, they are the ones to watch:
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