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'Life of Pi,' 'Anna Karenina,' more Oscar hopefuls

Life of Pi: A 3-D adaptation of Yann

Life of Pi: A 3-D adaptation of Yann Martel's novel about a young man (Suraj Sharma) stranded on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger. Directed by Ang Lee. Credit: AP

With only two months left in the year, the big Oscar contenders are lining up for their debuts. Audiences can expect to see a Tolstoy adaptation, a true tale of American vengeance, even a drama about a shipwrecked tiger. And many moviegoers still haven't seen Denzel Washington's highly praised turn as a troubled pilot in "Flight," which unfortunately opened the Friday after superstorm Sandy.

Which coming attractions are already getting Oscar-caliber applause, and which seem to be still waiting in the wings? Here's a quick look at the hopefuls ahead.

ANNA KARENINA (Nov. 16) -- Check the pedigree: Tom Stoppard adapts Tolstoy with an eclectic cast (Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Emily Watson and Aaron Taylor-Johnson) directed by Joe Wright ("Atonement"). But how will its unorthodox staging -- on an actual stage -- fare with Oscar voters?

LIFE OF PI (Nov. 21) -- Ang Lee ("Brokeback Mountain") adapts Yann Martel's acclaimed novel about a young man (Suraj Sharma, making his debut) stranded on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger. How viewers react to the computer-generated animal -- Time magazine already called the movie "the new 'Avatar' " -- will decide its fate.

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (Nov. 21) -- David O. Russell follows his Oscar-winning "The Fighter" with a comedy-drama starring Bradley Cooper as an unstable man who meets a troubled girl (Jennifer Lawrence). The film has played many a festival to positive reviews, but few critics predict Oscar gold.

HITCHCOCK (Nov. 23) -- This last-minute Oscar entry, about the making of "Psycho," stars Anthony Hopkins as the rotund director, Helen Mirren as his loyal wife and Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh. (Local boy Ralph Macchio plays the screenwriter.) Early reviews suggest a crowd-pleaser, and a screening at Los Angeles' AFI Fest reportedly ended with hearty cheers. Could this be "The King's Speech" of 2012?

ZERO DARK THIRTY (Dec. 19) -- The first big-screen feature about the manhunt for Osama bin Laden comes from director Kathryn Bigelow and journalist-screenwriter Mark Boal, whose "The Hurt Locker" won best picture. That hard-hitting but low-grossing film was an unlikely winner; whether the team can pull it off again remains to be seen.

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