The smaller stuff
Released: April 12
Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Agyness Deyn, Gayle Rankin, Cara Delevingne
Director: Alex Ross Perry
Why it could be in contention: Moss's performance as a fucked-up, almost washed-up rock star will undoubtedly be one of the best of the year. If she doesn't get a nomination -- which she might not, given the subject matter -- it will be an injustice.
Release date: May 17
Cast: Honor Swinton-Byrne, Tom Burke, Tilda Swinton
Director: Joanna Hogg
Why it could be in contention: Though its story is simple on paper -- a budding filmmaker starts a new, destructive relationship -- Hogg's film might be a little isolating for Academy voters. (Even in my screening at Sundance, there were walkouts.) It's probably a longshot, but The Souvenir is going to get a lot of love from critics on the awards circuit, especially for Swinton-Byrne's mesmerizing performance.
Release date: July 12
Cast: Awkwafina, Tzi Ma, Diana Lin, Shuzhen Zhou
Director: Lulu Wang
Why it could be in contention: Usually a couple of films that premiere at Sundance in January make it all the way to the Oscars the following year. The Farewell -- a personal film from director Lulu Wang -- could make that journey, especially with its breakout dramatic performance from Awkwafina. If we had any say in it, Shuzhen Zhou, as the grandmother a Chinese family keeps in the dark about her cancer diagnosis, would be a lock for Supporting Actress.
Where'd You Go Bernadette
Release date: August 9
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Billy Crudup, Kristen Wiig, Laurence Fishburne
Director: Richard Linklater
Why it could be in contention: Never bet against Cate Blanchett, who has acted her way to six Oscar nominations and two wins at this point. Pairing her with Richard Linklater -- adapting Maria Semple's satirical novel about overbearing parents -- seems like a genius idea. The trailer seemed a little too whimsical for some people, but if it's anything like the source material, it's got a nasty edge.
Release date: TBA
Cast: Adam Driver, Annette Bening, Jon Hamm
Director: Scott Z. Burns
Why it could be in contention: Another Sundance hit -- which sold to Amazon -- takes a straightforward (but often thrilling) approach to telling the story of the man behind the Senate Intelligence Committee's report that documented the CIA's methods of torture in the years following 9/11. Bening plays Senator Dianne Feinstein. Maybe this one will finally win her an overdue trophy.