NEW YORK - With less than 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?

"Silver Linings Playbook" (Nov. 16) - 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.

"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.

"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. 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.


© 2012 Newsday

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