"J. Edgar" helmer Clint Eastwood has won four Oscars for producing and directing Best Picture champs "Unforgiven" (1992) and "Million Dollar Baby" (2004). However, his new leading man, Leonardo DiCaprio is still without an Academy Award on his mantle despite three bids.
Our editors and users are predicting that this biopic of the nation's No. 1 G-man, J. Edgar Hoover, will take the top prize. And DiCaprio is forecast to finally win the Best Actor Oscar for playing this complicated character. Oscar winner Dustin Lance Black ("Milk") scripted this Warner Bros. release which details the public and private life of the FBI director including his reported relationship with Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer).
Among the other notable names featured in this mid-November entry in the derby are Oscar champ Judi Dench ("Shakespeare in Love," 1998) as Hoover's mother Anna Marie, Oscar nominee Naomi Watts ("21 Grams," 2004) as his loyal secretary, Josh Lucas as aviator Charles Lindbergh who turns to Hoover when his child is kidnapped, Jeffrey Donovan as Hoover's foe Robert F. Kennedy and Ed Westwick as the agent hired to write Hoover's biography.
Among the other films in the top 10 are two featuring George Clooney. He is in contention for Best Actor for his work in "The Descendants," his first film with Alexander Payne, in which he plays a man who learns of his wife's infidelity after she is critically injured in an accident. Clooney, the 2005 supporting champ ("Syriana"), also helmed "The Ides of March," a political drama in which he has a featured role as a political candidate with past nominee Ryan Gosling starring as his ambitious campaign manager.
Another strong contender is the period drama "War Horse" from two-time Best Director Steven Spielberg ("Schindler's List," 1993; "Saving Private Ryan," 1998). Oscar nominees RIchard Curtis ("Four Weddings and a Funeral) and Lee Hall ("Billy Elliot") adapted the best-seller by Michael Morpurgo which tells the tale of a young English farmhand who enlists during WW I in hopes of finding his beloved colt who has been sold to the cavalry. Newcomer Jeremy Irvine plays the boy with two-time Oscar nominee Emily Watson and Peter Mullans as his parents, and Benedict Cumberbatch as an army officer.
Two other Oscar winners for directing are back in the derby: Woody Allen ("Annie Hall," 1977) for "Midnight in Paris," his most successful film in decades and Roman Polanski ("The Pianist," 2002) for "Carnage," his adaptation of the 2009 Tony-winning "God of Carnage."
Among the other films in the top 10 are three from past directing nominees. "The Tree of Life" proved to be worth the wait as this Terrence Malick picture won the Palme D'or at the Cannes film festival in May. Sean Penn stars as a Lost soul looking for the meaning of life with Brad Pitt appearing as his father in flashbacks.
Stephen Daldry, who was nominated for each of his first three films, returns with the 9/11 drama "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" starring Oscar champs Tom Hanks ("Philadelphia," 1993; "Forrest Gump," 1994) and Sandra Bullock ("The Blind Side," 2009).
Also in the running is another biopic, "The Iron Lady," with Oscar champ Meryl Streep ("Kramer vs. Kramer," 1979; "Sophie's Choice," 1982) reuniting with her 'Mamma Mia!' director Phyllida Lloyd to play Britain's first female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. Oscar winner Jim Broadbent ("Iris," 2001) is her stalwart husband Denis in the film which is framed around the Falklands War in 1982.