As the awards season approaches, Hollywood rushes to release movies it hopes could be Oscar contenders. BBC News Online tips the runners and riders.
By Neil Smith
BBC News Online
Hollywood studios, like many other things, are creatures of habit.
In The Aviator Leonardo DiCaprio plays the young Howard Hughes
Summer is a time for expensive blockbusters, pitched at a predominantly youthful audience and invariably launched on a tidal wave of hoopla and hype.
Autumn, however, is a time for serious fare: high-profile, more adult projects released with one eye on next year's all-important awards season.
With the Oscars due on 27 February, it may seem premature to identify potential nominees.
Not in Hollywood, however. Indeed, several titles and performances are already generating the much-coveted "Oscar buzz".
A slew of biopics - biographical dramas - could see a number of actors in awards contention for playing real-life figures.
Film insiders confidently predict Collateral star Jamie Foxx will land a best actor nomination for playing late musician Ray Charles in Ray.
Previous Oscar winner Kevin Spacey could also be in the running for Beyond the Sea, a biography of '50s pop star Bobby Darin that he also directs.
Ray Charles gave Jamie Foxx permission to play him on screen
Johnny Depp, nominated this year for Pirates of the Caribbean, is another possibility for his role as Peter Pan creator JM Barrie in Finding Neverland.
And Leonardo DiCaprio could be worth an outside bet as the young Howard Hughes in The Aviator.
Martin Scorsese's lavish epic, his first film since Gangs of New York, is emerging as a strong contender for the best picture prize.
However, Oliver Stone's Alexander - a biopic of the ancient Macedonian leader starring Irish actor Colin Farrell - could challenge it for the top award come February.
One face it will be hard to avoid over the next few months is that of British actor Jude Law.
Fresh from playing a daredevil flying ace in science-fiction adventure Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, the 33-year-old has a slew of projects that can only boost his growing profile.
They range from leading roles in relationships drama Closer and the modern-day remake of 1960s classic Alfie, to supporting parts in The Aviator (as Errol Flynn) and quirky comedy I Heart Huckabees.
Any one of these could land him a nomination, though it is probably Closer that has the most Academy Awards potential.
In Alfie Jude Law plays a role made famous by Michael Caine
Directed by Mike Nichols, the London-set drama - based on a play by Patrick Marber that was first staged at the National Theatre - could also earn plaudits for its leading lady, Julia Roberts.
If Roberts is recognised for her work in the film, she will have Cate Blanchett to thank.
The Australian actress was forced to withdraw from Closer when she became pregnant with her second child.
However, Blanchett may have the last laugh if The Life Aquatic - a subterranean fantasy directed by The Royal Tenenbaum's Wes Anderson - tickles the fancy of Oscar voters.
Like everyone else in Hollywood, Blanchett also appears in The Aviator, her role as Katharine Hepburn one of many star cameos Scorsese has secured for his latest project.
The race for the best animated film Oscar is hotting up, with three high-profile computer-animated features opening in the US within weeks of each other.
First out of the gate is Shark Tale, an underwater comedy with fish voiced by Will Smith and Angelina Jolie.
The Dreamworks production has been attacked in some quarters for having Robert De Niro and other Italian-American actors play villainous sharks.
Jim Carrey plays the sinister Count Olaf in the Lemony Snicket film
Pixar, the company behind Toy Story, launches superhero spoof The Incredibles on 5 November.
That will be followed one week later by The Polar Express, a Christmas-themed fantasy featuring the vocal talents of Tom Hanks.
With no Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings this winter, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events - based on the popular children's books - is tipped to be one of the season's biggest earners.
Jim Carrey and Meryl Streep head the cast, but audiences should not be surprised if the voice of Lemony himself sounds familiar.
Yes, it's Jude Law again, completing what seems to be an all-out assault on the hearts and minds of American cinemagoers.
Awards are all well and good, but Hollywood's primary interest has always been making money.
This explains why a series of sequels have been lined up to cash in on the public's affection for established characters and titles.
Renee Zellweger and Hugh Grant return in Bridget Jones 2
Renee Zellweger returns as Bridget Jones in The Edge of Reason, the follow-up to 2001's comedy hit Bridget Jones's Diary.
And Ben Stiller, possibly 2004's busiest actor, ends a hectic year with Meet the Fockers, the sequel to his 2000 success Meet the Parents.
Wesley Snipes' vampire vigilante is back in Blade: Trinity, but the most eagerly awaited sequel of them all must surely be Ocean's 12.
With Ocean's 11 stars George Clooney and Brad Pitt and their director Steven Soderbergh reuniting for a second helping of stylish caper action, expect cinema managers to be grinning from ear to ear this December.