Award season is almost here, and a number of unreleased films have already joined the Oscar race. To sort out the season’s best, Daily Arts is taking a look at the trailers for the year’s most anticipated films.

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Dec. 25

On Christmas Day, “Fight Club” director David Fincher will debut his latest innovative film, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” Based on the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story, Brad Pitt assumes the role of the unusual Mr. Button who, as the trailer explains, gets younger while everybody around him gets older.

In what looks to be one of the most unique stories of the year, “Benjamin Button” promises remarkable visual effects and a demanding performance from Pitt as both an old man learning of death and as a young child just learning what it means to live. Try not to freak out about the infant who looks like an old man in the preview.

As Fincher tries out the fantasy/romance genre, “Benjamin Button” will ultimately see if Pitt can stand the test of time and be more than just a pretty mug. With celebrated actresses Cate Blanchett (“I’m Not There”) and Tilda Swinton (“Michael Clayton”), the film just might nab nominations for Pitt and the supporting crew.

“The Wrestler”
Fox Serachlight
Dec. 12

Darren Aronofsky has built a fairly notable career out of the hype surrounding his “stunning,” “shocking” and/or “visual” films. Yet, with critical endorsements lauding the film and a subtle looking performance from Mickey Rourke (“Sin City”) in the trailer, “The Wrestler” may be the mainstream fodder Aranofsky has been praying for.

Featuring a new Bruce Springsteen song on the soundtrack (it’ll easily get a Best Original Song nod) and a sincere, documentary style on display, “The Wrestler” looks to be a heart-breaking story of redemption that’ll obviously compete for Oscars.

Rourke looks like he’s in his element, and hopefully all bridge-burning he’s done over the years (in and out of Hollywood) won’t turn off audiences. Rourke’s Randy “The Ram” might just make the fallen star relevant again. A former WWE-like fighter, “The Ram” is relegated to high school shows and working at a grocery store deli. Rourke is reaching with this one. And he hasn’t done that in ages.

If only he didn’t have a whiny teenage daughter and hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold girlfriend in the preview. Still, the movie doesn’t look like it’ll be anything but Rourke and Aranofsky’s supposed return to form.

Focus Features
Dec. 5

What happens to a movie that manages to mesh together the social issues of “Brokeback Mountain” and the acting of “I am Sam?” It wins an Oscar, of course. With that logic in mind, “Milk” is bound to walk away with some sort of prize this year.

“Milk” is based on the true story of politician Harvey Milk, (Sean Penn, “All the King’s Men”). The 40-year-old gay San Franciscan has hit his midlife crisis and decides to run for public office. He faces prejudice and death threats in order to finally stand up in defense of human rights.

The trailer has the requisite dramatic choral music, jokes (Penn gets a pie in his face), photo-flashes and cheers contrasted starkly with darker musings on prejudice. Of course, there is the memorable line Penn delivers at the end of the trailer: “You gotta give ‘em hope.”

“Milk” promises to be the same sort of well-made, inspirational movie with an all-star cast that makes it into awards running every year. Maybe this year, the self-proclaimed year of “hope and change,” the award for Best Picture will go to “Milk.” If not, Sean Penn should win Best Actor — he’s the male Meryl Streep, and it’s been a while since an actor not portraying a historical figure has won anything.

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