So, the first quarter of the release calendar is complete. If it doesn't exactly feel that way, that's because we tend to spend the first two months of every year fixating on the previous year's movies still in the hunt for Oscar glory, giving short shrift to the freshly released right under our noses. For Oscar-watchers, at least, there's a reason for that, though you can debate the chicken-or-egg root of it all: first-quarter films don't tend to feature much in the awards race nearly a year later.
With voters' memories notoriously short, studios rarely risk releasing top-category awards material this early in the year. You have to go back to 2000 to find a Best Picture nominee that hit theaters before April: "Erin Brockovich," which rather impressively locked up an Oscar for Julia Roberts over a year in advance. Last year, only two eventual Oscar nominees -- in any category -- opened in the first quarter, though one of them eventually proved an above-the-line winner: "Rango" took Best Animated Feature, while fellow March baby "Jane Eyre" snagged a Costume Design nod. The year before, the animation and design were also the kindest fields to the first quarter: "Alice in Wonderland" and "The Wolfman" won in craft categories, while "How to Train Your Dragon" scored a nod in the toon race.