It's less than a week until the nominations for the 2010 Academy Awards are announced, but with this year's Sundance Film Festival almost in the books candidates for 2011's Oscars are already making some noise. And no, don't laugh, it's not to early to recognize the festival's influence on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Over the past decade alone, Sundance has become a key contributor to awards season with Best Picture nominees such as "Little Miss Sunshine," "In the Bedroom," and Best Documentary winners such as "March of the Penguins," "Man on Wire" and "An Inconvenient Truth." The festival has also provided a slew of acting nominees including Ryan Gosling for "Half Nelson," Melissa Leo for "Frozen River," Amy Adams for "Junebug," Laura Linney for "You Can Count On Me," Terrence Howard in "Hustle & Flow," Catalina Sandino Moreno in "Maria full of Grace" as well as numerous nominations for films such as "Once," "Super Size Me," "The Squid and the Whale" and "Murderball."

This year, both "Precious: Based on 'Push' a Novel by Sapphire" -- which made history winning both the Dramatic Competition Grand Jury and Audience Award at the 2009 festival - and "An Education" are expected to land Best Picture nominations.  Additionally, Mo'Nique and Carey Mulligan are locks for acting nods and both films could land directing and screenwriting honors. "The Cove," which won the U.S. Documentary Audience Award, is already on the Academy's shortlist and expected to receive a nomination for Best Documentary.

This year, the candidates have finally made themselves known.  At the top of the list is "The Kids Are All Right," which if it had been included in the Dramatic competition instead of the Premieres category probably would have duplicated "Precious'" double wins last year. If Oscar keeps its 10 nominee system it's already in the conversation and Annette Bening, Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo are all real acting contenders (although start the debate now on whether Bening or Moore is lead or supporting).  Additionally, Lisa Cholodenko has a shot in the directing race and screenplay with collaborator Stuart Blumberg. With Focus having picked up the dramedy, the film will be in good hands for a strong awards campaign.


Other potential contenders include Fox Searchlight's "Cyrus" and Sony Classic's "Please Give" for screenplay, "Winter's Bones'" Jennifer Lawrence for Best Actress, both Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams for their amazing performances in "Blue Valentine," James Gandolfini in "Welcome to the Rileys" for Best Actor, Chris Cooper in "The Company Men" and Tilda Swinton in "I Am Love" (which premiered at last year's Venice Film Festival). Of course, that's not even counting the numerous other films that have perfect Indie Spirit Award fodder like Kristen Stewart and Leo from "Rileys," Joseph Gordon-Levitt in "Hesher" and  James Franco in "Howl."

On the documentary front, "I Am Pat Tillman," "Restrepo," "Teenage Paparazzo" and "Waiting for Superman" all could be legitimate candidates.

And if you doubt me, perhaps you should check out this commentary after last year's festival.  Yes, it pays to hit Park City.

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