One film we're keeping half an eye on for the upcoming awards season is Scott Cooper's "Out of the Furnace," a starry thriller about fraternal loyalties tested to the limit, with a starry cast led by Christian Bale and Casey Affleck. It's Cooper's first film since 2009's "Crazy Heart," which won two Oscars (including Best Actor for Jeff Bridges), while producers include Leonardo DiCaprio, Ridley Scott and the late Tony Scott.

It's a top-drawer project all round, and distributors Relativity Media seem understandably high on its awards prospects -- which is a big deal for them, having never steered a major Oscar contender before. (Earlier this year, Tarsem's "Mirror Mirror" reaped the still-young company its very first Oscar nod, in the field of Best Costume Design.) So confident is the company, in fact, that they yesterday announced they're changing the film's release date from October 4 to November 27, going wide on December 6 -- placing it right in the post-Thanksgiving prestige crush.

One could go back and forth on the wisdom of this move. Relativity president Robbie Brenner makes no bones about the intent behind it: “Scott Cooper has made a powerful, moving and brilliant film that we think will generate a tremendous amount of conversation and attention during this awards season. We are confident that this new date will give Scott’s film the platform and support it deserves.” 

That may be the case, but opening in or around December has been a riskier strategy since the Academy compressed its awards calendar 10 years ago. (As we so often note, the last December release to take the Best Picture Oscar was 2004's "Million Dollar Baby.") Smaller films, in particular, have often fared better with an earlier release to build up buzz. Actually, that goes for some bigger films, too: "Argo," after all, was an early October release.

Still, Cooper's last film opened in mid-December and fared well in the race. That was a Fox Searchlight release. Relativity is obviously a less seasoned outfit, but they currently have no other major awards hopefuls on their books, so "Out of the Furnace" should benefit from their undivided attention. (Unless you count Joseph Gordon-Levitt's slight sex comedy "Don Jon" and the umpteenth redo of "Romeo and Juliet," neither of which look like significant factors at the moment.)

"Out of the Furnace" stars Bale as a blue-collar worker forced to take independent action when his Iraq-vet brother (Casey Affleck) joins a dangerous crime ring and disappears. The story sounds familiar, but if Cooper and his cast -- which also includes Woody Harrelson, Sam Shepard, Zoe Saldana and Willem Dafoe -- bring authentic feeling to it, that shouldn't matter. It didn't with "Crazy Heart," after all.