One of my most anticipated films of the year has to be Alejandro González Iñárritu's "Birdman." Of course I love the auteur's work and will leap at the chance to check out anything new he might conjure, but I'm also pretty fascinated by the involvement of Michael Keaton in the film. Keaton seems to be wading slowly back into more consistent on-screen work these days; he has three films hitting theaters just this year.

Then there's the premise. Officially:

"'Birdman' or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance is a black comedy that tells the story of an actor (Michael Keaton) — famous for portraying an iconic superhero – as he struggles to mount a Broadway play. In the days leading up to opening night, he battles his ego and attempts to recover his family, his career, and himself."

Intriguing. It's an original piece, from Iñárritu, his "Biutiful" collaborators Nicolás Giacobone Armando Bo, and Alexander Dinelaris. I have no idea what to expect, really, but we now know when to expect it.

Fox Searchlight has announced that "Birdman" will open on Friday, Oct. 17. Not to flood it with these expectations, but the last two Best Picture winners — "Argo" and "12 Years a Slave" — opened on Oct. 12 and 18 respectively. The latter, of course, was a Searchlight effort. The fact is that October landing zone, right in the aftermath of the Telluride and Toronto film festivals, has become a pretty sweet spot for films looking to maneuver in the Oscar race. "Gravity" also opened in October.

Additionally, I wouldn't get my hopes up about "Birdman" popping up on next week's Cannes announcement. Iñárritu's "Amores Perros," "Babel" and "Biutiful" all started their journey there, but Searchlight rarely plays a card on the Croisette. And this one just won't be ready in time. Searchlight does, however, tend to take the Telluride/Toronto corridor, and Iñárritu has been a big fan of the former ever since his first trip with there. So I certainly expect it to do at least Telluride, and perhaps also Toronto (unless it goes the way of "Inside Llewyn Davis," "All is Lost" and "Nebraska" last year, skipping the big fest for New York instead).

One other note: the press release announcing the release date notes "Alejandro G. Iñárritu." I wonder if he's losing "González" for the initial?

Oh, and speaking of Searchlight, the company, as you know, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. They recently launched a site dedicated to that legacy. Check it out at FoxSearchlight20th.com.

Stay tuned early next week for Guy's round-up of personal guesses/wishes for the Cannes announcement, and the announcement itself on April 17.