15. The Surrogate

Director: Ben Lewin
Stars: John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, William H. Macy, Moon Bloodgood, W. Earl Brown, Annika Marks, Adam Arkin
Release info: Sold at Sundance to Fox Searchlight; an Academy Award-qualifying, late 2012 release is expected

Why you should be excited: At the moment, Hollywood’s movers and shakers are suits-deep in the movie awards season, with names such as George Clooney, Viola Davis, and Christopher Plummer dominating all of the acting honors talk. Come this time next year, though, the industry could very well be chatting to no end about John Hawkes, a one-time nominee (for last year’s Winter’s Bone) who took last week’s Sundance Film Festival by storm in the drama The Surrogate.

It’s a role that feels tailor-made for Oscar and his fellow gold statues: Hawkes plays a well-meaning man stricken with polio who, get this, is all about losing his virginity, and hires a sex surrogate to fulfill his dream. What’s most promising about The Surrogate, aside from Hawkes’ supposedly tremendous performance, is the film’s accessibly warm and vibrant tone, handling the largely untouched subject of disability sufferers’ sex lives with crowd-pleasing cheerfulness.