The same may hold for this year's biggest hit, the superhero mash-up "The Avengers," which also earned terrific reviews but has little best-picture buzz among Hollywood odds-makers.
Even "Avengers" director Joss Whedon avoids thinking about awards possibilities.
"It would be a lovely thought, but I don't go there in my mind," said Whedon, who was floored when he shared a screenplay Oscar nomination for 1995's "Toy Story." "When we got nominated for 'Toy Story,' it was like, 'What are you talking about? Is this a prank?' Anything's possible, but if you start to go down that road, you make yourself crazy."
A late-summer threesome of film festivals -- Venice, Toronto and Telluride -- premiered many potential contenders for the Oscars, whose nominations come out Jan. 10, with the ceremony following Feb. 24.
Among festival prospects: "The Master," directed by Paul Thomas Anderson ("There Will Be Blood"), with Phoenix as a combustible World War II veteran who falls under the sway of a cult leader (Hoffman); "Argo," with Affleck starring in and directing a thriller about the rescue of six Americans who evaded the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979; "Anna Karenina," director Joe Wright's fanciful adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's tragic romance, starring Keira Knightley, Jude Law and Aaron Taylor-Johnson; and "Silver Linings Playbook," from director David O. Russell ("The Fighter"), featuring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro in a comic drama about two deeply troubled souls finding romance.
Earlier independent releases might creep into the best-picture race, among them the youthful dramas "Moonrise Kingdom" and "Beasts of the Southern Wild." But that depends on the late-comers premiering during the next three months.
Along with "Lincoln," "Les Miserables," "Zero Dark Thirty" and "The Hobbit," the lineup includes Robert Zemeckis' airline drama "Flight," starring Denzel Washington; the Alfred Hitchcock tale "Hitchcock," with Anthony Hopkins as the filmmaker, Helen Mirren as his wife and Scarlett Johansson as "Psycho" co-star Janet Leigh; Quentin Tarantino's Civil War-era bounty-hunter saga "Django Unchained," featuring Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio; and the shipwreck story "Life of Pi," from director Ang Lee ("Brokeback Mountain").
Contenders rarely talk about their prospects, but they do welcome the fun of the Oscars and the attention they bring to the films.
"I mean, you get to go in a tuxedo and stuff. Blah blah. And you know, if your mother's around, you can take your mother or something," said Bill Murray, a potential best-actor nominee as Franklin Roosevelt in "Hyde Park on the Hudson." "But the cool thing is that people always say there's Oscar buzz, but Oscar buzz only means people are talking about your movie. Which means more people go see your movie. That's all I care about. I just want people to see it."