9 Performances We're Psyched For This Holiday Season

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When Oscar voters fill out their ballots early next year, will they be thinking about those stellar performances from waaaay back in spring and summer? Yeah, probably not.

They'll have who's hot right NOW on their minds –- and why should we be any different? This is the season for A-listers to do things: get serious and reach for that Oscar or entertain the masses with a nice big holiday hit. Or in the case of one star (we're looking at you, The Rock), finally return to the genre they belong.

Here's a look at nine eclectic performances -- from awards bait to breakout stars in blockbusters -- we're most excited for over the next two months.

9. Elle Fanning, 'Somewhere'

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Release Date: Dec. 22

FTW: Dakota's 12-year-old sister stars as Cleo in Sofia Coppola's first project since "Marie Antoinette." The film tells the story of a hard-living actor (Stephen Dorff) who is forced to rethink his priorities after his 11-year-old daughter suddenly enters his life. Think "Game Plan," only classy.

Looks as though Elle, who has played Dakota's younger sibling twice, first in "I Am Sam" and then again in the miniseries "Taken," will finally get her chance to become more than just "Dakota’s little sister." We're excited to catch her in this before next summer’s "Super 8" makes her a household name.

8. Dwayne Johnson, 'Faster'

Release Date: Nov. 24

FTW: When Dwayne Johnson burst onto the screen in the opening of 2001's "The Mummy Returns," it seemed like we had a worthy successor to the aging icons of action movies' past. But then "The Game Plan" happened. And "Witch Mountain." And "Tooth Fairy."

It looks like there's still a chance that hardcore fans will once again enjoy the smell of what The Rock is cookin' when Johnson's ex-con avenges his brother's death in this Thanksgiving release. Early indications look like "Faster" will speed past "The Expendables" to become the rare testosterone-fueled ride with an emotional center.

7. Gwyneth Paltrow – 'Country Strong'

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Release Date: Dec. 22

FTW: Although Paltrow earned herself fanboy cred as Pepper Potts in "Iron Man" and its sequel, she's been focusing more on her website and cookbook of late. As Kelly Canter, a fallen singer who's taken out of rehab by her husband in hopes of resurrecting her career, Paltrow returns to form, allowing her to once again show off the acting chops that won her an Oscar for "Shakespeare in Love."

Between Paltrow doing her own singing in the film and a heartfelt performance as a former star aiming to make a comeback (a la "Crazy Heart"), we're marking our calendars for this film's year-end release.

6. Javier Bardem, 'Biutiful'

Release Date: Dec. 29

FTW: The man who redefined killing is about to do the same for spirituality in "Babel" director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's tale of a father rushing to put his chaotic life in order before it's too late.

Bardem stars as Uxbal in a Spanish-language drama set in the back streets of Barcelona. From the looks of the trailer, the film offers up another heavy role for the "No Country for Old Men" Oscar winner, serving him up at his brooding, intense best in a role that balances spiritual and everyday life. Amen to that!

5. Christina Aguilera – 'Burlesque'

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Release Date: Nov. 24

FTW: Aguilera stars in her first feature as a small-town girl who ventures to L.A. and finds her place in a burlesque club run by a former dancer (Cher).

Either it's fabulous over-the-top excess or "Showgirls"-esque camp… Xtina fans and gay men across the world won't care. The film also has a small dose of fanboy credibility: it's directed by Steven Antin, whom every boy was jealous of when he played Troy Perkins, boyfriend of Keri Green, in "The Goonies" ("ANDY! You Goonie!!")

4. Colin Firth, 'The King’s Speech'

Release Date: Nov. 26

FTW: Firth stars in the story of King George VI of Britain, his impromptu ascension to the throne and the speech therapist that helped him become worthy of it. Mrs. Tim Burton Helena Bonham Carter reunites with her "Sweeney Todd" co-star Timothy Spall and her "Harry Potter" co-star Michael Gambon as Queen Elizabeth to Firth's King.

The Ladies love Colin from "Pride and Prejudice" and "Bridget Jones’ Diary." Men enjoy Firth from "Apartment Zero" and kids like "Nanny McPhee" -- we love him for all of the above and this performance will be one to watch -- one that could even nab him an Academy Award.

3. Garrett Hedlund, 'TRON: Legacy'

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Release Date: Dec. 17

FTW: "Tron: Legacy" may boast groundbreaking effects, state-of-the-art 3-D visuals and Jeff Bridges in not one but two roles, but we have our eyes on the character of 27-year-old Sam Flynn.

As the son of Encom video game pioneer Kevin Flynn, Garrett Hedlund's (who also appears in "Country Strong") performance could have gone the way of Hayden Christensen's Anakin. Instead, we get what appears to be an extremely layered performance of a boy reuniting with his long-lost father… and one that will likely be the core of the entire film.

2. Natalie Portman – 'Black Swan'

Release Date: Dec. 3

FTW: Natalie Portman takes the starring role in Darren Aronofsky's follow-up to "The Wrestler." Sure… we know what you're thinking: Lesbian scene with Mila Kunis. But there's much more to this unique vision of the dark side of ballet than that much-talked-about sequence.

"Black Swan" delves inside the world of professional ballet, following Portman's character as she struggles to the top and her fight against it consuming her mind. Yeah. We know. You're still thinking about that lesbian scene with Mila Kunis.

1. James Franco, '127 Hours'

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Release Date: Nov. 5

FTW: He went from respected actor… to a daytime soap opera… to making videos for Funny or Die. Now, the man who strutted his dramatic stuff in "Milk" is back in serious-actor-mode for his role as Aron Ralston in another time-based title from red-hot "Slumdog Millionaire" director Danny Boyle.

Spidey's pal commands the screen as a mountain climber who becomes trapped while exploring the canyons of Utah all by his lonesome. Franco's tour de force is sure to give way to plenty of post-screening discussion that won't likely be over come Oscar time. Norman Osborn would be proud.