The nominees for the 84th annual Academy Awards won't be announced until Tuesday morning, but that doesn't mean it's too early to start looking ahead to next year's nominations. Judging from the buzz at the Sundance Film Festival, the 85th annual Academy Awards ceremony might be a special one for Richard Gere; the veteran actor could be in the heat of the Best Actor race thanks to his performance in "Arbitrage."

Caveats for it being entirely and comically too early to consider anyone for an Oscar next year, but consider: the Nicholas Jarecki-directed financial thriller earned rave reviews following its premiere in Park City, Utah on Saturday night, with at least one well-respected critic ringing the Academy bell for the never-nominated Gere.

"As Park City was blanketed by the biggest snowstorm that Sundance Film Festival director John Cooper says he's seen, the bona-fide first Oscar contender for the 2013 awards emerged Saturday night," wrote Lou Lumenick from the New York Post. "Richard Gere gives the best performance of his career as a crooked financier desperately trying to cover up a $400 million shortage on his books while trying to push through a deal to sell his company."

Jarecki, half-brother of documentary filmmakers Andrew and Eugene Jarecki, based his film loosely on Bernie Madoff.

"I thought, 'What's it like to be one of those major players? Where does he live? He must live in a big house, and he has to have a lot of money, so he must have a lot of problems," he said. "That was how the script began."

Co-starring Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth and Sundance It-Girl ver. 2011 Brit Marling, "Arbitrage" has drawn comparisons to "Margin Call" and could get a distribution deal in the very near future.

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