Just when you thought you were safe, the Oscar game returns. 

With the Venice, Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals just around the corner, industry pundits, including myself, have given our initial top ten picks in the annual Gurus of Gold rankings. Basically, a preview of what should shape up to be the main contenders across the board this awards season.

Unlike previous years, this season doesn't have a clear frontrunner (yet) which means a field where only six or seven films really have consensus as true players. At the moment, that means George Clooney's "The Ides of March," Steven Spielberg's "War Horse," "The Artist," Alexander Payne's "The Descendants," Stephen Daldry's "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," Clint Eastwood's "J. Edgar" and Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris."  You can check out the Gurus picks here.  At the top of the pack is the Clooney and Ryan Gosling political drama "March."  Will it stay that way?  We'll know more once it screens at Venice and Toronto.

Additionally, for this initial installment, we provided two "surprise" nominations which, of course, likely won't be surprises by January when the Oscar nods are announced.  My picks were Octavia Spencer for "The Help" in the best supporting actress category and John Hawkes in "Martha, Marcy Mae, Marlene" for best supporting actor.  Some of the other prognosticators' "surprises" -- Albert Brooks for "Drive," Gary Oldman for "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," Jean Dujardin for "The Artist," Elizabeth Olsen for "Martha, Marcy Mae, Marlene" and Charize Theron for "Young Adult" -- are all really legit players.

As for my own personal top ten, it's a little hard to rank at this point.  The overall field is clear and yes Academy members, there are more than enough quality pictures this year to have kept the guaranteed 10 nods, but, sigh, I digress...here's the first contender countdown rundown.  Just realize the numeric ranking isn't so solid at the moment (it is August).

1. "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close"
Tearjerker from the man who helmed "The Hours," "The Reader" and "Billy Elliott."

2. "War Horse"
Spielberg. War movie.  Boy with a horse. 'Nuff said.

3. "The Descendants"
Alexander Payne's long awaited follow up to "Sideways." People want it to be good.

4. "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy"
Gut.  Great filmmaker, great cast.  Could be a nice hit too.

5. "The Ides of March"
Topical political drama directed by one Hollywood golden boy (Clooney) and starring a potential successor (Ryan Gosling).

6. "The Artist"
Those who have seen love and it's set in Hollywood.  The industry loves movies about themselves.

7. "The Iron Lady"
Could just be a showcase for Streep to pull off another best actress nomination or it could be something much more.

8. "My Week with Marilyn"
The New York Film Festival selection is said to be very deserved.

9. "Midnight in Paris"
Woody's biggest hit ever.  Can it pull in enough first place votes to qualify?

10. "Young Adult"
Like Daldry, two of Jason Reitman first three films have been nominated for best picture.  You can't count him out.

Who didn't make the initial ten, but could pop in later on?

"J. Edgar"
Great subject matter and strong cast (Leonardo DiCaprio, Naomi Watts), but director Clint Eastwood hasn't necessarily been on his game recently.

"The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo"

Possible, but we're talking a major improvement on the source material to warrant a best picture nod.

"The Tree of Life"
Maybe.  Or, maybe not.

"We Bought A Zoo"
The ultimate speculation.  Cameron Crowe hasn't made a good movie since "Almost Famous."  It's been awhile.

"Carnage"
No doubt a major player in the acting categories, but boy does it look like a play.  Hope to be proven wrong on this one.

 

"Like Crazy"
Praying it makes the field, but not sure it can. 

As this year's journey into prestige filmmaking begins, look for complete coverage of the Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals on Awards CampaignSign up for Academy Awards custom alerts in the box on this post and get instant notification on all the major Oscar news this year. 

For year round entertainment commentary and awards season news follow Gregory Ellwood on Twitter @HitFixGregory.