At 5:00 PM PST today, the 2011-2012 Oscar season will effectively be over.  

Of course, the actual awards will be handed out on Sunday during the 84th Academy Awards broadcast, but technically speaking 5:00 PM is the deadline for all Academy member ballots to arrive at the swanky downtown LA offices of AMPAS accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers. What the last decade has shown us, however, is that that small influx of last minute votes doesn't sway many races.  While all studios campaign up to the last minute to try and convince Academy members to vote for their nominees, almost half of the ballots are mailed in right away.  And that's why when "controversies" arise a week or two before ballots are due over say a nominated movie producer breaking Academy rules regarding contacting members or when a nominee just can't stop talking about her bizarre personal for your consideration ads they really don't affect the outcome of the races.  

Moreover, this has been a rare season where the controversies during the season centered more on the Academy and show itself (thank you Brett Ratner) rather than the contenders. Whether that's refreshing or even more disconcerting is something we'll reflect on after the show.  And while no one is necessarily hunting for drama (perish the thought), the long steady line of guild honors over the past few weeks, among other items, have taught us a good deal about where the Academy should end up.

"The Descendants" won't go away empty handed
After Jean Dujardin overtook George Clooney in the best actor race following BAFTA and SAG Awards wins there was some concern the Alexander Payne drama could lose all six of its nominated contests.  However, the WGA Awards and ACE Eddie Awards win this past weekend prove that there is enough love in the industry for the Fox Searchlight hit that it will come away with something (and yes, the USC Scripter Award was nice, but won't affect much).

Stop messing with Meryl's head, it's Viola people

As much as we adore Meryl Streep's performance in "The Iron Lady" and believe it's a crime she isn't in the three-winner club already there is no way she's surpassing "The Help's" Viola Davis for best actress this year.  The BAFTA win was impressive, but did you see that standing ovation for Davis during the SAG Awards? If you really think the largest body of the Academy is going to switch their vote we suggest you watch it again.

The Max Von Sydow factor that isn't

There was early buzz that the "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" star, who likely knocked Albert Brooks out of a nod, could challenge Christopher Plummer for the best supporting actor honor.  Sure, maybe in another reality where "Extremely" was released earlier to gain more momentum for the legendary actor, but not in this world. Instead, Plummer has deservedly breezed through the season sweeping Globe, SAG and BAFTA. He'll finally find himself with his first Academy Award on Sunday.  He might even have an Indie Spirit Award to take home too.

The love for "The Artist" may be stronger than anyone thinks
Members have been gushing about "The Artist" since before Christmas. And many of their minds were made up long ago regarding best picture, but that admiration has spread beyond the top category.  That's one reason why Dujardin has become the favorite for best actor and legends like Scorsese, Allen and Malick are seemingly second fiddle to this French newcomer Michel Hazanavicius.  So, don't be surprised when categories such as editing and art direction benefit from an "Artist" check-off on the ballot. 

So, as voting closes, a friendly reminder not to get distracted from reports by false idols, er, pundits that an upset is brewing in this race or another. Or, that more last minute ballots were delivered than ever before (400 vs. 300?) which must mean something.  Sure, it may help hype up interest in watching the show itself, but that's all it really is. Instead, sit back and get ready for some vintage Billy Crystal shtick, little actual drama and - gasp - a Cirque du Soleil performance.

(Lord, you'd think the show was on CBS.  They do realize the Grammys just had their highest rating in decades and they could come in with a lower rating, right?  Is Adele available? Chris Brown? Is J-Hud still in the 323? Hello?)

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