It's an odd time of year. There is a film, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," that has very little hope of securing Oscar consideration and that I can now talk about. But I have nothing to say other than to offer that, in my opinion, it is director David Fincher's least compelling, most superficial film to date, practice, a craftsman staying in shape with material utterly beneath him and his boredom with it (or was it mine?) showing like the slip of a dress.

Meanwhile, there is another movie, "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close," that has plenty of potential in the Oscar race and that I cannot talk about.

So what do we talk about? The critics? There's nothing really left to say. The last film I screened in 2011, "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol?" It's fun and has great sound design (and good GAWD, Paula Patton is God's gift). This morning's BFCA announcement? It was one of the most vanilla, Oscar-forecasting collectives the group has ever managed to cough up.

Though on that, there is something somewhat interesting that stuck out. "Drive," which received eight Critics' Choice Movie Award nominations from the BFCA, has been doing remarkably well in the precursor circuit. It's not just with critics but also with the National Board of Review, which placed the film on its top 10 list. Guy has been anticipating an adapted screenplay and film editing nomination to go along with the expected tip of the hat to Albert Brooks for a little while now, but I find myself wondering if it has the muscle to do even more.

We're in the early days of the precursor trail, but I find it rather significant that the film and director Nicolas Winding Refn are managing to effortlessly land on lists of Best Picture and Best Director nominees. Ryan Gosling getting a mention from the BFCA was intriguing and just in general, the film is showing obvious staying power.

It takes core passion to get a Best Picture nomination. I don't know if there will be enough of it in the Academy to land "Drive" the sufficient number of #1 votes, but I think the pendulum has swung more toward that possibility as of late. We'll see how the guild circuit treats it (SAG nominees are named tomorrow), but it's just something lingering on my mind.

Similarly, Tilda Swinton is showing a real up-tick for her performance in "We Need to Talk About Kevin." She's won her share of awards and is consistently showing up on nominee lists. PR behind her and the film are also being savvy in getting her out to the press at this crucial time. (She got a nice Time Magazine profile recently.) The Best Actress category is a dense seven-horse race (in my view). Glenn Close is falling, Rooney Mara is ascending, the back-and-forth of things making it tough to zero in on a window of opportunity, but Swinton has been a constant since Cannes.

Tom McCarthy's "Win Win" is popping up here and there, as is "50/50." This kind of thing is heartening for me, seeing shafts of light in the oppressive darkness of group-think.

And what of "The Tree of Life?" Ever since I saw the film in May I've thought, as have many, that a Best Picture Oscar nomination would be a steep uphill climb. But then, those who love it love it, igniting a core of passion that could land it in the race. If there were a guaranteed line-up of 10, I'd have been feeling less reticent about predicting it. Now, however, it's popping up with the critics (as we might have expected), landing on Best Picture line-ups and even winning the honor with a few groups.

The two most significant critics groups could have made a statement with one of the films that appears to need a leg up. But the New York crowd went with "The Artist" while the LA folks went with "The Descendants" (amid much in-fighting, I hear), two well-established elements of the season. No, the critics' collective job isn't to dictate the conversation of awards season, nor should it be. But I don't think it's a good thing to fade indistinguishably into the season and merely be a cog in the wheel, either.

This week brings the aforementioned SAG announcement as well as the HFPA's revelation of this year's Golden Globe nominees. Interspersed will be any and every critics group looking to have their say, hoping to stand out in some way.

We'll see if it all means anything after the dust settles.

Guy and I have run a comb through the Contenders section in the wake of the week's precursor announcements. The sidebar predictions reflect those changes.

For year-round entertainment news and awards season commentary follow @kristapley on Twitter.

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