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How many Best Picture nominees will there be? We don't know. Which of the 10 or 11 films in clear contention for a nomination will get squeezed out? We don't know. How will the tweaks to the Best Picture balloting procedure change the situation over all? We don't know.
The Best Picture category is an odd bird this year. Most probably have the same seven or eight films predicted, but there are a lot of variables flying around in the math of it all that could shift things in an unexpected direction. The Academy got its wish: the mystery is back.
Then there are other elements, like how the final stretch has changed the landscape. "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close," for instance, is a film that ended up on the lips of numerous voters in the last days of balloting. The BAFTA nominees, which share some crossover membership with AMPAS, indicated strength for "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" that could carry over, which was expected, but then inserted the added interest of "Drive" being a contender in areas we might not have anticipated.
And the nose-dive of "War Horse" in the guild circuit leads most to believe its goose is all but cooked, but the Academy has resurrected titles in that situation before.
All of it kind of seems beside the point, since "The Artist" is poised to run the table. It's all accoutrement to Harvey Weinsein's second victory lap. But the fun is in the details. As I set out to assemble my final Oscar predictions, wiggling into the mindset of each branch with tangible clues (like guild nods) and valuable conversations to guide the way, I delighted in at least trying to suss out the unseen crevices of the season.
I don't anticipate a top tier year of predicting, though. There are just so many weird elements on a category-by-category basis. I know a couple of things, like the fact that "Take Shelter" is a film that found its way to many members late enough for Michael Shannon's performance to remain a standout with ballots in hand. I know that "Shame" is a film, as one might expect, that was a difficult sit for many, so much so that Michael Fassbender is in a more precarious position than most want to think. But then again, the committed passion base for it could be enough to not only get him in, but Carey Mulligan and the original screenplay as well.
I wonder if Albert Brooks is poised for an unfortunate snub, a la his SAG situation. I wonder if there will be enough animated features that rank high enough in the points system to register five nominees. (There could still be less if five don't hit the appropriate number in balloting.) I wonder which friggin' "Muppets" song is going to get the shaft.
Lots of things are just dancing around in my head, but I'm relieved to be at Sundance and to find my mind somewhat removed from it all. It made settling on the final list easier than in the past, actually -- maybe because the desire to just be done with it was greater.
In any case, here are my guesses. Here are Guy's. And here are Gerard's. Each of us, you'll note, have offered up alternatives in the Best Picture category breaking it out, in order, up to 10. That's just to give an idea of how we'd see the race come down anywhere between five and 10 nominees.
Guy and I have updated our respective categories throughout the Contenders section, and the sidebar reflects that combination of choices. But check out our individual pages for our individual picks.
I've started a thread at HitFix's new message boards section for assembling final predictions, so feel free to rattle off any comments on mine here, but use that space to offer up your picks. It'll be a nicely contained thread for that.
Fingers crossed for my favorites and yours tomorrow.
For year-round entertainment news and awards season commentary follow @kristapley on Twitter.
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