Not far behind the New York film critics' vote is the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association, which today made a firm declaration for Michel Hazanavicius's "The Artist." The film (which won the NYFCC prize) led the field with eight nominations.

There wasn't much wealth-spreading or unique thinking going on. The group tried to shake things up by tipping its hat to Tom McCarthy's "Win Win" in the Best Film category, but they couldn't be bothered to chalk it up anywhere else other than the Best Original Screenplay category.

"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" screened just in time for the vote, but like with the other early birds this year, "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" was not shown. The former did get a score nomination; the double CD soundtrack was also mailed out to voting bodies earlier this week.

"Drive" had a good showing across the field and has me hopeful a few other groups will take that lead, though. The group gets brownie points for planting a flag on behalf of Andy Serkis in the Best Supporting Actor category at a key point in time for that campaign (as long as it's not a stunt, that is), but mostly, the whole list reads like a collective of Oscar frontrunners with an ever-so-slight critical bend.

These early guys will surely set the pace, and this being a year that could go a couple of different ways (and therefore really could do without the burden of group think), allow me to get a few FYCs out there before we're too far gone.

Think outside the box. Someone be brave enough to spring for a foreign film outside of the ghetto of its own separate category. "A Separation" has a script and performances worth the consideration. Someone take "Rampart," "We Need to Talk About Kevin" and "Shame" a little more seriously than merely recognizing the brilliant lead portrayals. Don't be afraid of heaping Best Picture kudos onto popular/blockbuster fare you loved -- "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," for instance, or "The Adventures of Tintin."

Anyway, this year's list of WAFCA nominees are below. And remember, as always, a quick turnaround on these. The winners will be announced Monday, December 5.

Best Film
"The Artist"
"The Descendants"
"Drive"
"Hugo"
"Win Win"

Best Director
Woody Allen, "Midnight in Paris"
Michel Hazanavicius, "The Artist"
Alexander Payne, The Descendants"
Nicolas Winding Refn, "Drive"
Martin Scorsese, "Hugo"

Best Actor
George Clooney, "The Descendants"
Jean Dujardin, "The Artist"
Michael Fassbender, Shame"
Brad Pitt, "Moneyball"
Michael Shannon, "Take Shelter"

Best Actress
Viola Davis, "The Help"
Elizabeth Olsen, "Martha Marcy May Marlene"
Meryl Streep, "The Iron Lady"
Tilda Swinton, "We Need to Talk About Kevin"
Michelle Williams, "My Week with Marilyn"

Best Supporting Actor
Kenneth Branagh, "My Week with Marilyn"
Albert Brooks, "Drive"
John Hawkes, "Martha Marcy May Marlene"
Christopher Plummer, "Beginners"
Andy Serkis, "Rise of the Planet of the Apes"

Best Supporting Actress
Bérénice Bejo, "The Artist"
Melissa McCarthy, "Bridesmaids"
Carey Mulligan, "Shame"
Octavia Spencer, "The Help"
Shailene Woodley, "The Descendants"

Best Acting Ensemble
"Bridesmaids"
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2"
"The Help"
"Hugo"
"Margin Call"

Best Adapted Screenplay
"The Descendants"
"The Help"
"Hugo"
"Moneyball"
"Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy"

Best Original Screenplay
"The Artist"
"Bridesmaids"
"50/50"
"Midnight in Paris"
"Win Win"

Best Animated Feature
"The Adventures of Tintin"
"Arthur Christmas"
"Puss in Boots"
"Rango"
"Winnie the Pooh"

Best Documentary
"Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey"
"Buck"
"Cave of Forgotten Dreams"
"Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death, A Tale of Life"
"Project Nim"

Best Foreign Language Film
"13 Assassins"
"Certified Copy"
"I Saw the Devil"
"Pina"
"The Skin I Live In"

Best Art Direction
"The Artist"
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2"
"Hugo"
"The Tree of Life"
"War Horse"

Best Cinematography
"The Artist"
"Hugo"
"Melancholia"
"The Tree of Life"
"War Horse"

Best Score
"The Artist"
"Drive"
"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"
"Hugo"
"War Horse"

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

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