Okay, this is just getting silly: if you’re a small regional critics’ group hoping to get some attention for your awards, why announce on the weekend when apparently everyone but the Delaware Christian Youth Film Enthusiasts Society has chosen to do the same? Be that as it may, the Houston critics yesterday announced a list of nominations, and most of the usual suspects rate a mention, with a few pleasing curveball choices.

I can't help but wonder about their intentions when a late release like "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" shows up in their Best Picture category without scoring a single other nomination -- are they truly voting for their favorites, or simply predicting the Academy's ballot? Happily, there's evidence of sincere individual thinking in the Best Picture nomination for Thomas McCarthy's "Win Win," while it's interesting to see the film's young star Alex Shaffer show up in the Supporting Actor category. (No love for Paul Giamatti, however.)

Other points of interest: minutes after Detroit plumped for Jessica Chastain in "Take Shelter," the Houston critics are the first to honor the actress solely for "The Help," the film for which I personally think she most deserves consideration. In the same category, Janet McTeer scores another minor precursor mention for "Albert Nobbs" (she placed second in the Los Angeles critics' voting), while her more-hyped co-star Glenn Close continues to be MIA in the Best Actress race. Happily, the latter omission makes room for two deserving dark horses, Elizabeth Olsen and Tilda Swinton, to slide in alongside the three presumed Oscar frontrunners.

Armie Hammer is the Janet McTeer of the Supporting Actor category, scoring a mention as the buzz dwindles around his lead co-star. In the same race, it's cute to see critics sticking their neck out for Andy Serkis's mo-cap work in "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," but why not really take a stand and acknowledge it as the lead performance it is? Finally, I'm pleased to see "Drive" keeps popping up in these lists -- I have no idea what it means for its eventual showing at the Oscars, but it's already got more recognition than I thought it would all season.

The full list:

Best Picture
"The Artist"
"The Descendants"
"Drive"
"Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"
"The Help"
"Midnight in Paris"
"Take Shelter"
"The Tree of Life"
"War Horse"
"Win Win"

Best Director
Michel Hazanavicius, "The Artist"
Alexander Payne, "The Descendants"
Nicolas Winding Refn, "Drive"
Woody Allen, "Midnight in Paris"
Terrence Malick, "The Tree of Life"

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
Albert Brooks, "Drive"
Armie Hammer, "J. Edgar"
Christopher Plummer, "Beginners"
Andy Serkis, "Rise of the Planet of the Apes"
Alex Shaffer, "Win Win"

Best Supporting Actress
Jessica Chastain, "The Help"
Melissa McCarthy, "Bridesmaids"
Janet McTeer, "Albert Nobbs"
Octavia Spencer, "The Help"
Shailene Woodley, "The Descendants"

Best Screenplay
"The Artist"
"The Descendants"
"50/50"
"Midnight in Paris"
"Win Win"

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

Best Score
"The Adventures of Tintin"
"The Artist"
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2"
"Shame"
"War Horse"

Best Song
"Lay Your Head Down" from "Albert Nobbs"
"Star Spangled Man" from "Captain America: The First Avenger"
"The Living Proof" from "The Help"
"Life's a Happy Song" from "The Muppets"
"Think You can Wait" from "Win Win"

Best Animated Film
"The Adventures of Tintin"
"Happy Feet Two"
"Kung Fu Panda"
"Puss in Boots"
"Rango"
"Winnie the Pooh"

Best Foreign Film
"The Artist"
"Elite Squad: The Enemy Within"
"I Saw the Devil"
"The Skin I Live In"
"13 Assassins"

Best Documentary
"Buck"
"Cave of Forgotten Dreams"
"The Elephant in the Room"
"Project Nim"
"Undefeated"

Worst Film of the Year
"Jack and Jill"
"Red Riding Hood"
"The Sitter"
"The Smurfs"
"The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 1"
"Your Highness"

Humanitarian Honor: Joanne Herring

Lifetime Achievement: Jeff Bridges

For more views on movies, awards season and other pursuits, follow @GuyLodge on Twitter.

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