<p>The 2012 HitFix&nbsp;Oscar ballot</p>

The 2012 HitFix Oscar ballot

Credit: HitFix

Join the In Contention Oscar pool and print out the HitFix Oscar ballot!

With a few days to go in Oscar season, it's time to make your picks

(Bringing this back around one more time with all the pertinent stuff for today. Think I'm settled on the points system.)

For the third-straight year it looks like we'll be using Picktainment's set-up for our annual Oscar pool. Some of you may still be members of the site from previous years, but if not, you have to first join up here. After you've done that, go ahead and go to In Contention's Oscar pool here and join the group. After that, you're all ready to make your picks, which you can do by clicking on the "edit my picks" link there.

Meanwhile, HitFix has you all squared away if you're looking for a printable Oscar ballot. You can download ours here and check off your picks to follow along on Oscar night. You can also join the site-wide Oscar pool here. There will be a separate prize for the winner there.

Lastly, Oscar predictions: mine, Guy's, Gerard's, Greg Ellwood's and my Oscar Talk colleague Anne Thompson's. See you in the live blog, which will kick off in a few hours.

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<p>Tom&nbsp;Cruise in &quot;Mission:&nbsp;Impossible - Ghost Protocol&quot;</p>

Tom Cruise in "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol"

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Does Oscar hate genre?

With ‘Extremely Loud’ in and ‘Drive’ out, Seth Rogen asks the question

Tonight brings us the final sparkly conclusion to the 2012 awards season. We’ve mourned the exclusion of films and performances we championed (“Margaret,” “Shame,” “Drive” and so on) and we’ve acquiesced to the inevitable wins and losses of those that were nominated.

Or have we?

As The Guardian notes, Seth Rogen, who’s best known for his work as a broad comedic actor (though he broke some new-ish ground this year with “50/50” and “The Green Hornet”) spoke out in defense of genre films in a recent interview with Film News. "I honestly thought ‘Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol’ was one of the best movies of the year,” he said. “It got no love from awards, whatsoever. I loved that fucking movie! It was great! And, I thought ‘Drive’ was awesome too. That got nominated for an Independent Spirit award, but didn't get any Oscar nominations."

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<p>&quot;The Help' set itself up as an awards player early on by becoming a box office success story.</p>

"The Help' set itself up as an awards player early on by becoming a box office success story.

Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

Box office and Oscar, from 'Deathly Hallows' to 'Tree of Life'

How did this year's nominees do at the domestic box office?

It's Oscar Sunday and by tonight, it'll all be over but the cryin', as they say. But as we gear up for today's festivities, I thought I'd take a look at the box office of this year's Oscar nominees for the first time this season.

I was happy to quietly do away with our already thin box office coverage a few months back because it's just not an element of the business I can invest in too much. Often times, even more so than observing an Oscar race, it can be pretty disheartening.

Of course, the biggest box office champ of the year was "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2," which raked in over $380 million at the domestic box office this year. That was good enough to significantly top the previous top money-grabber of the franchise, 2001's "The Sorcerer's Stone," and it also marked the first time a Potter film topped a "Transformers" entry.

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<p>Could &quot;A Morning Stroll&quot; upset the pundits' favorite in the Best Animated Short category?</p>

Could "A Morning Stroll" upset the pundits' favorite in the Best Animated Short category?

Credit: ShortsHD/Magnolia Pictures

Last-minute prediction switches, plus a 'should win' list

Changing tack in those pesky short categories

I'm usually pretty disciplined about this, but with the Academy Awards only 11 hours away, I couldn't resist making two, well, eleventh-hour changes to my predictions -- both in the perennially tricky short categories.

I initially went with the flow in the Best Animated Short category, siding with most pundits with "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore" on the basis of its careful craft and worthy message, and trying to ignore my own reservations about the short's tweeness and relative overlength. (It's the "Hugo" of the animated short category for me: I feel guilty for not liking it more, but there's something about how very improving it is that keeps me at arm's length.)

Finally, however safe the choice seems, I just can't believe in it. So, with memories of 2009's hip, against-the-grain victory for "Logorama" on my mind, I'm switching my prediction to BAFTA and Sundance winner "A Morning Stroll." Not the best or most artful of the nominees, but the most amusingly singular -- and its triptych of animation techniques is a snazzy gimmick that I expect will tickle some voters.

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<p>The gang's all smiles with the Best Feature award for &quot;The Artist.&quot;</p>

The gang's all smiles with the Best Feature award for "The Artist."

Credit: AP Photo/Joel Ryan

'The Artist' triumphs at 2012 Film Independent Spirit Awards

The French silent wins four while 'The Descendants' nabs two

I was really irritated sitting there in the tent on the beach in Santa Monica this year watching the Independent Spirit Awards unfold.

Things started out great, though. Seth Rogen's opening monologue killed, even though a number of the people in there apparently weren't equipped to grasp the humor. I was happy to see Christopher Plummer, however expected, take yet another supporting actor trophy for his performance in "Beginners."

Even though I called it, I was nevertheless stoked for Will Reiser surprising with a win in the Best First Screenplay category for "50/50." And even though I'd have much preferred seeing Jessica Chastain get the good will, it was hard not to be happy for Shailene Woodley, who won Best Supporting Female after she was snubbed by the Academy. Then things took a different turn. "The Artist" just started winning everything. Everyone just bowed down. Couldn't we have this one moment of solace away from that steamroller? Apparently not.

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<p>B&eacute;r&eacute;nice Bejo in &quot;The Artist.&quot;</p>

Bérénice Bejo in "The Artist."

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Why it should be 'The Artist'

Ignore the backlash: this season has got it right

Okay, I'll level with you. One fairly major reason I want "The Artist" to win Best Picture at tomorrow's Academy Awards ceremony has nothing whatsoever to do with its lithe charms as a Hollywood fable, its glistening appropriation of a long-dormant screen style, the quicksilver star turn of its leading man or even its eminently adoptable Jack Russell.

It has nothing to do with the film being a silent-cinema gateway for less informed audiences, an all-too-rare foreign crossover, or a witty marker of the distance the medium has traveled in 80-odd years.

It has nothing to do with my relative feelings about its rival nominees, or with the disproportionate critical backlash its success has inspired. Not that these aren't all factors worthy of consideration, but this reason has nothing to do with the movie at all.

It's because I have money on it.

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<p>Gene Kelly in &quot;Singin' in the Rain&quot;</p>

Gene Kelly in "Singin' in the Rain"

Credit: MGM

Oscar's big miss: 'Singin' in the Rain'

A look at one of the Academy's most glaring snubs

It seemed an easy task when I told Guy and Gerard to follow Roth's lead and help me turn the idea of "Oscar's big miss" into a quick mini-series at the end of the season. Roth's pick was undeniable. Gerard's was inspired. Guy's was well-spotted. What would I spring for?

Look, the truth is there are a lot of movies the Academy hasn't properly recognized over the last 84 years, and they go all the way to near the beginning. "Metropolis," "The Passion of Joan of Arc," "City Lights," "King Kong," "Modern Times," "Sullivan's Travels," "Paths of Glory," "The Last Temptation of Christ," "The Fountain," "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," "Another Year" and if not genre filmmaking in general, the entirety of the western genre surely all made for compelling picks. But what equates to a "big miss" anyway? What does it mean?

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<p>Hunter McCracken (left)&nbsp;and Brad Pitt in&nbsp;&quot;The&nbsp;Tree of Life&quot;</p>

Hunter McCracken (left) and Brad Pitt in "The Tree of Life"

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Oscar Guide 2011: Best Picture

A big slate of nine films square off

(The Oscar Guide has been your chaperone through the Academy's 24 categories awarding excellence in film. A new installment hit every weekday in the run-up to the Oscars on February 26, with today's Best Picture finale being the cherry on top.)

And here we are. The 2011 Oscar Guide has finally reached its destination: the nine-film Best Picture category, which saw its biggest surprise in the very fact that it stretched to that many nominees. It became somewhat obvious down the stretch that five films were assured a spot, with another highly likely. The extraneous possibilities seemed to number no more than three or four, but two of them got in.

The question, though, is did the alteration in the Best Picture voting process really do all that much? Did it really breed the suspense it so clearly aimed for? Would it have mattered all that much if a full slate of 10 had remained in place? Well, to "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" or "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," perhaps. At the end of the day, though, the constant tinkering with the process has done little more than keep people considering it and talking about it. Maybe that was the goal and the joke's on us.

The nominees are…

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<p>Might &quot;War Horse&quot;&nbsp;be primed to surprise in a few categories?</p>

Might "War Horse" be primed to surprise in a few categories?

Credit: Touchstone Pictures

No one needs final Oscar predictions this deep

They really don't

Well, enough belly-aching over this nonsense. Pick something and move on. So I have.

This morning's Oscar Talk let you into the bizarre, weird, obsessive head space of figuring out how 6,000 people are gonna vote. Sometimes it's easier when you don't have a dog in the hunt (and I certainly don't this year -- at least out of what's plausible), but not this time around. The major categories seem relatively decided but it's throughout the craft categories where you start to see potential scenarios popping up all over the place.

There were four categories still giving me pause when we wrapped up the podcast, areas that I felt I might just revisit and flip-flop to something else and yada, yada, yada. They were Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Sound Mixing and Best Visual Effects. But, well, I didn't. I'm sticking with what I called there and calling it a year. Let's see what happens.

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"The Artist" star Bérénice Bejo after winning Best Actress at the César Awards.
"The Artist" star Bérénice Bejo after winning Best Actress at the César Awards.
Credit: AP Photo/Thibault Camus

'The Artist' (what else?) takes top honors at César Awards

A surprise loss for Dujardin, while Polanski triumphs again

Jean Dujardin may be the frontrunner to take the Best Actor Oscar in Hollywood on Sunday, but he had to endure a defeat on his home turf tonight, as the French superstar lost the César Award to the comparatively unheralded Omar Sy, who plays a young man from the projects hired to look after a wealthy quadriplegic in the domestic smash "Untouchable." (The film, incidentally, was crucified by Variety's Jay Weissberg, who describes it as racist claptrap; the Weinsteins have the remake rights.)

I doubt Dujardin is too bothered: clearly, voters for the France's answer to the Academy Awards loved "The Artist" enough that they felt free to throw someone else a bone in one major category. The Oscar frontrunner took six awards, including Best Picture, Best Director for Michel Hazanavicius and Best Actress for Bérénice Bejo, questionably nominated in the supporting race across the pond. If I'm keeping score correctly, this is Bejo's first actual trophy of the season -- it's nice for her that it came in the correct category.

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