We've reached a critical phase of the season, Oscar watchers. We're not talking about the shortened shopping season or families reuniting across the country for the holidays. No, Hollywood is heading into the high season.  A time when we stop talking about who's going to get a nomination and who's going to actually win.

The convergence of the critics' groups' end of year honors, SAG nominations and, to a lesser extent, Golden Globe nominations, will start to make things even more competitive than it's already been. And if you're a regular reader of HitFix and In Contention, you are well aware this is arguably the most competitive season in years.

It all begins on Tuesday when the New York Film Critics' Circle announces year end awards. The National Board of Review and its swanky new website (welcome to the 21st Century, guys) drop their winners list the next day, Wednesday, Dec. 4. LAFCA will follow on Sunday, Dec. 8.  While all the winners will affect the races, it's the Best Picture selections that everyone will be paying the most attention to. Does "12 Years A Slave" sweep all three? Do all three organizations pick three different winners? Does "Gravity" or another film surprise with two wins? And if "12 Years" wins all three, is it effectively "over?" If it is, thankfully there will be a ton of other competitive races to discuss.

Oh, me. Oh, my.

With that in mind, here is the current Contender Countdown before all the drama begins.

Nov. 29, 2013

1. "Gravity"
Look for the critics honors, pt. 1.

2. "12 Years A Slave"
Look for the critics honors, pt. 2.

3. "Saving Mr. Banks"
Can't win the big one, but might put a scare into the frontrunners.

4. "Captain Phillips"
This one could use a little boost. Just sayin'.

5. "Lee Daniels' The Butler"
The one Harvey doesn't have to worry about (or does he?).

6. "Inside Llewyn Davis"
I have never heard competing publicists or consultants diss a movie that has no shot of winning Best Picture, but is getting a nomination, more than this one. Bizarre.

7. "Nebraska"
Anyone notice its six Indie Spirit nominations? Slowly but surely the lock no one even talks about.

8. "Blue Jasmine"
If Sony Classics can do a full court press, now is the time to start it.

9. "Dallas Buyers Club"
Another movie only competing publicists and consultants seem to dislike. Not landing a Best Feature nod at the Spirits doesn't help. December is make or break.

10. "Wolf of Wall Street"
Hearing reactions all over the place on this one. Guild screenings this weekend. Studio holding to show to "most" press a week from today. (Questionable, yes.)