Less than a week away from the unveiling of the Academy Award nominations, a question near the top of many Oscar pundits' minds is whether or not "Skyfall" can actually crack a Best Picture nomination. What seemed a long shot just two months ago has since become a far less fanciful notion, as the 23rd official entry in the James Bond franchise has consolidated its strong reviews and gangbusters box office with a healthy precursor showing, most notably with the guilds.

Javier Bardem's surprise SAG nod was a good sign, as was yesterday's Art Directors' Guild mention, but the best news was a nomination for the Producers' Guild award earlier this week. Add that to what is likely to be a healthy haul of BAFTA nominations next week, and things are looking as good as they could be for the veteran spy.

Of course, it's just as easy to imagine the film being relegated to the technical categories. As "The Dark Knight" reminded us only a few years ago, popcorn franchise entries -- even the classiest ones -- struggle to be taken seriously by the Academy. Moreover, the 007 franchise is one for which the Academy has never had much use: only seven films in the series have ever been nominated for Oscars (in below-the-line categories only, to boot), and the last of those was "For Your Eyes Only" in 1981.

But while a sizeable audience will be disappointed in "Skyfall" fails -- as I suspect it narrowly will -- to secure a top nod, the Academy has a contingency plan  in place. It was announced today that next month's Oscar telecast will include a tribute to the franchise to mark its 50th anniversary. 

Telecast producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron offered this statement: “We are very happy to include a special sequence on our show saluting the Bond films on their 50th birthday. Starting with ‘Dr. No’ back in 1962, the 007 movies have become the longest-running motion picture franchise in history and a beloved global phenomenon.”

I take "special sequence" to mean one of those montages so beloved of Oscarcast producers, but the gesture is more significant than the execution. Though the Academy sometimes uses the ceremony to lightly point out their own blind spots -- that limp horror montage two years ago springs to mind -- it's rare for them to celebrate particular films and series outside of a competitive or honorary context.

If "Skyfall" doesn't nab the Best Picture nod, the tribute could be seen to serve as a tacit apology, and a tip of the hat to a series that has maintained and even improved standards over the years. If it does, it might seem a little unorthodox for one nominee to receive the extra attention -- but since it's never going to win, the Academy safely has all bases covered.