The mania surrounding the 85th annual Academy Awards officially gets under way Thursday with the nominations, which will be announced by host Seth MacFarlane and Emma Stone at 5:30 a.m. Pacific in Los Angeles.
Of course, the biggest suspense of the nominations -- thanks to a change in Academy's voting rules in 2011 will be how many films -- a minimum of five and a maximum of 10 -- will be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. According to the Academy, the standard number of five nominees will be increased only if the additional contenders score more than 5 percent of the votes in the nominating process.
Only nine films passed the five percent threshold last year -- and the prestigious statuette eventually went to "The Artist."
So, which films appear to be in the running this year? If you trust the Producer's Guild of America, then the films with the leg up include "Argo," "Beasts of the Southern Wild," "Django Unchained," "Les Miserables," "Lincoln," "Life of Pi," "Moonrise Kingdom," "Silver Linings Playbook," "Skyfall" and "Zero Dark Thirty" will have a good shot at the nominations Thursday.
If you go with the Broadcast Film Critics Association's Critics Choice Awards nominations (full disclosure: I'm a voting member), then you can add "The Master" to the list. Their nominees match-up toe-to-toe with the PGA, except for their inclusion of "The Master" and the omission of "Skyfall."
So why are the BFCA's nominations relevant? Historically, since the inception of their awards presentation 18 years ago, they group's nominations have been the most accurate predictor of the Oscars.
"Skyfall" appears to be in a win-win situation with the Academy this year. If it's not nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, the Academy's contingency plan to sooth irate James Bond fans is a planned tribute to the franchise's 50th anniversary.
So, are there any films outside of the PGA and BFCA's picks that could sneak in? Fans of Christopher Nolan who felt snubbed (and justifiably so) with the omission of "The Dark Knight" and "Inception" could possibly see "The Dark Knight Rises" scoring a Best Picture nod, although indicators at this juncture point to a slew of technical nods.
Other possibilities include "Flight," although it may have to settle for Denzel Washington's likely Best Actor performance.
"The Hobbit" is a longer-shot for any Best Picture recognition, especially since its reception by critics, anyway, has been decidedly mixed. Besides, awards voters may feel justified passing over the film since Peter Jackson was awarded with a sweep with "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" at the ceremony in 2004.
Other possibilities may include the critic award favorite "Amour," which is a shoo-in for Best Foreign Film, and "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," which made its way onto the American Film Institute's Top 10 list for 2012.
Five films you should not expect to be on the ballot Thursday are "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 2," "Battleship," "The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure," "That's My Boy" and "A Thousand Words."
Those five films -- headed by "Twilight's" 11 nominations -- were nominated Wednesday by the Golden Raspberry Foundation's Razzie Awards for Worst Film of the Year.
Last year, Adam Sandler's ill-fated comedy "Jack and Jill" swept the Razzies.
More from Tim Lammers:
Interview: Helen Mirren, 'Hitchcock'
Interview: Keira Knightley, 'Anna Karenina'
Interview: Ashley Greene, 'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2'
Interview: Bruce Greenwood: 'Flight'
Interview: Ben Affleck, 'Argo'