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In this week's Oscar Talk, after a holiday hiatus Kris Tapley and I come back to assess the Oscar race just as Academy voters get their ballots in the mail.

This time, there will be five slots for an undetermined number of Best Picture candidates. Any movie that gets too many third, fourth and fifth place votes won't register in the final outcome. This could leave popular titles without passionate fans--such as "Moneyball" or "Midnight in Paris"-- in the lurch.

I agree that it's better for Oscar voters to select five movies that they love than to stretch to include a bunch of movies they just like. But if the idea behind the change was to boost more popular titles into the Oscar Show, the Academy could still wind up with a less mainstream list. My wicked fantasy: so many people in the Academy put "Melanchoilia" and "Shame" in the number one spot that they wind up in the Top Five.

Thus, even though Kris and I agree on the top eight films, we could be totally wrong. My guess at the top five: "The Artist," "The Descendants," "Hugo," "War Horse" and "The Help," followed by "Moneyball," "Midnight in Paris" and "The Tree of Life."

We assess the Best Actress race and agree that the SAG five will probably prevail, as "Young Adult" has joined the lengthening list of weak Oscar contenders that includes late-year Christmas entries "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" and "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." Meanwhile Steven Spielberg's "War Horse" could gain momentum going forward, with strong box office. 

And we both agree that the Academy played it too dull and safe with the ugly new Oscar poster.