Audrey Hepburn
Audrey Hepburn

The change in Oscar voting rules, so that only films earning hundreds of number one or two votes will land a Best Picture slot-- leads to more speculation and excitement than ever this year. But it's already clear that there will be eight nominees, and we know what they are. In whatever order--and there will be movement between now and January 13, when the final nominations ballots are delivered--they will be:

  • "The Artist"
  • "The Descendants"
  • "War Horse"
  • "Moneyball"
  • "Hugo
  • "Midnight in Paris"
  • "The Help"
  • "The Tree of Life"

And that's it. Look at the Gurus 'o Gold list, which breaks down after a solid consensus on eight. Some of the following movies may land nominations, but the prospects of competing for Best Picture are slim: No "Ides of March" or "J. Edgar," even though the Academy loves actor-directors George Clooney and Clint Eastwood; no film from Oscar faves Stephen Daldry or David Fincher; no Brit entry "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," and no vulgar comedy "Bridesmaids." (Anyone who thinks the high-minded Academy is going that way is on crack.) The Wrap's Steve Pond has done the numbers, and he agrees with me. He tweets: "We recounted the Critics Choice Movie Awards ballots using the Oscar system. They'd have 8 best-pic nominees, not 10."

Here's the Oscar calendar (Hat Tip: Awards Daily):

    ▪    Tuesday, December 27, 2011: Nominations ballots mailed
    ▪    Friday, January 13, 2012: Nominations polls close 5 p.m. PT
    ▪    Tuesday, January 24, 2012: Nominations announced 5:30 a.m. PT
    ▪    Wednesday, February 1, 2012: Final ballots mailed
    ▪    Monday, February 6, 2012: Nominees Luncheon
    ▪    Saturday, February 11, 2012: Scientific & Technical Awards presentation
    ▪    Tuesday, February 21, 2012: Final polls close 5 p.m. PT
    ▪    Sunday, February 26, 2012: 84th Academy Awards presentation