This year's list of best picture Oscar nominees features an odd-numbered nine movies, but as usual the race has boiled down to just a few real front-runners. "The Artist" is the clear favorite, while Martin Scorsese's "Hugo" and the George Clooney drama "The Descendants" are bringing up the rear. The nominees in descending order of taking home the Oscar:
9. THE MOVIE "The Tree of Life"
8. THE MOVIE "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"
7. THE MOVIE "War Horse"
6. THE MOVIE "Midnight in Paris"
THE DEAL Though probably not a major contender, this light comedy marks a strong showing from Allen. It's his first best picture nominee since 1986's "Hannah and Her Sisters."
5. THE MOVIE "Moneyball"
4. THE MOVIE "The Help"
THE DEAL This racially themed drama with a terrific ensemble cast -- it won the top award from the Screen Actors Guild -- initially seemed like a shoo-in. It eventually fell behind in this race, but remains an audience favorite.
3. THE MOVIE "The Descendants"
THE DEAL Don't count out this small-scale film, starring George Clooney as a grieving husband, which enjoys a strong following as one of the year's few intelligent dramas aimed at adults.
2. THE MOVIE "Hugo"
THE DEAL With 11 nominations, "Hugo" came out of nowhere to dominate the race -- but only statistically. Wins in technical categories (visual effects, film editing) seem likely, but a best picture award would be a surprise.
1. THE MOVIE "The Artist"
THE DEAL Is this a case of Oscar voters falling for easy nostalgia, or a genuine triumph of old-fashioned moviemaking over technological glitz? Either way, this black-and-white silent movie has become the one to beat.
Rafer Guzmán picks who should win and who will win in Sunday's FanFare