The 2012 Oscar nomination are set to roll in Tuesday morning, and given the early buzz and variety of winners in critics circles and at last week's Golden Globes, it should prove to be a compelling race in which the academy may be honoring form as well as content.
From the uplift of "The Help" and "The Descendants," to the grit of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" to the grace of "Hugo," there is a bevy of possible best picture nominees for every size and style. But which will be honored?
The silent charm and black and white elegance of "The Artist" - a classy, witty throwback to Hollywood's golden age that's anything but uniform - figures to enjoy multiple nominations. The film took home the Best Picture - Musical or Comedy award at the Golden Globes last week, and the film's French star Jean Dujardin won the Best Actor gong at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival - both good signs that the film will clean up in Oscar nods.
Another top contender should be Alexander Payne's "The Descendants." The George Clooney family comedy-drama has been a critic's darling since it debuted, and writer-director Payne has seen his previous efforts "About Schmidt" and "Sideways" clean up during awards seasons. Clooney also looks like a lock to receive a Best Actor nod, while young ingénue Shailene Woodley has already taken home a handful of critics' awards for her role as the daughter of Clooney's cuckolded land baron.
Along with Clooney's inevitable Best Actor nomination, Hollywood heavyweights Brad Pitt ("Moneyball") and Leonardo DiCaprio ("J. Edgar") are safe bets, but the real question seems to be which leading men will fill out the category. Will it be Gary Oldman, for his understated turn in the British spy thriller "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy?" Believe it or not, the veteran actor has yet to receive a nod from the Academy. Other possibilities include Michael Fassbender for "Shame," Ryan Gosling for "The Ides of March," and Jean Dujardin for the aforementioned "The Artist."
As for this year's Best Actress nominees, there's one word on everyone's lips: Meryl. Streep is now looking at her 17 th Oscar nomination for her portrayal of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady," and the actress, essentially considered a living legend, has not won in nearly 30 years. She does face come stiff competition, notably from Viola Davis from "The Help," who may give Streep a run for her money, as could Michelle Williams as the lead in "My Week with Marilyn."
The supporting actor prizes should see some older actors who played out of their normal range finally get their due, like Christopher Plummer for "Beginners" and Albert Brooks for "Drive." These categories also look to young, new talent, so "The Descendants'" Woodley or Jessica Chastain - who starred in an astounding six feature films in 2011 -might hear their names called.
As for the big prize, a total of 10 films could again be competing. Some are shoe-ins ("The Artist," "The Descendants") while others are likely bets ("War Horse," Hugo"). But with 10 nominees, there is room for some surprises, be they artier fare like "The Tree of Life" or a megahit like "Bridesmaids."
If the Golden Globes are any predictor of Hollywood's big prize, the Academy's love for big stars and fresh talent is certain to be spread around.
The 84 th annual Academy Awards will be held on February 26.
ABC News' Chris Connelly contributed to this report