Academy Award hopefuls got a little bit closer to the gold statue today, as Oscar ballots were mailed out to the Academy’s 5,783 voting members, writes The Hollywood Reporter.
Voters have until Jan. 16 to make their selections, and the nominees will be announced on Jan. 24.
The months leading up to the biggest awards ceremony in entertainment are preceded by smaller ceremonies and award shows for TV and film, all serving to ramp up anticipation — and speculation — for the big show.
The Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG) awards and the Golden Globe awards are considered the biggest predictors for what actors and films could be on the Oscar short list.
In the acting category, Hollywood heavyweights among the SAG and Golden Globe nominees include George Clooney for his role in “The Descendants,” Brad Pitt in “Moneyball,” and Leonardo DiCaprio as “J. Edgar.” (RELATED: The hottest nominees to grace the Golden Globes)
The guys are flanked by familiar actresses, including Glenn Close of “Albert Dobbs,” Meryl Streep as “The Iron Lady,” Michelle Williams in “My Week with Marilyn,” and Viola Davis in “The Help.”
Front-runners for best picture include “The Help,” “Midnight In Paris,” “The Artist,” and “Moneyball.”
The Oscar campaign is similar to running for political office: Actors parade down red carpets and ads for “Best Picture” are spread across entertainment publications, asking Academy members for their votes.
Sometimes, it’s a simple popularity contest, as in the case of 2010′s “Avatar,” which was the highest grossing film of all time and took home three Oscars that year.
Other times, the underdog takes it all. Some are predicting that the nearly all-silent film “The Artist” could take home the “Best Picture” prize in 2012.
We won’t know until the 84th Academy Awards is broadcast on February 26. But until then, we can always speculate.