Oscar 2012 Predictions: Best Picture

'The Artist' and 'The Descendants' lead MTV News' nominee picks for the Academy Awards' top prize.

In a few short hours, the conversation that has captivated film writers for months — “Who will be nominated for Best Picture?” — will become “Who will win the Academy Award for Best Picture?”

A new Academy rule once again changed the possible number of nominations for the top prize. What used to be a set number of 10 nominees now depends on the specifics of the Oscar ballots, and now the number of nominees can range from five to 10.

If it wasn’t for that new stipulation, the announcement of Best Picture nominees might not have provided any surprises or drama, since five films are essentially guaranteed locks. Thankfully, the new rule adds an extra element of intrigue to an otherwise boring race.

MTV News’ predictions for the Academy Awards’ Best Picture nominees are:

“The Artist”
This is the name that should be read first, not just because it starts with “A,” but because it will be the least surprising of the nominees. The silent throwback charmer “The Artist” has led the pack throughout awards season, and with its recent big wins at the Globes and the Producers Guild, things will only start to get interesting after this nominee is read.

“The Descendants”
Alexander Payne’s drama about a family coping with the impending death of a mother and wife currently stands as the only real competition for “The Artist.” A Best Picture (Drama) win at the Globes coupled with George Clooney’s Best Actor win guarantee “The Descendants” will be in the running come Oscar night.

“The Help”
Though the film as a whole has not fared well with the guilds and critic circles, “The Help” is bolstered by its crowd-pleasing nature and two nomination-worthy performances by Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer. Despite an underwhelming win record, it’s presence on shortlists should continue with the Oscars.

“Hugo”
Martin Scorsese’s 3-D family-friendly ode to filmmaking, “Hugo” swept up a surprising number of critics and guild awards and is the only movie that realistically could steal Best Picture glory away from “The Artist” or “The Descendants.” Scorsese’s win for Best Director at the Golden Globes could mean a big last-minute push for the legend’s latest film.

“Midnight in Paris”
This past summer’s surprise indie hit went on to become Woody Allen’s most financially successful movie of all time. “Midnight in Paris” stayed in the minds of many voters despite its release date outside the awards-heavy fall movie season, and it falls nicely in line with the most feel-good set of nominees in recent memory.

“Moneyball”
Call it the “Social Network” effect. This Aaron Sorkin co-scripted drama about an ostensibly boring subject matter went on to become a critical and box-office success story. Strong performances from Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill certainly helped the baseball drama, but its excellent script and assured direction by Bennett Miller earned “Moneyball” a spot on the nominees list.

“Tinker Tailor Solider Spy”
This seventh spot is the most fluid of all, with “War Horse” or “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” as potential substitutes. Many Oscar experts, however, have felt that the surprise resurgence of the British spy drama “Tinker Tailor Solider Spy” will be the story of tomorrow’s nominations. (Here’s to hoping for Gary Oldman’s first nod.) Strong critical reception, combined with modest financial success and the Academy’s British vote could make for the category’s only surprise.

See the complete list of Academy Awards Nominations .

Writer/editor for MTV. If it involves cowboys, spies, or hitmen, I'm there. All three would be ideal.