Of the nine films nominated for Best Picture at this Sunday's Academy Awards, the only two that came out before the fall movie season, where Oscar bait runs rampant, are probably the most unlikely nominees.
The inclusion of "The Tree of Life" on the short list, despite its loose structure, makes sense because of the prestige of its director, Terrence Malick. "The Help," on the other hand, found Oscar success with an untested director and a racially charged subject matter.
Before "The Help" was a nominated film, it was a best-selling novel by writer Kathryn Stockett. While looking to sell the novel, Stockett queried 60 agents, all of whom rejected her request for representation. When the novel finally did find a home with an agent and eventually a publisher, it became a best-seller soon afterward.
But the before the novel found a wide audience, Stockett's childhood friend and former roommate Tate Taylor agreed with the author to pen the screen adaptation and direct the eventual film. Despite pressure from DreamWorks, Stockett insisted that Taylor direct the film of her book.
The connection between Stockett and Taylor was not the only one on set. Taylor and Best Supporting Actress nominee Octavia Spencer met while working as production assistants on "A Time to Kill."
As with all high-profile novel adaptations, "The Help" had a built-in audience going into its August release, but it wasn't until strong reviews and an A+ CinemaScore that people began to realize the potential for Oscar nominations.
Two of the film's actresses, Spencer and Best Actress nominee Viola Davis, received the earliest and most unanimous accolades after the film's release and rode that praise to Oscar nominations. They were both favorites in their respective categories, and as we head into Oscar night, they remain so.
The story of the movie's road to the Oscars demonstrates that the power of the audience can buck old Oscar stereotypes and push a loved film to the forefront of the competition. "The Help" won audiences over and in doing so, secured a big night at the Academy Awards.
The MTV Movies team has the 2012 Oscars covered! Stick with us for everything you need to know leading up to the awards show, and head to Next Movie for a printable Oscar ballot. On Sunday, tune into MTV.com at 5 p.m. ET for our two-and-a-half-hour red-carpet live stream and updates on the night's big winners. To join the live conversation, tweet @MTVNews with the hashtag #Oscars.