There are three to four layers of the Best Picture race this year, and the field is trickier to pick these days since anywhere from five to ten films can be nominated. There won't be five nominees, there will never be only five again, but there probably won't ever be ten. I see seven nominees this time around...
The four heavy hitters in the Best Picture category have a nice ring to them: Django, Argo, Zero, Lincoln. Of all the four frontrunners, Argo has to be the leader in the clubhouse for Best Picture. Hot on its heels is Spielberg's epic historical drama Lincoln, followed closely by Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow's Bin Laden thriller. I could see any of these three films taking away the prize. Completing the quartet of frontrunners is Tarantino's Django Unchained, though I am not as confident in its chances to actually win the statue.
The next two, to get the tally up to six, could be any combination of films from The Master to Moonrise Kingdom to perhaps even Skyfall. But unfortunately I see one of these spots belonging to Tom Hooper's overrated slog, Les Miserables. The fifth slot belongs not to one of the aforementioned films, but David O. Russell's charming and wonderful Silver Linings Playbook. I have no issue with this one, my personal favorite of 2012.
So if the cutoff is seven, that leaves one final slot and a whole slew of films vying for the slot. Ang Lee's Life of Pi belongs here, and should grab this final slot. Of course if there are eight, nine, or ten nominees, I expect an appearance by Wes Anderson and/or James Bond. That being said, seven feels like a comfortable cutoff point for this year.
Zero Dark Thirty
Silver Linings Playbook
Life of Pi