Buoyed by a strong showing in the Golden Globe and Critics' Choice nominations, Steven Spielberg's acclaimed biopic "Lincoln" has jumped into first place while Tom Hooper's film version of the 1987 Tony-winning musical "Les Miserables," which was the frontrunner till critics carped is now in fourth. (See latest odds here)
Both "Lincoln" and "Les Miserables" could contend in a wide range of categories, including several acting bids as well as all of the below-the-line races except for visual effects.
Ben Affleck's docudrama "Argo," which had led the race since mid October, is battling for second place with "Zero Dark Thirty." That film is by Kathryn Bigelow, who won an Oscar for helming 2009 Best Picture winner "The Hurt Locker." She returns with another war picture which focuses on the decade-long quest for Osama Bin Laden. It has already won Best Picture from the New York Film Critics Circle, the National Board of Review and the New York Online Film Critics.
(Track changing odds in this race by scrolling down to the bottom of this page.)
Only nine musicals have won Best Picture in the 84-year history of the Oscars. The first of these was "The Broadway Melody" (1928/29), which was also the first picture with sound to win. "The Great Ziegfeld," a biopic of the legendary showman, won in 1936. Only one musical -- "An American in Paris" (1951) -- prevailed during the Golden Age of Hollywood. In one decade (1958 - 1968), five of the Best Picture champs were musicals: "Gigi" (1958); "West Side Story" (1961); "My Fair Lady" (1964); "The Sound of Music" (1965); and "Oliver!" (1968). The most recent musical to win was "Chicago" in 2002. No musical has been nominated since.
"Lincoln" player Daniel Day-Lewis is widely predicted to win his third Best Actor Oscar. Steven Spielberg's film features several supporting players who could contend and has an impressive pedigree of talent who worked behind the scenes.
"Argo" celebrates the unsung heroes in the rescue of six Americans from 1979 Tehran -- a CIA operative (Affleck) a movie producer (Alan Arkin) and an Oscar-winning makeup artist (John Goodman). As with last year's champ "The Artist," "Argo" shows Hollywood in a good light.
"Argo," "Lincoln" and "Zero Dark Thirty" depict real-life events. This genre has won 12 Best Picture Oscars over the years with the first of these, "The Great Ziegfeld" (1936), also being a musical. Other winners were: "The Life of Emile Zola" (1937), "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962); "A Man for All Seasons" (1966); "Patton" (1970); "Chariots of Fire" (1981); "Gandhi" (1982), "Amadeus" (1984); "Out of Africa" (1985); "The Last Emperor" (1987); "A Beautiful Mind" (2001); and "The King's Speech" (2010).
David O. Russell's romantic comedy-drama "Silver Linings Playbook" led this race following its debut at the Toronto filmfest in September where it won the audience award. However, it has now dropped to fifth place although "Silver Linings" star Jennifer Lawrence remains the overwhelming favorite to take home Best Actress.
2005 Oscar champ Ang Lee ("Brokeback Mountain") brings Yann Martel's bestseller "Life of Pi" to the screen as a lush 3-D epic and this fanciful tale is in sixth place.
Paul Thomas Anderson helmed "The Master," which won over the Venice filmfest and the LA film critics with its story of a religious zealot (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and the wayward soul (Joaquin Phoenix) who falls under his spell.