Tom O’Neil sizes up Oscars’ Best Picture race

With 9-to-2 odds from the experts polled by Gold Derby, “Lincoln” has a substantial lead in the Best Picture race, but not a firm one.

This is the most fickle Oscar race I’ve seen in years. Back in September when Oscarologists first started to make predictions, “Silver Linings Playbook” was out front, then “Argo” took the lead, then “Les Miserables.” Now “Lincoln.” How seriously can we take this latest prophesy?

Don’t wager money on it. “Lincoln” is looking good, but it’s not a lock. It will probably have the biggest tally when nominations are announced on Jan. 10 and that’s key. The movie with the most bids wins the top Oscar about 75% of the time. However, it’s very vulnerable and its rivals are strong.

FIRST BIG PROBLEM: I don’t think “Lincoln” will win Best Picture from the Critics’ Choice Awards to be bestowed on Jan. 10 and that usually matters a lot. Over the past 10 years, that trophy has successfully forecasted the top Oscar seven times.

Below are the average scores given to the Best Picture nominees by members of the Critics’ Choice voting group (Broadcast Film Critics Association). Notice that three movies score higher than “Lincoln.”

94 – “Argo
93 – “Zero Dark Thirty
90 – “Silver Linings Playbook
88 – “Lincoln”
87 – “Les Miserables
86 – “Life of Pi

87 – “Django Unchained
85 – “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
83 – “Moonrise kingdom””
81 – “The Master”

“Lincoln” may also be in trouble at the Golden Globes where it competes for Best Drama Picture against “Argo,” “Django Unchained,” “Life of Pi” and “Zero Dark Thirty.” There’s no clear front-runner … and maybe it doesn’t matter. Over the past eight years, the Oscars and Globes have agreed on Best Picture only twice: “Slumdog Millionaire” and “The Artist.”

-ADDPREDICTION:78:491:What will win Best Picture at Critics Choice?:ADDPREDICTION-

Other upcoming awards to watch: We will soon see a few new batches of tea leaves from these groups —

January 3: Best Picture nominees revealed by the Producers Guild of America.

January 5: National Society of Film Critics Awards unveiled. Probably doesn’t matter. Over the past 20 years, winners have lined up with Oscar only three times: “The Hurt Locker,” “Million Dollar Baby” and “Schindler’s List.”

January 8: Directors Guild of America Award nominees announced. Crucial info will be revealed therein. Some pundits believe “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Les Miserables” may be in trouble since David O. Russell and Tom Hooper weren’t nominated for Best Director by the Globes. Both films need to rally at DGA, which is a crowded contest. Three nominees are guaranteed: Spielberg, Kathryn Bigelow (“Zero Dark Thirty”) and Ben Affleck (“Argo”). But Russell and Hooper must wrestle two formidable foes for those other two slots: Ang Lee (“Life of Pi”) and Quentin Tarantino (“Django Unchained”). Who’ll get bounced?

Now this derby is really getting interesting, eh?!

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