Ebert's picks: Tigers, beasts, heroes, and therapists compete early for Hollywood's biggest prizes

With the 2013 Oscarcast moved up to February 24, movie fans are already in a lather over the possible nominees, especially since again this year there can be "up to" 10 finalists in the best picture category.

I claim no inside knowledge (I'm still waiting to hear from my friend Deep Oscar), but it's never too early to speculate. First, this caveat: I've still not seen three films said to be strong contenders, so it's too early to list these here: "Les Mis," directed by Tom Hooper, who made "The King's Speech"; Kathryn Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty," about the killing of Osama bin Laden; and Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained," with Jamie Foxx as an escaped slave and Leonardo DiCaprio as a plantation owner.

Among the contenders I have seen, the most warmly loved by moviegoers seems to be Ang Lee's "Life of Pi." In many seasons as a critic, I can't remember a film more universally applauded. I wrote a blog entry about it, and my often dubious readers embraced it all but unanimously. Will public affection influence the Academy? Maybe.

Another sure thing is Ben Affleck's "Argo," which is not only a terrific thriller, but tells a true-life story sure to be enjoyed by Hollywood voters, about how the escape of a group of Americans during the Iranian hostage crisis was pulled off by a bold scheme involving the production of a fake sci-fi movie.

Stephen Spielberg's "Lincoln" is this year's most prestigious candidate, and its title performance by Daniel Day-Lewis is sure to win a best actor nod. It is, first of all, a great film. Also important is that at Oscar time, the Academy likes to nominate the kinds of films that reflect well upon the industry. (READ ENTIRE ARTICLE)

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