Tom O’Neil’s Gold Derby, impressive assemblage of journalists, bloggers and critics predicts the Oscar race down to two movies — The Artist and The Descendants.  Once again we are faced with the odd position of having to predict films most have still not seen.  It appears that only three films fit that bill right now and those are War Horse, Dragon Tattoo and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.  Some have seen War Horse. Many of the long lead journos, some of whom are on Gold Derby’s panel, have already seen it but are under an embargo.  The Descendants looks ready to top the critics chart, beating Moneyball and Harry Potter — it looks that way so far.

One of its biggest challengers is sure to be The Artist, which already has a powerful advocate in the LA Times’ Kenneth Turan, and now Anthony Lane has written a breathless rave for the New Yorker — his review, in fact, is the first to dive deeper into the artist than the notion that is simply a charmer, which it is.   Lane also praises The Descendants, comparing it to From Here to Eternity, which famously won eight Oscars, including Picture, Director and Screenplay.

The Artist and The Descendants are going to go toe to toe, with some likely push back from three big question marks: Dragon Tattoo, Extremely Loud and War Horse.  Of the upcoming films it might appear more obvious what is going to win Best Picture, but for now, it’s down to two films that are about to face their final test – the box office.  The money is going to heavily impact the trajectory of The Artist and The Descendants.  War Horse, Dragon Tattoo will have no problem making bank.

That said, 9 of the Gold Derbyites have The Artist for the win.  10 have chosen The Descendants.  7 have chosen the sight unseen (mostly), War Horse.  Let it be said that no one is taking any kind of major risk by predicting, say, Dragon Tattoo to win — we all play it safe because we’re trying to be right. We’re not gambling on the long call in order to make money on a bet.  You can add your own predictions over at Gold Derby, and check out the rest of what the pundits are predicting.