The Artist-Has been the frontrunner for ahwile. This is the one to beat and pretty much a sure bet for the win. Harvey Weinstein knows how to run an Oscar campaign like no other. He makes sure that the award season voters see his films and has the money to promote the hell out of them. It is pretty impressive that a silent, black and white movie with mediocre box office results can win Best Picture in 2011.
The Descendants-Unlike THE ARTIST it has it's haters, but is most certainly the 2nd or 3rd the runner up after HUGO. The Academy loves George Clooney and will probably honor him in the Best Actor category.
The Help-Certainly has maintained itself throughout the season. This nomination was no surprise.
Hugo-Has the most nominations this year with 11. I think it is much more about the history of movie making than THE ARTIST. I don't think many would mind if this ended up winning.
Midnight in Paris-The Academy loves Woody Allen and this is considered one of his best. There was not much doubt that it was going to get a nomination.
Moneyball-It was all about MONEYBALL in the beginning and everyone knew it had potential to be a Best Picture contender. Then we started seeing other movies winning critic awards and MONEYBALL began to fade away. The Academy did not forget. If there were only 5 nominations, it probably would not have made the cut.
The Tree of Life-Another one that has legs for the first part of the year and then faded away. Many stuck by it and insisted it would get a nomination. I myself counted it out due to the mixed reviews and it wasn't getting much other award attention. Pretty impressive for a movie that is about nothing.
War Horse-Wow! Everyone jumped on the Spielberg train. While many seem to be upset about this nomination, I think it belongs here. It did not win many of the precursor awards and was shut out of the all important DGA. While it does have some flaws it is a pretty damn good film.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close-This is the one that is mind boggling. I have not read or seen one good review of this movie. It has only has a 46 of Metacritic, which may make it the lowest rated movie ever to be nominated for Best Picture. In all fairness I have not seen it yet,but from what I have heard it is hard to imagine that at least 5% of voters thought it was the BEST film of the year. Over DRIVE, DRAGON TATTOO or 20 other movies I can think of. EXTREMELY LOUD will forever be an Oscar nominated film. I think it taints the whole year as well as Oscar history. It almost sounds kinda fishy!