The gist of this 12.5 Pete Hammond Deadline piece (“Zero Dark Thirty Gives Sony Early Awards Heat But Will It Last?”) is that a lot of people don’t know what to stand by Best Picture-wise, but they don’t like the idea of giving the Oscar to another Middle-Eastern conflict film made by the great Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal.

I’m presuming that older Academy milquetotast types are telling Hammond “Bigelow again?” and “more Middle East terror tension?” and “why can’t we find a nice consensus movie that fits the warmly emotional paradigm that we all want to give the Best Picture Oscar to, and…you know, without anyone getting blown up or double-tapped…something that explains who we are and what we really want and need?”

Some would like to give it to Lincoln or Les Miz but they’re not feeing the current in the rapids and they can feel the ardor cooling down (certainly with Lincoln). They’ve found a film that “fits that warmly emotional paradigm” in Silver Linings Playbook, of course, but that’s not knocking everyone down either. Cattle are happiest when they’re being led along. And if they’re not being led along they wander around in search of water and grass. What Hammond is telling us is that Academy members don’t know which way to turn.

They have two choices. They can go with the unassailable Zero Dark Thirty — the flinty, pruned-down CIA docudrama with Jessica Chastain‘s super-tough heroine, or with the jazzy, spazzy, warmly emotional and hyper-intelligent Silver Linings Playbook, the movie that restored respect to the seriously tarnished romantic comedy genre and confirmed that director-writer David O. Russell is at the top of his game these days, and that Bradley Cooper (NBR’s Best Actor winner as of today) and Jennifer Lawrence are forces of nature and growth-spurters extraordinaire.