In his latest “Notes on a Season” column, The Envelope‘s Pete Hammond claims that “at this point the Best Picture frontrunners among members I have talked to are Wall-E , The Dark Knight and Changeling, in that order.”

Changeling? Nobody on my wavelength has considered, much less flirted with, this notion. I guess Hammond’s party-chat friends haven’t been told that Clint Eastwood‘s ’08 Oscar shot is Gran Torino or nothing. Forget Changeling.

“They haven’t seen much else,” says Hammond — what, no Milk screenings? — but Slumdog Millionaire “is slowly starting to be mentioned as well.”

Hammond acknowledges that “unanimous [forecast] among the bloggers, though, is The Curious Case of Benjamin Button will win in a rout, even though none of us have seen the Dec. 25 release…yet.”

Hammond is implying there’s a certain b.s. factor at work here. Oscar handicappers presuming or imagining what it is or might be, blah blah. The reason there’s a strong belief in this corner that Button will take the Best Picture Oscar is (a) I’ve read Eric Roth‘s script and believe it to be a sad and moving piece, and (b) the fact that two guys — a respected post-production veteran and a bright fellow who knows a lot of people and hears things — are telling me that middle-aged guys who’ve seen it have gotten all choked up.

The Best Picture contender that makes people cry wins — it’s that simple.

“Almost no one in the academy or the press has seen Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino, The Reader, Revolutionary Road, Seven Pounds or Fox’s Australia, which the studio is purposely taking its own sweet time to campaign. Rightly they figure people should see the Baz Luhrmann epic (which likely will be delivered wet to theaters on Nov. 26) before the studio starts touting it for awards. In fact, most people at Fox would probably love to see the heavily under wraps film themselves before shouting its best picture potential to the rest of the world.”

“Meanwhile foreign-language film entries continue to screen at a swift pace, but from what we’ve been told only Germany, Japan and Russia have made any significant impact, with Italy’s Cannes Grand Prix winner, Gomorra, getting predictions that it will be one of the final five, despite mixed response from some who frowned on its generous amount of violence.

“And the Portuguese film Our Beloved Month of August was apparently so poorly received that some members were trying to leave before they could ‘officially’ exit and still receive credit for seeing it.”