For some of us, picking Oscar-race favorites at this stage is about choosing players and films that we truly feel were among the year’s finest. (Like Zodiac, for instance — unquestionably one of the year’s five best entries.) But for others, 75% to 80% of their Oscar prognosticating is about bowing down in front of the throne of this or that big-league distributor. Strictly a show of obeisance before power…no different than the protocol observed among New Guinea headhunters in the presence of this or that tribal chieftain, especially when entering his hut.

Which is why films and filmmakers being promoted by smaller distributors — Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead, Control, Once, Sam Riley, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Sidney Lument, etc. — don’t fare as well as they should when it comes to the Gurus of Gold and Buzzmeter choices.