Melinda Sue Gordon; Merie Wallace
Jeff Labrecque
January 04, 2012 AT 07:30 PM EST

When the Oscars agreed to expand its list of nominated films for Best Picture from 5 to 10 in 2009, it was understood that a more generous category would reward solid blockbusters that previously had just missed the cut. Films like The Bourne Ultimatum and The Dark Knight were critical successes with A-list stars, and their inclusion, it was argued, would only boost television ratings for the awards ceremony.

This year, the Academy might have its hands full of handsome A-list movie stars, as George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Ryan Gosling all starred in multiple films that could potentially earn Best Picture nods under the Academy’s new award calculus (which will yield between 5 and 10 nominated films). Clooney directed The Ides of March and starred in Alexander Payne’s The Descendants. Pitt headlined Moneyball and The Tree of Life, and Gosling starred in The Ides of March and Drive. More than likely, all five films will not make the final cut, but they’re in the discussion. (Drive and The Tree of Life were left off the PGA’s list of 10 best films.)

Such a double-dip scenario wouldn’t be unprecedented — most recently, Geoffrey Rush appeared in competing films vying for Best Picture (Elizabeth and Shakespeare in Love) — but a Kodak Theatre with Clooney, Pitt, and Gosling in the front row would be an embarrassment of photogenic riches for ABC. (No offense, Mr. Rush.) [Note: As “John C. Reilly” points out in the comments, the Carnage star had a triple-dip in 2003, with The Hours, Chicago, and The Gangs of New York.]

With the more populated Best Picture field, the chances of this occurring more frequently in the future obviously goes up. What’s interesting, though, is that none of these Best Picture caliber star-vehicles are enormously expensive studio productions, nor the well-received mainstream hits that the industry thought they were inviting to the party with its Oscar rule changes. All five films are independent in spirit and hardly box-office smashes. They just so happen to star three of the most popular men on the planet who share an eye for good material. In this regard, the Academy will probably luck out: They’re virtually guaranteed the star-power of the industry’s biggest names without watering down the field of Best Picture contenders with more populist fare.

Do you think the expanded Oscar competition for Best Picture has had the desired effect so far? Is the Academy rooting for all things Cloo-Pitt-Ling, or would they prefer a Deathly Hallows Best Picture mention to goose the ratings? Which of the leading men do you think has the best chance of seeing two of his films nominated for the Oscar’s biggest prize? And if Billy Crystal should tear a hammy on the red carpet, would you be opposed to a telecast hosted by this handsome trio?

Read more:

Oscar predictions: After Producers Guild

Award Season Scorecard: Winners so far

2012 Golden Globes on EW: We’ve Got You Covered!

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