Anthony Breznican
November 26, 2012 AT 07:19 PM EST

Les Miserables is going to win best picture.

No, wait … Zero Dark Thirty is going to win best picture.

Life of Pi had a surprisingly big box office opening, so it too is now a best picture player.

Oscar watchers, Hollywood voters, and general movie-lovers were pinballing between enthusiasms this weekend like kids with too many birthday presents to open. That’s a good thing — it’s a stand-out awards season, jammed with stellar storytelling — which means there will be a real competition for the top prize.

What film will win? Don’t trust anyone who says they know for sure.

On Friday, Les Miserables screened in New York and Los Angeles, with multiple screenings on Saturday for guild and Academy voters in L.A. Most came with reports of spontaneous applause after the show-stopping numbers, and standing ovations for the stars during post-screening Q&As. Praise for Hugh Jackman’s noble fugitive Jean Valjean makes him a bona fide Best Actor contender, though he’ll have a hard time catching up to Lincoln‘s Daniel Day-Lewis, and Anne Hathaway easily leaped to the top of the list for Supporting Actress for her tragic Fantine. Director Tom Hooper, whose The King’s Speech was an Oscar darling two years ago, seems poised to repeat that success.

Then the Osama bin Laden takedown thriller Zero Dark Thirty stepped on Les Mis‘ applause a little the next day, wowing audiences with its tense chronicle of the decade-long hunt for the terrorist mastermind. Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal, who produced the film together, are also coming off the Oscar success of their Iraq War drama The Hurt Locker, and could easily find themselves in the race again, both for Best Picture and individually for director and original screenplay. Jessica Chastain, as the CIA targeting analyst whose all-consuming drive fuels the search, will likely follow her Supporting Actress nomination last year for The Help as this year’s frontrunner for Best Actress.

But the big question remains Best Picture, so let’s take a look at the state of that race on the next page…

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