BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Crusaders for good, old-fashioned Western democracy look to be the key figures vying for this year's Academy Awards.
Best-picture favorites for Thursday morning's Oscar nominations include the history-based "Lincoln," ''Zero Dark Thirty," ''Les Miserables" and "Argo." Among other prospects are "Django Unchained" and "Life of Pi."
This year's nominations come earlier than usual in Hollywood's long awards season, leaving the awards picture a bit murkier. By the time Oscar nominations come out most years, the Golden Globes already have given their trophies, helping to sort out prospective front-runners for show business' biggest night.
The nominations this time precede the Golden Globes ceremony, which follows on Sunday.
Thursday's nominees will be announced at 8:40 a.m. EST by Emma Stone and Seth MacFarlane, the host of the Feb. 24 Oscar show.