For the last decade or so, I've spent every Oscar season trying to affect a dismissive distance. "Irrelevant!" I would say. "A dog and pony show!" I cried. My argument was that the films receiving Oscar glory rarely reflected the best movies in any given year - it was all about brand positioning and politics.
There were usually one or two films nominated that I could get behind, but on the whole I've felt the Oscars are a shockingly out-of-touch indicator of cinematic quality. Not exactly an original complaint, but one I've felt strongly for a long time.
Growing up, there seemed to be a base level of quality for Oscar-recognised films. I would dread seeing worthy-looking films like Chariots of Fire; The Last Emperor or Rain Man, but when I did see them, they were always amazing. Could the same be said about the likes of Gladiator; A Beautiful Mind or Gangs of New York?
In the last decade, the majority of films featured in the Oscars have been less than stellar, and the best films of any year have often gone unrecognised.
But when this year's Oscar hopefuls began drip feeding out at the end of 2012, I realised I may have to amend this perception somewhat.
The Oscars (as they are now officially called, as opposed to the 85th Academy Awards) will no doubt once again be overstuffed with self-congratulatory pomp, and some of the films nominated are clearly there for reasons separate to their inherent quality. But for the first time in ages, I'm a dedicated fan of the majority of films in the running, and in my eyes they do a pretty good job of reflecting the best films of the last year.
Instead of the usual one or two Best Picture nominees that tickle my fancy, almost all of the films nominated for the top award are genuine classics in my eyes.
The surfeit of great films nominated this year has resulted in one of the tightest Oscar races in recent history. With most of the winners usually plainly obvious leading into any given year's ceremony, this can only be a good thing.
There are nine Best Picture nominees this year, and the only two I'm not a big fan of are Les Miserables and Lincoln.
Both films have experienced surges in popularity that pointed to Oscar glory, as has Life of Pi; Zero Dark Thirty and Silver Linings Playbook. This broad playing field filled with competing favourites has allowed Argo's minor momentum to gather steam, and it now sits as the Best Picture favourite.
I'd be happy with an Argo win for Best Picture, but equally happy if Pi; Zero; Silver or Django Unchained won. It really is crazy that Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master didn't receive a nomination in this category though.
The Master confounded expectations and was a more difficult film than audiences seemed to be expecting - this only elevates the film in my eyes. The Master's omission in the Picture; Writing and Director categories counts as my biggest grievance with this year's Oscars. It did receive three well-warranted acting nominations though.
Argo's Best Picture front-runner status is unique because the film's director, Ben Affleck, isn't even nominated for Best Director. It has thrown that field wide open, and if it were up to me, Ang Lee should get the gong for making the herculean task of bringing "unfilmable" novel Life of Pi to the screen look so effortless. A win for David O. Russell would be fine too.
But with the Academy always endlessly refining the voting process, a Best Picture win for a film that doesn't even get a Best Director nomination is sure to cause further self-examination, leading to further rejiggery.
The minor anarchy of this situation reassuringly suggests however that the view of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as a conservative body with a predominantly aged membership is ready to be challenged. Is the old guard finally dying off? Could the Oscars finally achieve some critical cultural relevance separate to its more gaudy aspects? Let's hope so.
I'm looking forward to seeing what Family Guy creator Seth McFarlane does as host - he's the most exciting choice in years. While I'm not a particularly big fan of his often mean-spirited TV shows, I do hope his trademark venom is present at the ceremony, which only benefits from any decent snark.
Here are the rest of my predictions for the major awards, and who I would choose to win if I was in charge. And I really should be.
Should win: Argo or Life or Pi or Silver Linings Playbook or Zero Dark Thirty. (So many great films!)
Will win: Argo.
Should win: Ang Lee. (Life of Pi is an amazing achievement whichever way you look at it.)
Will win: Ang Lee. (Fingers crossed!)
Should win: Daniel Day Lewis. (I hated the movie, but his performance is undeniably amazing. Joaquin Phoenix deserves it too.)
Will win: Daniel Day Lewis.
Should win: Jessica Chastain. (Lawrence was great, but Chastain carried her film.)
Will win: Jennifer Lawrence. (She deserves it too.)
Best Supporting Actress
Should win: Amy Adams. (Every scene with her and Phillip Seymour Hoffman was electric.)
Will win: Anne Hathaway. (Denying her at this point would be like strangling a kitten.)
Best Supporting Actor
Should win: Phillip Seymour Hoffman. (See above)
Will win: Robert De Niro. (I loved him in Silver, so I'd be okay with this too.)
Best Original Screenplay
Should win: Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained. (Is Tarantino a better writer than a director? Discuss.)
Will win: Mark Boal for Zero Dark Thirty. (This is a classic consolation prize for favourites that don't win Best Picture.)
Best Adapted Screenplay
Should win: David Magee for Life of Pi. (Totally deserves it plus I'm biased 'cause I interviewed him and he was nice.)
Will win: David O. Russell (Another "consolation" prediction, I would be happy with this outcome.)
Do you consider the Oscars relevant? Do they reflect your favourite movies of the year? Comment below!