November 16, 2012 at 09:55 PM EST

It’s going to be a brutal battle to the finish this Oscar season.

Right now, at least four films have an even chance of claiming the Academy Award for best picture — Ben Affleck’s Argo, Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln and David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook  — with a handful of challengers such as Les Miserables, Zero Dark Thirty, and Django Unchained coming soon.

Today we’re launching’s Prize Fighter, a new fixture that aims to be the movie-lover’s front-row ticket to the showdown.  Since this is the inaugural post, let’s do a little introduction and then dive into the state-of-the Best Picture race so far.

Prize Fighter’s mission statement is simple:  We’re still going to track who’s up and who’s down in the Oscar race, but the goal is to use Hollywood’s award season as a way to explore why these films are the best of  2012, and tell the stories of their storytellers.

To me, the question “What’s going to win Best Picture?” is more interesting than the eventual answer. Truth be told, I’ve never cared very much about who goes home with a trophy, but I love the Oscars and award season because it’s a fiesty winter-long conversation about the films that get under our skin, into our heads, and make our hearts pump a little faster.

A lot of writers at EW will be contributing to Prize Fighter (and we’re also going to highlight some of the best award-season reporting done by outsiders), but as the chief Oscar correspondent you’ll be hearing from me the most. That’s me, smile-squinting at you from the banner above. (Hi, Grandma!)

After the impeccable Dave Karger departed EW for Fandango, I’ve taken over the Oscar beat. Dave leaves big shoes to fill, and all I can do is try not to scuff them up. I’ve been covering movies for 12 years, and my tastes are as broad as they come: Sundance is my favorite movie marathon of the year, and my personal Top 10 is more likely to follow the Independent Spirit Awards than the Oscars, since I’ve got a thing for underdogs. But I’ve also got a serious cinematic sweet-tooth for big, crazy blockbusters. I can’t resist Marvel superheroes, Star Wars, James Bond movies, and anything with giant, killer robots or aliens. I don’t know if Transformers of the Southern Wild would be a good film, but I would pay money to find out.

My goal with EW’s Prize Fighter is not just to predict winners, though I am out there talking to voters at every opportunity, trying to get an accurate read on where the race stands. I’m eager to expand the awards season conversation at this point to include smaller movies that you should put on your must-see list before making your best-of list.

I also intend to look beyond just the celebrity categories to highlight the work of brilliant “below-the-line” artists – the costume designers, cinematographers, editors, and visual effects and sound supervisors who bring these stories to life. We’ll also be taking you behind the scenes of the Feb. 24 Academy Awards telecast, with Ted and Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane hosting for the first time.

If all that interests you, please bookmark and check back with us for all our Oscar coverage.

Right now, here’s some intel on where the Best Picture race stands right now.

In past years, it seems like one movie has run away with the prize early. But this time, it’s shaping up to be a knock-down, drag-out.


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