The nominations will be announced at 8:30 a.m. ET/5:30 a.m. PT.

‘The Artist’ a front-runner as Oscar nominations are set to be announced

For the first time in nearly eight decades, a black-and-white silent film is the favorite to take home the best picture Oscar.

The French film “The Artist,” a love letter to Hollywood’s Golden Age featuring no actors recognizable to North American audiences and almost no spoken dialogue, has emerged as the front-runner heading into the nominations for the 84th Academy Awards, which are set to be announced Tuesday morning in Beverly Hills.

The brainchild of writer-director Michel Hazanavicius, the movie, which charts the intersecting fortunes of a silent film star and a plucky song and dance gal, has been collecting awards and acclaim since making its debut at the Cannes Film Festival last year. “The Artist” picked up more awards season steam Saturday night, winning top honors at the Producers Guild of America’s annual ceremony. It already had collected the Golden Globe for best motion picture, comedy or musical.

The PGA and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have agreed on the best picture winners the last four years.

In order to win the Academy Award, though, the film will have to defeat a number of other likely contenders including director Alexander Payne’s family drama “The Descendants,” which stars George Clooney as a man struggling to reconnect with his wayward daughters in the aftermath of an accident that leaves his wife in a coma.

Martin Scorsese’s lavish 3-D family film “Hugo,” Woody Allen’s romantic comedy “Midnight in Paris” and the baseball drama “Moneyball” are considered likely best picture nominees, and there’s been talk that last summer’s R-rated breakout hit “Bridesmaids” is in the running, despite the fact that the Academy’s voters are traditionally thought to prize dark, challenging drama over comedy.

Hazanavicius, Payne and Scorsese are heavily favored to be nominated for best director.

In terms of the acting categories, Clooney is widely held to be a shoo-in for a nomination for his “Descendants” performance. He could find himself competing against his friend Brad Pitt for his turn as former Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane in “Moneyball” and Jean Dujardin, the star of “The Artist.”

Lead actress favorites include Meryl Streep for her turn as British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady,” Michelle Williams for her portrayal of Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe in the film “My Week With Marilyn” and Viola Davis for her work in the civil rights-era drama “The Help.”

That film, directed by Tate Taylor and adapted from the bestselling novel by Kathryn Stockett, could show up in the best picture race as well. It’s expected to deliver at least two nominees in the supporting actress category — Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer.

On the supporting actor side, Christopher Plummer is expected to earn a nomination for his role in “Beginners,” in which he plays a widower who decides to reveal his homosexuality to his adult son. Albert Brooks is also tipped to be nominated for his turn as a small-time mobster in the neo-noir film “Drive.”

The Oscars will be handed out Feb. 26 at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. ABC will broadcast the ceremony, which will be hosted by Billy Crystal.