By Tom O'Neil,

Don't be surprised if some crazy award winners emerge from the voting powwow of the New York Film Critics Circle on Tuesday morning. According a poll of award experts conducted by Gold Derby, these will be the winners: 'The Descendants' (Best Picture), Jean Dujardin (Best Actor in 'The Artist') and Meryl Streep (Best Actress in 'The Iron Lady'), Albert Brooks (Best Supporting Actor in 'Drive') and Jessica Chastain (Best Supporting Actress in 'The Help,' 'Tree of Life' and 'Take Shelter').

However, the critics' circle is notorious for spawning voter clashes that result in wacky honorees. It all has to do with the archaic voting procedure. Each critic ranks favorites by assigning three (top choice), two and one point to each, and the winner must appear on a majority of ballots. As a result, voting in each category often spans many ballots, rival camps form and victory can only be claimed by a compromise candidate.

'Milk' won Best Picture of 2009, for example, only when warriors for 'Rachel Getting Married,' 'Happy-Go-Lucky' and 'Slumdog Millionaire' surrendered and accepted a compromise. No critics entering the 2002 voting conclave planned to pick the quirky 'Mulholland Drive,' but it emerged as the default choice when they couldn't decide among 'In the Bedroom,' 'Gosford Park' and 'Shrek' after many frustrating ballot clashes. In addition to 'The Descendants,' the other movies with strong NYFCC support this year are 'Tree of Life' and 'The Artist,' but don't be surprised if 'Moneyball' or 'Midnight in Paris' emerges as the fallback choice.

The ultimate winner matters a lot because the Gotham critics have had a strong influence on the Oscars through time. Over the past 76 years, they were the first to hail eventual Academy Award Best Pictures 28 times. It's clear that the New York Film Critics' Circle played a key role in the eventual Oscar victories of such films as 'The Lost Weekend' (1946), 'Marty' (1956), 'Tom Jones' (1964), 'In the Heat of the Night' (1968), 'The Deer Hunter' (1979), 'Ordinary People' (1981), 'Terms of Endearment' (1984) and 'The Silence of the Lambs' (1992). But the agreement rate hasn't been too impressive recently. Only five times in the past 20 years has the same film won Best Picture in New York and on Oscar night. Last year 'The Social Network' swept all of the key critics' awards, but Hollywood didn't seem to care. David Fincher's Facebook movie was usurped by 'The King's Speech' at the industry awards bestowed by the guilds and the motion picture academy.

Nonetheless, the circle has played a starring role in spotlighting many actors who went on to win Oscars. Actors like Forest Whitaker ('Last King of Scotland,' 2006), Geoffrey Rush ('Shine,' 1996) and Marcia Gay Harden ('Pollock,' 2000) probably owe their Academy Award victories in large part to early wins within the circle.

Check out the Gold Derby expert picks for the NYFCC winners by clicking here.

[Photo: Fox Searchlight]

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