As I write this, Roma (at least 10 seconds ago) was the favorite to win the next Best Picture Oscar.

I know this because Academy Award aficionados are already handicapping the next Oscar race.

Seems a bit premature to start ranking movies that almost no one has seen. But for a certain type of film devotee, prognosticating starts in earnest with the conclusion of the Toronto, Venice, and Telluride film festivals, at which Hollywood and leading independent producers display their most promising wares.

A few days ago, the favorite was BlacKkKlansman, at least as judged by the website Goldderby.com, which polls roughly a thousand Oscar watchers and keeps a constantly adjusted running score reflected in fluctuating odds.

Right now Roma – Alfonso Cuaron's film about a disintegrating middle-class family in Mexico – is a 6/1 favorite. Just ahead of First Man, Damien Chazelle's (La La Land) movie about astronaut Neil Armstrong and the moon landing. That is just ahead of A Star Is Born, Bradley Cooper's new version of the oft-filmed love story, featuring Cooper and Lady Gaga.

BlacKkKlansman has slipped to fifth, just ahead of If Beale Street Could Talk, the new film by Barry Jenkins, whose Moonlight won the Oscar two years ago.

This speculation will continue unabated for five months, which is typical. What's highly atypical is that the rules governing this year's race have only just been finalized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The group had proposed a series of changes to voting and to the Oscar telecast to address the fact that the TV show is losing viewers at a rapid rate.

The Academy, chastened by the abysmal ratings in their March broadcast (hey, at least they aren't the Emmys), announced reforms in August to make the show more watchable. It will limit the broadcast to three hours, handing out awards for unglamorous categories during the commercials. It will limit special tributes, and there will be no more time-wasting gags like Jimmy Kimmel bringing busloads of tourists in to the auditorium.

The original roster of reforms also included a special new category for Best Popular Film, an obvious bid to get billion-dollar superhero movies like Black Panther some audience-boosting camera time. Oscar ratings are down across the board, but compared with 2014 they're down 50 percent in the 18-to-34 Marvel demographic.

The Best Popular Film idea, however, went over like Sherlock Gnomes. Folks in the business called it a "ghetto," and the "everyone gets an Oscar" award. Rob Lowe tweeted the "film business passed away … with the announcement of the 'popular' film Oscar."

Of course, Lowe, who did not appear in Black Panther but did star in Super Troopers 2really has nothing to lose.

After the backlash the AMPAS said on Sept. 9 the decision to add the popular-film category had been "postponed." Sure, just as Super Troopers 3 and Sherlock Gnomes 2 have been postponed.

The Academy then announced it would be soliciting "additional input" regarding beneficial changes to the broadcast.

In the spirit of cooperation, I'd like to offer five sure-fire ways to improve the show.

  1. Clearly, using the orchestra to force long-winded winners off the stage has proved ineffective. I suggest using the creatures from A Quiet Place to attack and maul any noise emanating from the stage after the allotted time for an acceptance speech. Guaranteed to eliminate the problem, and probably raise ratings.
  2. Try to limit the number of Best Picture Oscars given to movies about women who have intercourse with a fish and then describe the encounter in graphic detail to Octavia Spencer.  The Shape of Water was a nice movie, but once was enough.
  3. Install a high-speed EZ pass lane for Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, and Denzel Washington.
  4. AMPAS has agreed to move the broadcast to an earlier date on the calendar — Feb. 9. I have a more radical idea. Contact Bill and Ted, and see if they can move the Oscars back to 1990, so we can revote on Goodfellas and Dances With Wolves.
  5. If it comes down to First Man and If Beale Street Could Talk, meaning another face-off between Damien Chazelle and Barry Jenkins, then for the love of God, don't let Warren Beatty open the envelope.