Doesn't the legitimacy of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" as an automatic Oscar contender render the idea of a traditional Academy-pleaser irrelevant? I mean, I don't think typical Oscar voters really sees themselves in these characters — not in the literal sense, anyway. But you know, nearly nine years after "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" won best picture, there will be serious anticipation for this.
On a trivial note, I believe "The Hobbit" could become the first prequel to be nominated for best picture — depending what your view of "The Godfather Part II" is. (Yes, "The Hobbit" came before the others in book form, but for our purposes, it's a prequel.)