After months of rumor, speculation and second-guessing, Thursday morning will see Seth MacFarlane (who is, of course, hosting the ceremony itself) and Emma Stone unveil the nominees for the 85th Academy Awards, the biggest and most prestigious moment in the film awards season.
We've been building up to this point since at least September (and realistically, since about February 27th last year. And it's been, for those who follow such things, the most interesting season in memory; a veritable wealth of riches (last year, there was only one Best Picture nominee I liked, this year, I enjoyed almost all of them to one degree or another), and incredibly competitive races, with almost no category that's easily predictable.
But now, it's crunch time, and with a little under 48 hours to go, you can read my final predictions for this year's nominees. I certainly don't feel 100% rock solid about my picks, but it's time to get off the fence, so the below won't change between now and Thursday morning. Make your own picks, and argue with ours in the comments section, and check back here about 8AM EST/ 5AM PST to see how we did, and for plenty of extra analysis.
"A Royal Affair"
A strong selection this year on the nine-strong longlist, I don't feel like "Beyond The Hills" or "Sister" will appeal too much, which leaves "Kon-Tiki," "The Deep," "War Witch "and "No" to join the very-likely-to-be-nominated "The Intouchables," "Amour" and "A Royal Affair." It could go any way, but I feel like the Chilean and Canadian entries have the right stuff here.
"How To Survive A Plague"
"Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence In The House Of God"
"Searching For Sugar Man"
"This Is Not A Film"
Always a tough branch to predict, I feel like "How To Survive A Plague," and "Mea Maxima Culpa," from previous winner Alex Gibney, are fairly safe. Beyond that, the statement value of nominating Jafar Panahi's "This Is Not A Film" seems like a good reason to vote for something, and the popularity of "Searching For Sugar Man," an antidote to the higher-minded competition, will likely see it through. Beyond that, any of "The Gatekeepers," "The House I Live In," "The Invisible War," "The Imposter" or "Chasing Ice" could make the cut, but I'm putting my chips on the former.
"A Liar's Autobiography: The Untrue Story Of Monty Python's Graham Chapman"
In a Disney-heavy field, I'm expecting "Brave," "Frankenweenie," and "Wreck-It Ralph" to make it in. "Rise of the Guardians" seemed to make sense, but its box-office failure may taint it even in the eyes of the branch, so "ParaNorman" will likely benefit from that. For the fifth slot, many would point to one of the GKIDS options like 'The Rabbi's Cat" or "The Painting," but I'm still banking on "A Liar's Autobiography," which contains a diverse mix of styles, winning favor.
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"
"Life Of Pi"
"Snow White And The Huntsman"
Of the ten-strong bake-off long-list, "The Amazing Spider-Man" and "Skyfall" were always long-shots, while "The Dark Knight Rises" was probably too practical for a field dominated by CGI for the last 20 years ("Inception," which won two years back, had a much bigger computer graphics element to it). Word is that "Cloud Atlas" and "John Carter" didn't impress the branch at the bake-off screening, which I guess leaves "Snow White" to join "The Avengers," "The Hobbit," "LIfe Of Pi" and "Prometheus."
"Zero Dark Thirty"
Best Sound Mixing
"Zero Dark Thirty"
Always the most blockbuster-friendly category (outside of VFX), the two sound categories could see "Skyfall," "The Avengers" and "Prometheus" do well. "Django Unchained" and "Zero Dark Thirty" should fly the flag for the awards-worlds, while "Les Miserables" is going to get into Sound Mixing, thanks to the difficulty of its live-on-set singing.