Maggie Smith - "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel"
Anne Hathaway - "Les Miserables"
Sally Field - "Lincoln"
Amy Adams "The Master"
Helen Hunt - "The Sessions"
God, they're all tough this year. Anne Hathaway and Sally Field are the sure things here, Maggie Smith and Helen Hunt are close behind (but don't rule out an upset here, particularly in the latter case; "The Sessions" has been losing steam over time). As for the fifth, Amy Adams was long thought to be in, but her SAG miss (with Nicole Kidman stepping in instead) threw things for a loop. I think Adams is enough of a favorite that she beats Kidman, but they could flip. And Samantha Barks and Ann Dowd are feasible too.
Alan Arkin - "Argo"
Tommy Lee Jones - "Lincoln"
Philip Seymour Hoffman - "The Master"
Robert De Niro - "Silver Linings Playbook"
Javier Bardem - "Skyfall"
Ooh, boy. This is one of the most interesting categories we can remember; there's absolutely no indicator of who's going to win. Tommy Lee Jones is probably the front-runner, and will be joined by Robert De Niro and Alan Arkin (though we're not sure we'd deem either of those two genuinely deserving). Philip Seymour Hoffman is said to be front-runner for some, but will disdain for "The Master" see him slip (or has that disdain been overstated?) And with Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson all challenging in the category, has the "Django Unchained" vote been split enough that Leonardo DiCaprio misses out? Especially with Javier Bardem, Eddie Redmayne and Matthew McConaughey not far behind. I may come to regret it, but as colorful villains go, right now, I'm saying Bardem over DiCaprio, even though I'm less convinced that "Skyfall" will do elsewhere.
Quvenzhane Wallis - "Beasts Of The Southern Wild"
Naomi Watts - "The Impossible"
Marion Cotillard - "Rust & Bone"
Jennifer Lawrence - "Silver Linings PLaybook"
Jessica Chastain - "Zero Dark Thirty"
A slightly less tight race than Actor, but with just as little locked down. Chastain and Lawrence are safe, and will fight it out for the win (which will probably go to Chastain). Beyond that, Watts is making the cut for "The Impossible" -- she's worked hard for it, and has built up a lot of support as a result. I also think that Quvenzhane Wallis is getting in, though it's not the sure thing it looked a few months ago. What I also believe is that Cotillard is getting in over her countryman Emmanuelle Riva -- I'm just not sure that enough voters saw "Amour," and all the tributes to Cotillard over the months have made her linger on the mind. That said, we could still see Riva in there, or even SAG nominee Helen Mirren.
Denzel Washington - "Flight"
Hugh Jackman - "Les Miserables"
Daniel Day-Lewis - "Lincoln"
Bradley Cooper - "Silver Linings Playbook"
John Hawkes - "The Sessions"
To all intents and purposes, this is six people pushing for five slots (the likes of Anthony Hopkins, Jean Louis-Trintignant, Suraj Sharma, etc. are very long-shots). When "The Master" first screened, everyone assumed that Joaquin Phoenix was a dead-cert, but between his apathy for the awards season, and a lack of success in the precursors (most notably the SAG, he's deemed to have slipped. Now, it's possible that he's this year's Gary Oldman (who also missed out at the SAG for a tough, cerebral film), but Oldman had the never-been-nominated narrative on his side, and worked hard for it. If Phoenix does make the cut, it's probably Hawkes or Washington who takes the hit, but Jackman and Cooper aren't 100% rock solid either. But honestly, unless the Academy are much higher on "The Master" than most think, I think Phoenix misses out.
Ben Affleck - "Argo
Ang Lee - "Life Of Pi"
Steven Spielberg - "Lincoln"
David O. Russell - "Silver Linings Playbook"
Kathryn Bigelow - "Zero Dark Thirty"
As tough a category as exists this year, this has all the competitiveness of Best Picture, but with half the available slots. I'd say that Spielberg, Bigelow, Lee and Affleck are all near-certainties. Russell is dicier (comedy-dramas don't always mean the directors get the credit), but given the poor reviews for "Les Miserables," most of which blame the helming, Tom Hooper's very vulnerable, and we suspect he'll slip out. Tarantino's a possibility too, but I think he'll be on the outside here, while Benh Zeitlin is probably in the eighth position, but won't be nominated. All this said, the DGA will likely be a good indicator (I'm writing this before the guild's nominations are announced).
"Beasts Of The Southern Wild"
"Best Exotic Marigold Hotel"
"Life Of Pi"
"Silver Linings Playbook"
"Zero Dark Thirty"
So yeah, I'm going all in and saying that they'll be a full field of ten nominees; there's enough wealth of choice, and it's spread widely enough, that I can easily see ten getting the 5% of first choice votes needed. As for what those ten films will be, most agree that "Argo," "Les Miserables," "Life Of Pi," "Lincoln," "Silver Linings" and "Zero Dark Thirty" are all pretty safe. The huge box office and mostly positive reviews (and decent showing with the guilds) would seem to point to "Django" being in (though it's always possible it's this year's "Girl With The Dragon Tattoo"), and I have a good feeling about both "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and "Moonrise Kingdom," though one of the two may end up slipping out. And for the tenth slot, and you can call me crazy, but we think the SAG ensemble nomination points to "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" as making the cut. But "Skyfall," "The Impossible," "The Intouchables," "Amour" or "The Master" might all sneak in instead.
"The Education Of Mohhamad Hussein"
"The Perfect Fit"
AKA the one you always blow your Oscar pool on, there are eight nominees, and I haven't seen any of them. But I've gone with the ones above at semi-random; they deal with a Muslim community in the U.S, an undocumented 15-year-old immigrant, a retirement community, a group of Rwandan children, and a look at ballerinas and the men who make their shoes.
"Adam And Dog"
"The Eagleman Stag"
"The Fall Of The House of Usher"
"Head Over Heels"
A ten-strong longlist for the category so far, the biggest name of which is Disney's "Paperman" a sure-fire nominee. The only other famous entrant is a "Simpsons" short, which doesn't feel like it would be the right fit. So, flying mostly blind, I'm going to go with BAFTA winner "The Eagleman Stag," Annie winner "Adam and Dog," "The Fall of the House of Usher" and (picked at random), "Head Over Heels."
"Death Of A Shadow"
"when you find me"
Again a tricky one to predict, but I feel like the safe best here are the Ron Howard-produced, Bryce Dallas Howard-directed "when you find me" (celeb kudos always goes a certain way), and we've heard good things about "Asad" and "Buzkashi Boys." Beyond that, let's go with "Death Of A Shadow" and "Curfew."