It's crunch time. The Globes are done, the guilds have wrapped up, the critics have all had their say, and the BAFTAs have picked their nominees. In four days, the nominations for this year's Academy Awards will be announced, and we can finally stop talking about who's going to be nominated, and start talking about who's going to win.
It's been a long road, with the bodies of various hopefuls littered along the way, but we're now at the point at which that road can start to narrow. And so it's finally time to show our cards, and make our final predictions. So below, you'll find this writer's picks for the nominations, with some reasoning (for all categories bar the short ones; without having seen the films, you might as well pick at random). Feel free to leave your own guesses in the comments section, and check back bright-and-early Tuesday morning to find out how close I came.
A little easier to guess, thanks to a shortlist of ten, this is only the second year in which five films get nominated. Historically, it's tended to be projects in which the effects are 1) prolific and 2) obvious. As such, one can probably rule out "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol" and "Captain America: The First Avenger." "X-Men" had pretty rushed work, which never helps, while "Real Steel" has a vague chance, or would, had it been a bigger hit. "ROTPOTA" and "Harry Potter" are locked in here, "Hugo" will ride its general technical sweep in here, and "The Tree of Life" should get a nomination here, especially as Douglas Trumbull got an honorary Oscar this year. The final slot should be between "Transformers" and "Pirates 4," and, while the first three 'Pirates' all picked up noms (and one win), "On Stranger Tides" was less VFX heavy without Davy Jones and skeleton pirates, so I'm going to give the edge to Michael Bay & co.
"Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Pt. 2"
"Rise of the Planet of the Apes"
"Transformers: The Dark of the Moon"
"The Tree of Life"
Almost always favoring action blockbusters (although more prestigious fare often sneaks in to Sound Editing), this feels like it's Spielberg's category this year -- I'm expecting nods in both for "Super 8," "War Horse" and the Spielberg-produced "Transformers," while I reckon "The Adventures of Tintin" could get in for mixing (though possibly not editing). Conversely, "Hugo" should make it in for editing, but not mixing, while the excellent work in "Mission Impossible" should have a good chance (see "Salt" and "The Bourne Ultimatum" in recent years).
My Picks: Best Sound Editing
"Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol"
"Transformers: The Dark Of The Moon"
My Picks: Best Sound Mixing
"The Adventures of Tintin"
"Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol"
"Transformers: The Dark of The Moon"
The single most ridiculous category, this has been lifted this year by "The Muppets," who should figure in more than once, despite being ignored by the Golden Globes. Their biggest threat comes from Mary J. Blige and "The Help," while Glenn Close writing Sinead O'Connor's song from "Albert Nobbs" will help that get in. The fifth slot is more open: "Captain America" is possible, but feels like it's dropped off radars, while tracks from "Machine Gun Preacher," "Footloose" and "We Bought A Zoo" are feasible too.
"Lay Your Head Down" - "Albert Nobbs"
"The Living Proof" - "The Help"
"Hello Hello" - "Gnomeo & Juliet"
"Life's A Happy Song" - "The Muppets"
"Pictures In My Head" - "The Muppets"
The song category's more respectable older brother, this is one below-the-line category where some of the big awards favorites should perform strongly: "The Artist" and "Hugo" are locked in, and John Williams is bound to get at least one nomination, probably for "War Horse." Otherwise, things are trickier. Thomas Newman's work on "The Help" is possible, as are scores from Alexandre Desplat and Alberto Iglesias, but I suspect that defending champions Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross will be returning with their "Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" score, even if it's less accessible than "The Social Network"'s music. And for the fifth slot? "Jane Eyre," which should get quite a few below-the-line nods, has a lush, pretty composition from previous winner Dario Marianelli, and should make it in here.
Ludovic Bource - "The Artist"
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo"
Howard Shore - "Hugo"
Dario Marianelli - "Jane Eyre"
John Williams - "War Horse"
Two things that the Academy just love in this category: heavy prosthetics, and old-age make up. There's not a lot of the former involved in the bake-off shortlist of seven, bar "Harry Potter," and while that franchise is yet to be honored, it might be too late at this point. As for the latter, "The Iron Lady" is the best example, and has a strong chance. "Hugo" and "Anonymous" don't really seem showy enough, and, while "The Artist" doesn't either, its retro stylings and general adoration should carry it through. For the final slot, it's probably between "Albert Nobbs" and the relatively little-seen "Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life," and I'm leaning toward the latter.
"Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life"
"The Iron Lady"
The joke tends to be that the prize here is always for 'most costume design' rather than 'best,' and as such, period pieces tend to dominate the field, bar a showy fantasy movie like last year's winner "Alice in Wonderland" (indeed, no non-fantasy/period movie has won since "The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert" in 1994, and only "I Am Love" and "The Devil Wears Prada" nominated in that time. As such, I'm expecting an all-period shortlist this time around, with 2009 winner Sandy Powell a sure thing for "Hugo" along with "Jane Eyre" and, of course, "The Artist." I'm not 100% sure about "The Help," but the enthusiasm for the film will likely carry it through. As for the last slot, I'm going to go with "W.E," something closer to a Vogue spread than an actual movie, over "Anonymous" and "Immortals," both realistic contenders snubbed by the Costume Designer's Guild this week (as was "War Horse").
Mark Bridges - "The Artist"
Sharen Davis - "The Help"
Sandy Powell - "Hugo"
Michael O'Connor - "Jane Eyre"
Arianne Philips - "W.E."
Similarly, fantasy and period, or ideally both, generally win out here -- "The Birdcage" in 1996 was the last film without either element to get a nomination. The giant train station set of "Hugo" is an obvious front-runner, while "The Artist"'s retro chic and "Harry Potter"'s crumbling Hogwarts should seal nominations for those. While the film's not been an awards favorite elsewhere, "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" has its best chance of nomination in this category. As for the last, I was thinking about "War Horse," but with that film missing out with the guild, I'm putting my money on the undoubtedly impressive work in "Anonymous." Don't rule out "Jane Eyre" here either, though.
Sebastian T. Krawinkel, Simon-Julien Coucherie - "Anonymous"
Laurence Bennett - "The Artist"
Stuart Craig, Stephenie McMillan - "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2"
Dante Ferretti, Dorothee Baussan, Francesca Lo Schiavo - "Hugo"
Maria Djurkovic - "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"
Once again, "The Artist" and "Hugo" are likely to lead the way here, while frequent nominee Michael Kahn should be one of the few "War Horse" nods, particularly after he made the cut at the A.C.E. Awards. Beyond that, I would have said "Contagion" or "The Tree of Life" were deserving candidates, but neither fared well with the Eddie nominations. "The Descendants" could pick up a below-the-line nod here, but I feel it's more likely that the showier "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo," from last year's winners Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall, and "Moneyball" will make the cut.
Anne-Sophie Bion - "The Artist"
Kirk Baxter & Angus Wall - "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo"
Thelma Schoonmaker - "Hugo"
Christopher Tellefsen - "Moneyball"
Michael Kahn - "War Horse"
In some categories, the guilds aren't necessarily gospel, but I'm going to say that the Academy will end up mirroring the A.S.C nominations closely. There are other deserving candidates, including "Midnight in Paris," "Drive" and "Moneyball", plus, most notably, "War Horse," but Kaminski doesn't always fare well with the Academy for his Spielberg work (three nominations for eleven films), and his "War Horse" work was criticized by some. Having said that, I wouldn't be totally surprised to see it take Hoyte Van Hoytema's slot -- he's still a new face, and missed out for "The Fighter" last year.
Guillaume Shiffman - "The Artist"
Jeff Cronenweth - "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo"
Robert Richardson - "Hugo"
Hoyte Van Hoytema - "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"
Emmanuel Lubezki - "The Tree of Life"
Always a controversial one -- see the lack of "Senna" and "The Interrupters," among others, on the shortlist -- but there's a few films that seem pretty likely, most notably Wim Wenders' 3D flick "Pina," and previous winner James Marsh's "Project Nim." Making headlines recently undoubtedly helped "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory" (although it's worth noting that neither of the previous two were nominated). Other than that, it's anyone's game, but there's almost always something war-themed, and "Hell and Back Again" seems like a good bet, while "Bill Cunningham New York" ticks a few of the right boxes, most notably a DGA nod. But having said all that, this is one of the categories that's the hardest to predict.
"Bill Cunningham New York"
"Hell And Back Again"
"Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory"
The key question here is whether the animation branch see fit to nominate the performance capture-heavy "The Adventures of Tintin." Many are skeptical, but I think it'll make the cut, and if it does, "Rango" could have competition for the big prize. Otherwise, I wasn't sure that "Cars 2" would get in, but it's done well with precursors, so Pixar's annual slot should be assured. "Arthur Christmas" isn't totally safe either, but I still favor its chances above "Rio" or "Kung Fu Panda 2."
"The Adventures of Tintin"
"Puss In Boots"
The most idiosyncratic, infuriating of all the branches, the foreign language shortlist already raised eyebrows by leaving out what were seen to be serious contenders. Among the nine-strong shortlist, almost nothing is guaranteed, but "A Separation" and "In Darkness" should be fine. Israel often do well, so we'll back "Footnote" too, and "Monsieur Lazhar" has good buzz behind it. "Pina" could make history as the first 3D film and first documentary in the category. But again, this one's totally up for grabs.
One of the most open categories, Woody and "The Artist" are the only real certainties here. Beyond that, "50/50" and "Bridesmaids" have both done well at precursors, including guild nominations in the category, and I think they'll get through. The fifth slot is wide open -- "Young Adult" and "Win Win" both got WGA noms, but bear in mind that "The Artist," "Rango" and "Beginners," among others, were ineligible.
Will Reiser - "50/50"
Michel Hazanavicius - "The Artist"
Mike Mills - "Beginners"
Kristin Wiig & Annie Mumulo - "Bridesmaids"
Woody Allen - "Midnight in Paris"
A little more concrete, thanks to the lack of eligibility problem, look for Steve Zaillian to do the double and Aaron Sorkin to follow up his win last year with a nod for "Moneyball," while "The Descendants" is a lock. Despite the script being the film's biggest problem, "Hugo" will likely get in, but I'm going to back George Clooney's "The Ides of March" over the WGA-nominated "The Help." Don't rule out "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," "Jane Eyre" or even "Drive" here.
Jim Rash, Nat Faxon, Alexander Payne - "The Descendants"
Steve Zaillian - "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo"
John Logan - "Hugo"
George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon - "The Ides Of March"
Steve Zaillian & Aaron Sorkin - "Moneyball"
Christopher Plummer has essentially won this, so a nomination for anyone else is a victory. This is a category where no one else is 100% certain, although Jonah Hill and Kenneth Branagh are essentially there. Albert Brooks' snub by the SAG threw his nod into doubt, but I'm confident enough that he'll be fine, and Nick Nolte will get a consolation nomination for "Warrior." If the other two do miss out, look for Armie Hammer in "J. Edgar," Patton Oswalt in "Young Adult" or even Ben Kingsley or Max Von Sydow to step in, while Brad Pitt's performance in "The Tree of Life" is feasible as well.
Christopher Plummer - "Beginners"
Albert Brooks - "Drive"
Kenneth Branagh - "My Week With Marilyn"
Jonah Hill - "Moneyball"
Nick Nolte - "Warrior"
In a very sparse field, this is only really between seven actresses, and despite an SAG nomination, I think Melissa McCarthy won't make the cut, with "The Descendants"' Shailene Woodley stepping in instead. Vanessa Redgrave could yet be a surprise, but her early momentum dropped away. Janet McTeer could feasibly miss out as well, but I think she'll be fine.
Janet McTeer - "Albert Nobbs"
Berenice Bejo - "The Artist"
Shailene Woodley - "The Descendants"
Jessica Chastain - "The Help"
Octavia Spencer - "The Help"
And so I come to the biggest gamble of my predictions: I still think Gary Oldman's going to get nominated. The film's picked up steam in recent weeks, while despite SAG nominations, little buzz has revolved around Leonardo DiCaprio and Demian Bichir (Michael Shannon's also feasible, but I don't see it happening). It's not a showy part, but it's a chameleonic one, and the British contingent could well step in. Meanwhile, Michael Fassbender also missed out with the SAG, but I'm 99% sure he'll make the cut -- indeed, more so than I am with Oldman. All that being said, I won't be shocked if DiCaprio steps in for one or the other.
Jean Dujardin - "The Artist"
George Clooney - "The Descendants"
Brad Pitt - "Moneyball"
Michael Fassbender - "Shame"
Gary Oldman - "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"
Even tighter than the supporting actress race, three slots are firmly locked in, with only three realistic possibilities competing for the other two. In this case, I think SAG will go 5 for 5, with Rooney Mara left in the cold, but a swap between her and Glenn Close isn't impossible. Charlize Theron's faintly feasible, but it would be a bit of a stunner at this point.
Glenn Close - "Albert Nobbs"
Viola Davis - "The Help"
Meryl Streep - "The Iron Lady"
Michelle Williams - "My Week With Marilyn"
Tilda Swinton - "We Need To Talk About Kevin"
One of the trickiest to predict, this is one of those years when the director of the best picture winner won't necessarily win his own category, and even awards frontrunners won't necessarily get nominated -- for instance, Bennett Miller's invisible brilliance on "Moneyball" won't figure in. Here, I'm inclined to lean towards the DGA's picks again: Tate Taylor missing out with the guild shows he's not really taking credit for the film, while Terrence Malick's absence suggests "The Tree of Life" never got enough support from the branch. Having said that, either could step in for David Fincher, or even Woody Allen.
Michel Hazanavicius - "The Artist"
Alexander Payne - "The Descendants"
David Fincher - "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo"
Martin Scorsese - "Hugo"
Woody Allen - "Midnight In Paris"
So, here I come to the big one. And it's harder to predict this year than it's been in recent years, thanks to the new rules, which sees anything from five to ten nominees honored, so long as they're able to pick up more than 5% of first choice votes. If a first choice film gets less than 1%, second or even third choice votes then count. Locked in, I'm certain, are "The Artist," "The Descendants," "The Help" and "Hugo." I remain a little skeptical of "Midnight in Paris," probably due to being cool on the film, but the precursors suggest it's getting in. So that's your bare minimum five -- and it's not impossible to see a world where these films split the vote between them so much that that's all we get. "Moneyball" isn't 100% set, but should be number six, while a DGA nod for "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo," among others, suggest that that film is on its way to a Best Picture nod, David Fincher's third in four years. And, while I resisted it for some time, the momentum is firmly behind "Bridesmaids," which could get an eighth slot. I think that's likely the maximum, but if it goes to more, or if "Bridesmaids" or 'Dragon Tattoo" fall off, there's a number of potential surprises. "War Horse" could pull a "Munich" -- ignored by the precursors, but getting in because it's Spielberg. "The Tree of Life" has plenty of passionate supporters -- but enough for that key 5%? perhaps. Conversely, "The Ides of March" is a film that could benefit from displaced second and third place votes, and has consistently bounced back whenever it appears dead in the race. And, while they're long shots, don't discount the possibility of "Drive" and "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" surprising on the periphery -- they could rustle up enough votes from more discerning voters, particularly with the British contingent provably behind the latter, as shown by BAFTA nominations this week.
"The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo"
"Midnight In Paris"
We'll find out how well I did on Tuesday morning. See you then for full results and analysis.