Best motion picture of the year
This race is between Guild winner The King's Speech and critics' group favorite The Social Network. Either could win. But I'm sticking with frontrunner The King's Speech.
Performance by an actor in a leading role
Frontrunner Colin Firth will win for stuttering Bertie in The King's Speech, because not only does he follow up last year's A Single Man with another fab performance, but he actually tops it. Nobody else comes close.
Performance by an actor in a supporting role
If anyone can overtake frontrunner Christian Bale's showpiece performance in The Fighter, it's Geoffrey Rush in The King's Speech, but don't count on it.
Performance by an actress in a supporting role
This category is wide open. BAFTA-nominee Amy Adams is competing with her The Fighter co-star and frontrunner Melissa Leo, who did turn off some voters by taking out her own glam Oscar ads. Charming Brit Helena Bonham Carter could ride The King's Speech's winning coattails, while newcomer Hailee Steinfeld could score off the popularity of the Coens' True Grit. The only one that should not go on your Oscar ballot is Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom. I'm sticking with Bonham Carter for the win. But I am in the minority.
Best animated feature film of the year
It's a safe bet that frontrunner Toy Story 3 will win.
Best Documentary Feature
Another tough three-way race: newcomer Banksy's Exit through the Gift Shop and another film about art, Lucky Walker's Waste Land, which could split the vote, leaving frontrunner Inside Job in the lead. But are documentary branch voters tired of the Wall Street story, and ready to move on to something fresh? Anything could happen. I'm going with Banksy for the win.
Best foreign language film of the year
Another three-way race, this one is lead by frontrunner Biutiful (Mexico), whose lead actor Javier Bardem has an acting nomination. But this isn't the whole Academy voting, so those who voted foreign could go for Susanne Bier's In a Better World (Denmark) or Denis Villeneuve's powerful Incendies (Canada). Controversy surrounds foreign committee chief Mark Johnson's labyrinthine committee voting, which brought sensational Greek entry, taboo-busting Dogtooth, into the race. Could the rules change yet again? For the win: In a Better World.
Achievement in directing
This race is between the directors of the top two picture contenders, The King's Speech's Tom Hooper and The Social Network's David Fincher, the perceived frontrunner. I'm betting that respected industry insider Fincher gets the win for degree of difficulty.
Achievement in Cinematography
Against a formidable field of competitors, frontrunner and long-overdue Roger Deakins (nine nominations) will win for the stunning western vistas of True Grit, which could wind up this film's only win.
This is a three-way race, among Tim Burton's fantastical Alice in Wonderland, Chris Nolan's complex and spectacular Inception and Tom Hooper's glossy period piece The King's Speech. For the win: frontrunner Inception.
No one steals this from frontrunner The Social Network's Aaron Sorkin, not even Michael Arndt's stunning Toy Story 3.
Frontrunner and BAFTA-winner David Seidler wins as much for the personal story behind The King's Speech as his screenplay (while Chris Nolan won the WGA award, Seidler wasn't eligible for that prize).
Achievement in costume design
Alice in Wonderland's win would be as much for Burton as for two-time Oscar-winner Colleen Atwood (nine nominations), who would beat off strong competition from best-picture nominee The King's Speech's period costumes from another nine-time Oscar nominee Jenny Beavan (who won once, for A Room with a View). Period usually beats fantasy in this category, but Alice in Wonderland's costumes are also period, after a fashion--and voters often go off-beaten-track in this category, with such films as Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
Best documentary short subject
This is between Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon's moving Strangers No More, about an Israeli school for refugees, and Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon's The Warriors of Qiugang, which should win because it is about a village's successful uprising against polluting chemical plants, a timely reminder of democracy in action. They won before, in 2006.
Achievement in film editing
This goes to the editors' guild winner and frontrunner The Social Network's Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter.
Achievement in makeup
This goes to frontrunner The Wolfman's Oscar-winning Rick Baker and Dave Elsey.
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
BAFTA-winner Alexandre Desplat is the frontrunner for The King's Speech, and should win after four nominations.
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
The frontunner is "We Belong Together" from Toy Story 3, music and lyrics by Hollywood's beloved Randy Newman, of the musical Newman family, who has been nominated 19 times and won once, for another Pixar song, "If I Didn't Have You" (Monsters Inc.).
Best animated short film
The contest is between frontrunner Pixar's Day & Night and my personal favorite, Australian The Lost Thing, which I am picking for the win because sometimes surprises do happen in this category.
Best live action short film
This is between frontrunner Wish 143, about a cancer teen who wants to get laid before he goes into that good night, and The Crush, about a kid who is so much in love with his teacher that he saves her from a very bad boyfriend. It's probably the manipulative tear-jerker, but I'm going for The Crush.
Achievement in sound editing
This goes to frontrunner Inception's Richard King for degree of difficulty.
Achievement in sound mixing
Again, frontrunner Inception's Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick take this one.
Achievement in visual effects
This is frontrunner Inception's sure-fire win, for Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb.