This has been a wide open category for most of the Oscar season, with films as diverse as Lincoln, Les Misérables and Silver Linings Playbook leading the field at different points in the race. Due to the many precursor prizes it has won, however, the CIA thriller Argo is expected to bring home the gold, becoming the first film since Driving Miss Daisy in 1989 to win Best Picture without a Best Director nomination.
Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
When Ben Affleck was not nominated for Argo, the Best Director race got more interesting, as the Academy could go in any direction if they did not have to worry about a frontrunner. While Ang Lee(Life of Pi) or David O. Russell(Silver Linings Playbook) has an outside shot of winning, the prize will likely go to Spielberg for bringing the story of America’s sixteenth president to the screen in brilliant fashion.
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
If the five movies in this category came out in five different years, each man would be the frontrunner in his respective year. This year, however, the four men who did not play historical figures will have to clap from their seats as Day-Lewis accepts his record third Best Actor Oscar. While an upset is remotely possible, most likely from Hugh Jackman, this looks to be one of the biggest locks of the night.
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
This has been one of the tougher categories to call all season. Emmanuelle Riva’s status as a member of old Hollywood made it look like she might take it for Amour, and Jennifer Lawrence seemed to be a lock for Silver Linings Playbook until her embarrassing stints on the Golden Globes and Saturday Night Live. Jessica Chastain should take it, though, as she gives a brilliant performance in a film relevant to the ages.
Best Supporting Actor
Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
This is the most wide-open category of the night, as Christoph Waltz won the Golden Globe and BAFTA for Django Unchained and Tommy Lee Jones got the SAG for Lincoln. The goodwill for both of these films is shaky, however, leaving room for Robert De Niro to ascend the stage to claim his first Oscar in 32 years for a film that marks a return to form for him after a decade of Meet the Parents movies.
Best Supporting Actress
Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables
The other four women in this category should just be happy to be there. While Sally Field has a lot of goodwill in the industry for her work in Lincoln, this year nobody is stopping Anne Hathaway, who has been the clear frontrunner since the video of her emotionally singing “I Dreamed A Dream” hit the Internet last year.
Best Original Screenplay
Mark Boal, Zero Dark Thirty
Quentin Tarantino told a good story in Django Unchained, but the controversial language used in it hurts Tarantino in this category most of all. This leaves the door open for Boal, who expertly dramatized the hunt for Osama bin Laden and has expertly defended its controversial themes.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Tony Kushner, Lincoln
Argo has surged after its Writers’ Guild Award win, and its taut screenplay is very good. However, Tony Kushner translated Abraham Lincoln’s oratory (and Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book Team of Rivals) to the screen brilliantly, and so is likely to go home with a trophy in recognition of his achievement.
Best Animated Feature
Disney’s tribute to video games will edge out the more tepidly reviewed Brave.
Best Foreign Language Film
With nominations in four other categories where it has stiff competition, this is the only sure win for Michael Haneke’s story of a couple dealing with old age.
Best Documentary Feature
Searching for Sugar Man
This feel-good story of the resurgence of folk singer Rodriguez will edge out the other four, more serious entries.
Best Production Design
Les Misérables will triumph for its expert rendering of 18th- century France.
Roger Deakins’ work on Skyfall will bring him his first win in 10 nominations.
Best Costume Design
Jacqueline Durran’s sumptuous period costumes for Anna Karenina will bring home the gold.
William Goldenberg’s crisp work on Argo will complement its Best Picture win.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
The Les Misérables team will win trophies for making their cast into dirt-covered French people.
John Williams, the elder statesman of Lincoln, will win a sixth trophy here; though he has faced a serious challenge from Mychael Danna and Life of Pi of late, good will should propel him to the win.
Best Original Song
Adele is a lock to win for “Skyfall,” and she will be helped by the James Bond tribute on the telecast.
Best Sound Editing
The Zero Dark Thirty team will win, for making the raid on bin Laden’s compound loud but not overbearing.
Best Sound Mixing
Another Les Misérables win, this time for expertly adding live singing into this movie musical’s mix
Best Visual Effects
The people who made a tiger out of pixels for Life of Pi will win the big prize for their achievement.
Best Animated Short
“Paperman,” the love story that played before Wreck-It Ralph in theaters, will triumph.
Best Documentary Short “Curfew”
Best Live Action Short “Inocente”