Best PictureAs you may be aware, rule changes for this year's Oscars mean that the Best Picture category will include anywhere from 5–10 nominees. This makes predicting this category a tad more difficult than in years past, but we'll give it a shot anyway. Most of the pre-Oscar awards have gone to The Descendants and The Artist, while there has been quite a bit of awards buzz around The Help and Hugo, so those four are pretty much locked in. The additional slot or slots are up for grabs; it's likely that War Horse will earn the fifth spot with critical favorite Midnight in Paris also making the cut. I'm expecting there to be seven nominees with the last nod up for grabs between Moneyball; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2; and maybe even Bridesmaids. Given Brad Pitt's likely nomination, I'd give the edge to Moneyball.
Best DirectorSince 2009 the trouble in predicting this category has been deciding which Best Picture nominees to leave out. Only one film since 1932 has won Best Picture without its director earning a nod, so the strategy here is to take the films most likely to win Best Picture and guess their directors. This leaves us with Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist), Alexander Payne (The Descendants), and Martin Scorcese (Hugo) being shoo-ins. The fourth spot will most likely go to Steven Spielberg (War Horse) with the last spot going to Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris), Terrence Mallick (The Tree of Life), or—unlikely, but stranger things have happened—David Fincher (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).
Best ActorLocks: Bet on George Clooney (The Descendants), Jean Dujardin (The Artist), and Michael Fassbender (Shame).
Probables: Brad Pitt (Moneyball) and Leonardo DiCaprio (J. Edgar) are pretty safe guesses...
Dark Horses: ...but look for Ryan Gosling (Drive or Ides of March) or Gary Oldman (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy).
Best ActressLocks: Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady) and Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn) have won most of the early awards; Viola Davis (The Help) and Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs) have been getting all kinds of great buzz.
Maybes: The last nomination is up for grabs between Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin), and Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene).
Best Supporting ActorLocks: Christopher Plummer (Beginners) and Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn)
Probables: Albert Brooks (Drive), Armie Hammer (J. Edgar), and Jonah Hill (Moneyball)
Dark Horse: Max von Sydow (Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close)
Best Supporting ActressLocks: Octavia Spencer (The Help) and Bérénice Bejo (The Artist)
Probables: Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids) and Jessica Chastain (The Help)
Maybes: Carey Mulligan (Shame), Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs), and Shailene Woodley (The Descendants).