Best PictureAs you probably recall from last year, the Best Picture category can include anywhere from 5–10 nominees. This makes predicting this category a tad more difficult than it used to be—or it adds an extra thing to guess: how many nominees will there be? Last year there were nine nominees, and this year I'm predicting there will be eight. The obvious nominees are Zero Dark Thirty and Lincoln, which have split many of the awards so far. Les Misérables, which got mostly positive reviews and is likely to garner a couple of acting nods, is also basically a shoo-in. Silver Linings Playbook is a prett safe bet as well. The second-tier is made up of likely, but by no means certain, nods for Argo, Life of Pi and Django Unchained. The "last" slot is a bit of a toss-up, but depending on the mood of the voters it could go to Beasts of the Southern Wild, Austria's Amour, or even Moonrise Kingdom. Obviously, if Academy voters are feeling generous, they could all nine of these films with nods, but if it's just seven, my money would be on Amour grabbing the last slot.
Best DirectorAs it has been since 2009, the key to this category is figuring out which directors of Best Picture nominees will get left out. I mentioned last year that only one film since 1932 that only one film had won Best Picture without its director getting a nod, and that still holds true. Using this formula, we have to assume that the eventual Best Picture winner will also have at least a nomination for its director, so the best bets in this category are the strongest of the Best Picture nominees. This leads me to choose former Best Director winners Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty), Stephen Spielberg (Lincoln), Ang Lee (Life of Pi), and Tom Hooper (Les Misérables) as sure bets. The last slot is a bit hard to predict; David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook has done well in some categories in the other awards, but he was snubbed by the Golden Globes and the Director's Guild Awards. Given the DGA's past success in predicting this category, I'm inclined to say Ben Affleck will earn his first directing nomination for Argo
Best ActorLocks: Bet on Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln), Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook), and Hugh Jackman (Les Misérables).
Probables: John Hawkes (The Sessions) and Denzel Washington (Flight) are pretty safe guesses...
Dark Horses: ...but look out for Joaquin Phoenix (The Master) or even Jean Louis Trintignant (Amour).
Best ActressLocks: Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) and Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) seem like sure bets.
Maybes: With a fairly strong field, the rest of the slots are somewhat up for grabs, with Naomi Watts (The Impossible) leading the pack but Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone), Emmanuelle Riva (Amour), and even Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) not too far behind.
Best Supporting ActorLocks: Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln) and Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook)
Probables: Alan Arkin (Argo), Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master), and Leonardo DiCaprio (Django Unchained)
Dark Horse: Javier Bardem (Skyfall), or maybe Eddie Redmayne (Les Misérables)
Best Supporting ActressLocks: Anne Hathaway is Les Misérables's only definite acting nominee, and Sally Field Lincoln picking up her third Oscar nom.
Probables: Amy Adams (The Master) and Maggie Smith (Best Exotic Marigold Hotel)
Maybes: Helen Hunt (The Sessions), Nicole Kidman (The Paperboy) Dark Horse: Samantha Barks (Les Misérables)