Best Supporting Actress
Who should win: With one of the biggest years of anyone in Hollywood, the nominees are lucky that Jessica Chastain is only nominated once. While I was still hoping for yet another Best Supporting Actress nomination to go to The Help for Sissy Spacek, I have to think Chastain is the most deserving this time around.
Dark Horse: Oscar has never had much of a sense of humor, but Bridesmaids‘ Melissa McCarthy is showing signs of promise in this years race anyway.
Who will win: Octavia Spencer, likely by quite a margin. Her fun, relatable performance in The Help gained her critical acclaim early on, and the box office success of the film can’t hurt.
Best Supporting Actor
Who should win: 82-year-old Christopher Plummer has never won an Oscar. It’s a complete sham, especially with The Sound of Music and a killer performance as Tolstoy in The Last Station. In Beginners, Plummer plays a man who finally decides to come out of the closet and unveil his true sexual identity, only to soon after discover he has terminal cancer. And he’s brilliant.
Dark Horse: His fellow 82-year-old nominee, von Sydow. His silent performance in Extremely Loud has gotten a lot of talk lately, and with less impressive contenders like Hill and Nolte, his chances aren’t awful.
Who will win: He’s been wrapping up this category so far this awards season, so it must be Plummer, for this performance and a career of snubbed others.
Who should win: Scorsese, for turning a career of Goodfellas and The Departed into the best family movie of the year.
Dark Horse: Woody Allen, whose beautiful Midnight in Paris is fantastic, and no one could have pulled it off as well as him.
Who will win: This is looking to be a three-way tie between Hazanavicius, Payne, and Scorsese. Unfortunately, it seems as though Hazanavicius might capture the win.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Nominees: Hugo, The Descendents, The Ides of March, Moneyball, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Who should win: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash for The Descendents, with a thoughtful, emotional script and wonderful narration.
Dark Horse: Hugo and screenwriter John Logan, for taking an amazing book and making an even better film.
Who will win: Probably The Descendents, which has become a favorite this awards season. But in this category, I won’t argue.
Best Original Screenplay
Who should win: Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris, for arguably the greatest script of the past few years at least. A deep, poetic, lovely script that you’d believe had to written by a Pulitzer Prize-winning author.
Dark Horse: J.C. Chandor and his debut screenplay in Margin Call, a perfectly humanized, dumbed-down-but-still-complex story of a financial firm’s economic collapse.
Who will win: In this category, I can safely say that I’m about 98% sure of the winner. It would be the biggest upset of the night if he doesn’t win. Luckily, it has to be Woody Allen.
Who should win: Meryl Streep, for the little things she did to make this role entirely hers.
Dark Horse: Halle Berry was the first and last African-American to win the Academy Award for Best Actress. Viola Davis is looking to join her, and she just might.
Who will win: Streep, because an incredible performance playing a real person often beats out an incredible performance playing a fictional character. And Michelle Williams just chose a terrible year to play Marilyn Monroe.
Nominees: Demian Bichir for A Better Life, George Clooney for The Descendents, Gary Oldman for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Brad Pitt for Moneyball, Jean Dujardin for The Artist
Who should win: For an emotionally believable, complex, but also light-hearted performance as a grieving widower and father of two, George Clooney.
Dark Horse: Jean Dujardin, though he remains mostly mute, impressed audiences with his emotional depth through physical movement. It’s an off-beat performance, and Oscar loves that. Also, Brad Pitt. Because he’s Brad Pitt, which is the worst of reasons.
Who will win: Likely Dujardin, though Clooney won the Golden Globe. Another close race.
Who I’m rooting for: Hugo, because I believe the best movies can make you emotional, be it good or bad, and Hugo never let me stop smiling. I also love Midnight in Paris for its nearly flawless script and wonderful views of the city, and War Horse, for telling a story in the grandiose fashion that we’re used to from Steven Spielberg.
Dark Horses: The Help, for earning (by far) the most of any of the nominees. Money talks.
Who will win: I still haven’t given up hope on Hugo, but odds favor either The Descendents or The Artist. I knew from the very beginning, seeing the first simple plot synopsis on IMDb, that The Artist would be an Oscar favorite. It’s the most unique of the 9, and it has a good chance of taking home the gold. But a man can still dream.