Believe it or not, the Oscar nominations are just a week away. And what a strange lead-up it has been, with countless shifts in buzz and many underdogs-turned-contenders and vice versa. While yes, there's a significant frontrunner in the best picture race ("The Artist"), and most of the acting trophies seem all but handed out (particularly Christopher Plummer's), the nominations themselves seem poised to offer many a surprise.
While Indiewire will have its full list of predictions finalized in the days ahead, here's a few things that could potentially go down that at one point or another seemed extraordinarily unlikely. Chances are we won't have the guts to include some (or all) of them in our actual predictions, but we figured we might as well offer up some bravery here instead:
1. Gary Oldman gets nominated after all: Despite strong reviews, potent box office and the he's-never-been-nominated-factor, Gary Oldman's work in "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" has gone all-but-forgotten this awards season. That is until the BAFTAs gave the film - and Oldman - a very warm welcoming this morning. If there's anything the British voting bloc of AMPAS is capable of pushing through next week, it's Oldman. And it would probably be at Leonardo DiCaprio's expense.
2. "Bridesmaids" gets a best picture nomination: We still have no idea how many best picture nominations there will be, which is certainly one of the most exciting things about next week's announcement. If there's only 5 (which is very doubtful), it seems clear that "The Artist," "The Descendants," "The Help," "Hugo" and "Midnight in Paris" would fill those slots. But what happens after those 5 is pretty hard to figure out. "War Horse" has stumbled with the Guilds (but so did Spielberg's "Munich," and it got a nod). "Moneyball" is very well-liked, but is it loved? "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" has come out of nowhere to be a very strong contender thanks to the PGA and DGA, but it's definitely not up the Academy's alley. But one film that seems to have support across the board -- and is probably the most surprising fixture in this year's season -- is "Bridesmaids." A SAG ensemble nod, a PGA nod, a WGA nod, multiple Golden Globe and Critics Choice nods... The film has some passionate fans (frankly, with good reason), and while it's nowhere near a certainty, "Bridesmaids" could end up being a best picture nominee as a result (and even more likely a best supporting actress nominee) -- especially if the nomination count is closer to 10 than 5.
3. Rooney Mara sneaks in the best actress race: Speaking of that last minute surge for "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo," one person that considerably benefit from that is its lead actress Rooney Mara. One person that could considerably not benefit from it is Glenn Close. Mara is really the only actress capable of breaking the five-woman stronghold of the best actress race that has so far been Close, Meryl Streep, Viola Davis, Tilda Swinton and Michelle Williams. With "Albert Nobbs" getting very poor reviews and Mara potentially representing a very different kind of Oscar voter, she could push Close (or possibly Swinton) out of contention.
4. A totally left-field nominee pops up in the supporting actor race: While three of the acting categories seem pretty set with 5 or 6 people truly left in the running, best supporting actor has been all over the place this season. Sure, Christopher Plummer and Kenneth Branagh are locks, but even Albert Brooks failed to get a SAG nomination or a BAFTA nod. The list of folks who have gotten major precursor nods is long and unstable: Nick Nolte, Viggo Mortensen, Jonah Hill, Armie Hammer, Jim Broadbent, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Patton Oswalt... It seems like this category is just asking for a contender to come out of nowhere. And who would that be? Maybe Brad Pitt in "The Tree of Life." Maybe Robert Forster in "The Descendants." Maybe Ben Kingsley in "Hugo." Or maybe even Max von Sydow, whose admirable work in "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" has been entirely ignored so far (as has the film itself).
5. "Pina" scores best documentary and best foreign language film nominations: It's never happened before, but leave it to a 3-D documentary about a German choreographer to become the first film to ever score dual nominations in the documentary and foreign-language categories. It has already defied expectations to become a international box office hit, and it would be nice for the Academy to give the double honor to its director Wim Wenders, who despite a 40 year+ career has only one nomination (for 2000's "Buena Vista Social Club").
6. "A Separation" manages a screenplay nomination: A likely nominee in the foreign language category (or is there such a thing?), Asghar Farhadi's massively acclaimed Iranian import "A Separation" could potentially find its way to a second nomination in the best original screenplay category. Foreign films have often popped up in the screenplay categories ("Talk To Her," "Y Tu Mama Tambien," "City of God," etc), though the only fear is the film was simply released to late to pick up that kind of traction. We shall see...
7. Zooey Deschanel, Oscar nominee? While after "The New Girl" it seems like it'll be a long while before Zooey Deschanel makes it into the Academy's acting races, she has a shot at a different route this year. The actress-singer-songwriter penned the track "So Long," from "Winnie The Pooh," which was deemed eligible earlier this month and got a Grammy nomination in the same category.
8. Nicolas Winding Refn gets a best director nomination. The director's branch has long known for thinking outside the rest of the Academy's box, giving nominations to Mike Leigh, Julian Schnabel, Paul Greengrass, Fernando Meirelles, Pedro Almodovar and David Lynch even when most of the other branches ignored their films. Some are suggesting Terrence Malick is a good bet for a similar occurance this year, though another possibility is "Drive" director Nicolas Winding Refn, who beat Malick for the best director prize at Cannes and has done very well with critics groups this season.
9. Or maybe Tate Taylor does... Just as much as it has gone against the grain, the director's branch has also fallen in line with trends across the entire Academy. This year that could result in a nomination for "The Help" director Tate Taylor, even if it means leaving Terrence Malick, David Fincher, Steven Spielberg or, yes, Nicholas Winding Refn out to dry.
10. Berenice Bejo gets nominated -- for best actress. Back in 2008, the BAFTA nominations were the first sign that something might be up with Kate Winslet's category placement. They nominated her for best actress for "The Reader," despite her campaigning in supporting. The Academy followed suit, and she ended up winning. Not saying Berenice Bejo has a shot of winning best actress, but she could end up being nominated there. The BAFTAs did so this morning. Though also did it last year with Hailee Steinfeld, but she remained in the supporting field come Oscar nomination morning.