Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence for the win? That was the story back in September, when "Silver Linings Playbook" soared out of the Toronto Film Festival with somewhat unexpected Oscar buzz, particularly for Lawrence -- who took charge in a category that had been a big mystery until then. And she held that position until Jessica Chastain popped up in mid-November even more out of nowhere for "Zero Dark Thirty." No one had any idea whether her role was lead in the film or if she/the film were any good. All cases turned out true. So the race was soon pegged as J.Law vs. J.Cha. They pretty much evenly split the precursor awards, though Lawrence started to hold a growing edge over Chastain, particularly after "Thirty" didn't do quite as well at the Oscar nominations (and "Linings" did better than expected). But something else happened at the Oscar nominations: L'amour for "Amour" across the board, and a nomination for Emmanuelle Riva. Riva -- who will turn 86 years old on Oscar night -- is the oldest best actress nominee ever, and represents a rare case where she's both a sentimental choice and the most deserving winner. If voters actually see "Amour" (which given the extra time they've had, they should have), Riva could very well take that Oscar from Lawrence. Or not.
Will win: Emmanuelle Riva
Could win: Jennifer Lawrence
Should win: Emmanuelle Riva
Best Supporting Actor: All five men here have already won (a first), and all could win again in the toughest acting race to call in some time. Tommy Lee Jones won the SAG, Phillip Seymour Hoffman won the Critics Choice, Christoph Waltz won the Globe and the BAFTA, but Robert DeNiro and Alan Arkin are from films the Academy clearly was quite taken by... So my guess is as good as yours. Though that guess is that DeNiro's heavy push for himself wins out in the end, and he gets his third Oscar (on the same night Daniel Day-Lewis gets his third, and a year after Meryl Streep got hers).
Will win: Robert DeNiro
Could win: Anyone! But Jones and Waltz seem to be in a three-way race with DeNiro.
Should win: Philip Seymour Hoffman
Best Supporting Actress: One award they will absolutely be giving to "Les Miserables" is best supporting actress. Basically since she was cast in the film people have been screaming Oscar for Anne Hathaway, and thankfully when the film finally came out it quickly became clear their premature assessment was a fair one. Hathaway is widely considered the best thing about the film (even by the many people that don't like it) and has won every award there is to win for it so far. And while there's definitely been a backlash against the actress's seemingly unstoppable march to the Oscar, she's helped by one very important factor: There's really no competition. The only person that seems like a feasible alternative is Sally Field. But Sally Field has already won two Oscars on two nominations... and with Daniel Day-Lewis and possibly Robert DeNiro also set for their third wins this Oscar night, it seems unlikely the third time will be the charm for Field.
Will win: Anne Hathaway
Could win: Sally Field (but it would an upset of Juliette Binoche-proportions)
Should win: Amy Adams