Best Original Screenplay: There was a time when Mark Boal seemed like a sure thing in this category (hell, there was a time when Paul Thomas Anderson seemed like a sure thing in this category). But with "Zero Dark Thirty" slipping in Oscar buzz (and Anderson not even nominated for "The Master"), Boal is running a distant third behind Michael Haneke ("Amour") and Quentin Tarantino ("Django Unchained"). It's going to be a showdown between those two. Though Tarantino won back in 1995 for "Pulp Fiction," it seems reasonable to give the man #2 this time around (they seemingly almost did in 2010, but instead gave it to Boal). But then there's Haneke, who has never won but has three different opportunities to this year (here, best director and best foreign language film -- though the latter techically goes to the country of Austria). We're saying Tarantino, but it's a very either-or category for us.
Will win: "Django Unchained"
Could win: "Amour"
Should win: Anything but "Flight" would make me happy.
Best Adapted Screenplay: This category has turned into a genuine a three-way showdown between Tony Kushner, Chris Terrio and David O. Russell. Or has it? "Lincoln" seemed like the big favorite for a while, but then "Silver Linings" won the BAFTA and "Argo" won both the USC Scripter and the WGA Award. The latter now seems pretty unstoppable, making it less of a race than a category with a frontrunner and two potential spoilers. I held on to a "Lincoln" prediction as long as I could but now I'm going for "Argo" (with "Silver Linings" perhaps more likely to spoil than "Lincoln").
Will win: "Argo"
Could win: "Silver Linings Playbook" or "Lincoln"
Should win: "Lincoln"
Best Animated Feature: For once, this category is quite the race. After years and years of assumed winners, a trio of Disney titles -- "Frankenweenie," "Brave"and "Wreck-It-Ralph" -- are all feasible winners. "Brave" won the Globe and the BAFTA and "Ralph" won the PGA and the Annie, but perhaps the idea of finally giving Tim Burton an Oscar will give "Frankenweenie" an edge as the other two cancel each other out? That's our very risky bet (perhaps our riskiest given its won almost nothing so far). Expect us to be wrong!
Will win: "Frankenweenie"
Could win: "Wreck-It-Ralph" or "Brave"
Should win: "Frankenweenie," but this is a very strong lineup.