Zero Dark Thirty Jessica Chastain
Best Actress:
Early on in the season, it had been suggested that the best actress race was the weakest in years, and a trio of women whose films premiered at festivals earlier in the year (Marion Cotillard, Emmanuelle Riva, Quvenzhane Wallis) seemed like the only competition. But then came "Silver Linings Playbook," which offered a bigger role for Jennifer Lawrence than some thought (and she nailed every second of it). And a month or so later, news that Jessica Chastain was not only the lead in "Zero Dark Thirty," and that she was pretty damn awesome in it.  Lawrence and Chastain are now the locked frontrunners and the only surefire nominees. Six women all stand totally reasonable shots at joining them, and it's a very tough call to say who pulls it off. Naomi Watts seems like the most likely, and though Riva didn't pop up with the Globes or SAG, she has some very big fans and it's hard to imagine such an unwarranted snub.  And then there's Wallis, Cotillard, Helen Mirren and Rachel Weisz all in contention for slot #5. I say Cotillard (she got Globe and SAG and has been aggressively campaigning), but with minimal confidence.

The predicted nominees (in alphabetical order):
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Marion Cotillard, Rust and Bone
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Naomi Watts, The Impossible

The spoilers (in order of spoil-potential):
Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Helen Mirren, Hitchcock
Rachel Weisz, The Deep Blue Sea

The shoulda-been-a-contender (but never gonna happen):
Elle Fanning, Ginger and Rosa

"The Master."
"The Master."
Best Actor:
Probably the tightest of all the acting races, the Best Actor category basically boils down to six men: Bradley Cooper, Daniel Day-Lewis, John Hawkes, Hugh Jackman, Joaquin Pheonix and Denzel Washington.

Day-Lewis remains the frontrunner and arguably the only 100% lock, with the rest of them all at least slightly vulnerable to getting left out.  The only one without a SAG nom, it makes sense to assumed Phoenix is the most vulnerable. Still, I'm betting what is clearly a staggering performance gets in despite Phoenix's open acknowledgment that he doesn't care too much for awards (to say the least), leaving Cooper Oscar nomination-free.

The predicted nominees (in alphabetical order):
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
John Hawkes, The Sessions
Hugh Jackman, Les Miserable
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
Denzel Washington, Flight

The spoilers (in order of spoil-potential):
Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Jamie Foxx, Django Unchained
Jean-Louis Trintignant, Amour

The shoulda-been-a-contender (but never gonna happen):
Denis Lavant, Holy Motors