If you had told me a month ago that my Oscar predictions would look anything like this, I probably would have advised you to go do a little more research. “Argo” poised for the Best Picture win sans a Best Director nod? Unthinkable. Emmanuelle Riva and Naomi Watts as viable Best Actress contenders against youthful powerhouses like Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain? You’re pulling my leg.

Alas, this Oscar race has become refreshingly more uncertain than many in recent years, with at least five or six major categories that could really go a number of ways. Yes, the show will probably run longer than usual and feature an onslaught of frat-boy humor from host Seth MacFarlane, but amidst all the unnecessary musical tributes and performances, we can at least look forward to a few surprises.

Enough rambling for now, though (let’s just save that for Anne Hathaway’s acceptance speech). Here are my nominee breakdowns and predicted winners of the 85th Academy Awards.

Major categories…


Nominees: “Amour,” “Argo,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Django Unchained,” “Les Misérables,” “Life of Pi,” “Lincoln,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” “Zero Dark Thirty”

The Breakdown: Whether you believe it’s a well-deserved victory or an Affleck pity party, “Argo” is the film to beat when it comes to this year’s Best Picture race. Having nabbed virtually every precursor award on the long road to Oscar, it’d be a major upset if “Argo” didn’t collect the top prize come Sunday. “Lincoln” still has the next best chance for a win – given that it’s the most “Oscar-y” Oscar nominee in years – but it’s safe to say that at this point, “Argo” is virtually unstoppable.

Should Win: “Zero Dark Thirty”

Could Win: “Lincoln”

Will Win: “Argo”


Nominees: Michael Haneke (“Amour”), Benh Zeitlin (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”), Ang Lee (“Life of Pi”), Steven Spielberg (“Lincoln”), David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook”)

The Breakdown: Affleck’s Best Picture consolation all but assured, Director has essentially been chiseled down to two worthy veterans: Lee and Spielberg. Lee may have the distinction of turning an “un-filmable” book into a visual masterpiece, but Spielberg holds a slight edge here with a beloved return to form and an awards season’s worth of losing out to that Affleck guy. With “Lincoln” the long-presumed Best Picture-winner, expect Spielberg to get some consolation of his own with a third Best Director statue.

Should Win: Michael Haneke, “Amour”

Could Win: Ang Lee, “Life of Pi”

Will Win: Steven Spielberg, “Lincoln”


Nominees: Bradley Cooper (“Silver Linings Playbook”), Daniel Day-Lewis (“Lincoln”), Hugh Jackman (“Les Misérables”), Joaquin Phoenix (“The Master”), Denzel Washington (“Flight”)

The Breakdown: Have you even seen “Lincoln”? Just give Lewis the Oscar already; his name has been engraved on it for months now.

Should Win: Daniel Day Lewis, “Lincoln”

Could Win: Hugh Jackman, “Les Misérables”

Will Win: Daniel Day Lewis, “Lincoln”


Nominees: Jessica Chastain (“Zero Dark Thirty”), Jennifer Lawrence (“Silver Linings Playbook”), Emmanuelle Riva (“Amour”), Quvenzhané Wallis (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”), Naomi Watts (“The Impossible”)

The Breakdown: Although Lawrence currently holds frontrunner status, this is easily the most exciting and unpredictable race of the year. Chastain has been nipping at Lawrence’s heels in terms of precursor awards, and Riva has gotten a boost of last-minute momentum thanks to the BAFTAs (Did I mention she’s also a French film icon with her 86th birthday on Oscar night?). Don’t discredit Watts either, who many industry professionals have openly supported and is long overdue for a win. Play it safe and bet on Lawrence, but don’t blame me for wrecking your Oscar pool.

Should Win: Jessica Chastain, “Zero Dark Thirty”

Could Win: Emmanuelle Riva, “Amour”

Win: Jennifer Lawrence, “Silver Linings Playbook”


Nominees: Alan Arkin (“Argo”), Robert De Niro (“Silver Linings Playbook”), Philip Seymour Hoffman (“The Master”), Tommy Lee Jones (“Lincoln”), Christoph Waltz (“Django Unchained”)

The Breakdown: Five previous winners are duking it out for the gold, but lately it’s become a neck-in-neck race between De Niro and Jones. De Niro has the more sentimental role of the two combined with an equally-heartfelt awards campaign (Crying on Katie Couric’s talk show, anyone?), but Jones has fared much better with acting honors from the Screen Actors Guild and other critics’ circles. The seeming underdog here would be Waltz, who has nabbed a few accolades of his own but won this very award just 3 short years ago.

Should Win: Philip Seymour Hoffman, “The Master”

Could Win: Robert De Niro, “Silver Linings Playbook”

Will Win: Tommy Lee Jones, “Lincoln”


Nominees: Amy Adams (“The Master”), Sally Field (“Lincoln”), Anne Hathaway (“Les Misérables”), Helen Hunt (“The Sessions”), Jacki Weaver (“Silver Linings Playbook”)

The Breakdown: Hathaway has been about as close to a mortal lock as we’ve gotten this winter (aside from Lewis), and for mostly good reason. If “Lincoln” receives some unexpected generosity from the Academy, she could well lose out to Field – a two-time winner herself. Otherwise, count on Hathaway giving one final long-winded, false-modest speech to top off her nauseating awards campaign.

Should Win: Anne Hathaway, “Les Misérables”

Could Win: Sally Field, “Lincoln”

Will Win: Anne Hathaway, “Les Misérables”


Nominees: “Amour,” “Kon-Tiki,” “No,” “A Royal Affair,” “War Witch”

The Breakdown: With multiple Oscar nods across the board and the power to tug at older voters’ heartstrings, “Amour” seems destined to pick up the honor it so greatly deserves. The only film that may stand in its way is Norway’s “Kon-Tiki,” which Academy members opting for lighter, safer fare may pull for instead. Don’t hold your breath for a shocker, though – “Amour” pretty much has this one in the bag.

Should Win: “Amour”

Could Win: “Kon-Tiki”

Will Win: “Amour”


Nominees: “5 Broken Cameras,” “The Gatekeepers,” “How to Survive a Plague,” “The Invisible War,” “Searching for Sugar Man”

The Breakdown: Ever the unpredictable category, “Searching for Sugar Man” appears to have this on-lock with impressive box-office performance and a slew of major awards already in its coffers. If the Academy wants to honor a more “important,” social-issue documentary, then any of the other nominees are fair game, with the majority of pre-Oscar buzz coming from AIDS doc “How to Survive a Plague.”

Should Win: “5 Broken Cameras”

Could Win: “How To Survive a Plague”

Will Win: “Searching for Sugar Man”


Nominees: “Brave,” “Frankenweenie,” “ParaNorman,” “The Pirates! Band of Misfits,” “Wreck-It Ralph”

The Breakdown: In a perfect world, “Frankenweenie” would be the undisputed winner here, but alas, this underperformer may be a little too dark for the majority of Academy voters. “Wreck-It Ralph” has the clearest path to victory for its clever, vibrant take on video games, although “Brave” could easily swipe the award based on its Pixar moniker alone.

Should Win: “Frankenweenie”

Could Win: “Brave”

Will Win: “Wreck-It Ralph”


Nominees: Michael Haneke (“Amour”), Quentin Tarantino (“Django Unchained”), John Gatins (“Flight”), Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola (“Moonrise Kingdom”), Mark Boal (“Zero Dark Thirty”)

The Breakdown: “Zero Dark Thirty” recently took the Writers Guild Award for Original Screenplay, but its political backlash and fading box office seem to turn the tables toward Haneke or Tarantino – both of whom have turned in consistently original work through the years but have received little to no Academy love in return. My money’s on Tarantino, who hasn’t won an Oscar since “Pulp Fiction” and has one of the highest-grossing nominees in “Django Unchained.”

Should Win: Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola, “Moonrise Kingdom”

Could Win: Michael Haneke, “Amour”

Will Win: Quentin Tarantino, “Django Unchained”


Nominees: Chris Terrio (“Argo”), Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”), David Magee (“Life of Pi”), Tony Kushner (“Lincoln”), David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook”)

The Breakdown: “Argo” has also gained some momentum following its WGA win, but could be disheveled by Kushner’s “Lincoln” – long deemed a clear favorite in this category and penned by the Pulitzer-winning Kushner. The two could be discredited for their widely publicized inaccuracies, though, which would give O. Russell a well-earned nod for turning a dark novel about mental illness into a romantic comedy smash.

Should Win: David O. Russell, “Silver Linings Playbook”

Could Win: Tony Kushner, “Lincoln”

Will Win: Chris Terrio, “Argo”

Other categories…


Nominees: "Argo," "Life of Pi," "Lincoln," "Silver Linings Playbook," "Zero Dark Thirty"

Should Win: “Zero Dark Thirty”

Could Win: “Zero Dark Thirty”

Will Win: “Argo”


Nominees: "Anna Karenina," "Django Unchained," "Life of Pi," "Lincoln," "Skyfall"

Should Win: “Skyfall”

Could Win: “Life of Pi”

Will Win: “Skyfall”


Nominees: "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," "Life of Pi," "Marvel's The Avengers," "Prometheus," "Snow White and the Huntsman"

Should Win: “Life of Pi”

Could Win: “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”

Will Win: “Life of Pi”


Nominees: "Argo," "Django Unchained," "Life of Pi," "Skyfall," "Zero Dark Thirty"

Should Win: “Zero Dark Thirty”

Could Win: “Life of Pi”

Will Win: “Zero Dark Thirty”


Nominees: "Argo," "Les Misérables," "Life of Pi," "Lincoln," "Skyfall"

Should Win: “Les Misérables”

Could Win: “Life of Pi”

Will Win: “Les Misérables”


Nominees: "Anna Karenina," "Argo," "Life of Pi," "Lincoln," "Skyfall”

Should Win: “Life of Pi”

Could Win: “Argo”

Will Win: “Life of Pi”


Nominees: "Before My Time" from "Chasing Ice," "Everybody Needs a Best Friend" from "Ted," "Pi's Lullaby" from "Life of Pi," "Skyfall" from "Skyfall," "Suddenly" from "Les Misérables"

Should Win: “Pi’s Lullaby” from “Life of Pi”

Could Win: “Pi’s Lullaby” from “Life of Pi”

Will Win: “Skyfall” from “Skyfall”


Nominees: "Anna Karenina," "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," "Les Misérables," "Life of Pi," "Lincoln”

Should Win: “Anna Karenina”

Could Win: “Les Misérables”

Will Win: “Anna Karenina”


Nominees: "Anna Karenina," "Les Misérables," "Lincoln," "Mirror Mirror," "Snow White and the Huntsman"

Should Win: “Anna Karenina”

Could Win: “Mirror Mirror”

Will Win: “Anna Karenina”


Nominees: "Hitchcock," "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," "Les Misérables”

Should Win: “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”

Could Win: “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”

Will Win: “Les Misérables”


Nominees: "Asad," "Buzkashi Boys," "Curfew," "Death of a Shadow," “Henry"

Should Win: “Curfew”

Could Win: “Death of a Shadow”

Will Win: “Curfew”


Nominees: "Adam and Dog," "Fresh Guacamole," "Head over Heels," "Maggie Simpson in `The Longest Daycare,'" "Paperman”

Should Win: “Adam and Dog”

Could Win: “Paperman”

Will Win: “Adam and Dog”


Nominees: "Inocente," "Kings Point," "Mondays at Racine," "Open Heart," "Redemption"

Should Win: “Mondays at Racine”

Could Win: “Inocente”

Will Win: “Mondays at Racine”

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