The skinny: There won’t be 10 nominees this year, but it’s a stronger field than last year, so could we see nine again?
The skinny: All directors here essentially comes with their names pre-printed on the ballot.
The skinny: Washington has the requisite buzz for returning to a project that doesn’t involve Tony Scott, but he’ll face tough competition from Russell Crowe, playing the villanious Inspector Javert in Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables musical.
The skinny: Good luck cracking this category, ladies, if you’re not one of the five listed here.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Jim Broadbent, Cloud Atlas
Leonardo DiCaprio, Django Unchained
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
Matthew McConaughey, Magic Mike
The skinny: Few people have ever had as good a year as McConaughey is having (though Philip Seymour Hoffman and Josh Brolin both had incredible 2007s). This seems like the least Oscar-y of his roles, but it’s likely his best shot, as two of his lead performances (in Killer Joe and the still distributor-less Mud) will have a tough time in that always-crowded field. Don’t discount Bernie either.
The skinny: Always the hardest category to predict. Any, all or none of these nominees could find themselves announced Oscar morning. I think Hathaway’s the front-runner, especially given her terrific turn in The Dark Knight Rises. If she’s anywhere near as devastating in Les Mis as the trailer promises, it’s her race to lose.
The skinny: A great mix of comedy and drama, and a mighty good slate of films to boot.
The skinny: Conventional wisdom says films with a higher pedigree have the best shot, but you know some movie not lucky enough to get a Best Picture nod will be received here. In fact, I’m thinking several.
The skinny: I think the four big studios are safe gaining a nomination, but indie distributors (like scrappy upstart GKIDS) will have to duke it out for the last slot.
RANDOM SURE THINGS:
Best Costume Design: Les Misérables
Best Production Design: Anna Karenina
Best Visual Effects: The Avengers
Best Original Score: Brave
Best Cinematography: Prometheus