Sure things? For sure. Shocks? Distinctly possible. In other words, this yearīs Academy Awards should be business as usual.
Letīs look at the major categories to see whoīll get the gold and who will get the cold shoulder Sunday night.
Will win: Octavia Spencer, “The Help”
Should win: Spencer
Other nominees: Berenice Bejo (“The Artist”), Jessica Chastain (“The Help”), Melissa McCarthy (“Bridesmaids”) and Janet McTeer (“Albert Nobbs”)
Analysis: Spencer’s feisty, funny characterization is the most likely to take the prize: Minnie don’t burn no chicken, but she’s likely to burn the competition.
Will win: Christopher Plummer, “Beginners”
Should win: Plummer
Other nominees: Kenneth Branagh (“My Week With Marilyn”), Jonah Hill (“Moneyball”), Nick Nolte (“Warrior”), Max von Sydow (“Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”)
Analysis: This is arguably the easiest category of the night. While a case could be made that any of his rivals are worthy, Plummer is a sure thing.
Will win: Meryl Streep, “The Iron Lady”
Should win: Anyone except Glenn Close
Other nominees: Glenn Close (“Albert Nobbs”), Viola Davis (“The Help”), Rooney Mara (“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”), Michelle Williams (“My Week With Marilyn”)
Analysis: Back in the fall, Williams was hailed for her striking portrayal of the voluptuous but vulnerable Marilyn Monroe, but then “Marilyn” came and went without making much noise. Then Streep’s spot-on study of Margaret Thatcher was all the rage — itīs likely she will win because she hasn’t taken home a trophy in (gulp) nearly 30 years. But voters may sweep aside sympathy for Streep and instead honor Davis, the driving engine of “The Help.”
Will win: Jean Dujardin, “The Artist”
Should win: Michael Fassbender for “Shame” — but he’s not even nominated
Other nominees: Demian Bichir (“A Better Life”), George Clooney (“The Descendants”), Gary Oldman (“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”), Brad Pitt (“Moneyball”)
Analysis: Dujardin’s vibrant clowning and grand emoting give him an extra edge over the other four, all of whom were mostly low-key and quietly compelling. As they say in Dujardin’s home country, vive le difference. But the Academy’s failure to recognize Fassbender’s mesmerizing performance in “Shame” is, well, a real shame.
Will win: Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”
Should win: Hazanavicius
Other nominees: Alexander Payne (“The Descendants”), Martin Scorsese (“Hugo”), Woody Allen (“Midnight in Paris”), Terrence Malick (“The Tree of Life”)
Analysis: Hazanavicius gave himself a tricky task by directing a mostly silent film and turning it into much more than a novelty. “The Artist” is a jewel of a movie.
Will win: “The Artist”
Should win: “The Artist”
Other nominees: “The Descendants,” “Extremely Loud and Incredible Close,” “The Help,” “Hugo,” “Midnight in Paris,” “Moneyball,” “The Tree of Life,” “War Horse”
Analysis: “The Artist” is the first silent film to get a best picture nomination since 1928’s “The Patriot.” It will make a lot of noise with Oscar voters, thanks to its classy salute to historic Hollywood. (“Loud,” by the way, is the weakest film to get a best picture nomination in years.)