The Artist's Oscar victory last year marked the first time that a movie about movie-making has won Best Picture. Could Argo's fake-movie-in-a-movie make it two in a row? The tide is definitely on Ben Affleck's side. Well, except for that pesky lack of a nomination in the Best Director category. We'll have to wait until Sunday's ceremony (8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT, ABC) for the winners, but in the meantime, let's make some predictions. Check out the nominees here, print out your ballot, make your picks and compare them to ours below.
Lincoln leads Oscar nominations
Who will win: Argo
The best thing that ever happened to Argo was Ben Affleck not receiving a Best Director nomination. It's hard to say how and if the complexion of the race would be different had he been nominated, and while Affleck was not the only one left out in the cold (hi, Kathryn Bigelow!), the outrage over his exclusion was so loud and so swift that it powered the crackling political thriller into pole position. Argo has swept the Critics Choice Awards, Golden Globes (both of which closed voting before Affleck's snub), the PGA, the SAGs, the DGA , the WGA and BAFTAs. The only film in recent times to amass a similar trophy collection and not win the Oscar was Apollo 13, whose director Ron Howard was also snubbed by the Academy. But Argo will go the Driving Miss Daisy route instead: win Best Picture without a Best Director nomination. It would be the fourth film to ever do so, following the first winner Wings, Grand Hotel (1932) and Daisy. The film — the rare accessible critical and commercial success that seemingly has no detractors and in which Hollywood Saves the Day — also benefits from the category's preferential voting system, where it's better to be liked by everyone than to be loved by just some.
Watch out for: Lincoln
The sweeping biopic (of sorts) has all the makings of a Best Picture winner and we can't overlook the fact that it leads the Oscars with 12 nominations. The film's been criticized as boring, but its chronicle of the passage of the 13th Amendment and the messy politics involved resonates today.
Did you know? George Clooney, who produced Argo with Affleck and Grant Heslov, would be the third person to win an acting Oscar (Best Supporting Actor for 2005's Syriana) and a Best Picture Oscar. The other two: Laurence Olivier (Best Actor and Best Picture for Hamlet) and Michael Douglas (Best Picture for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Best Actor for Wall Street).
Who will win: Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
First of all, this is probably the most awkward race of the night since everyone and their mother has crowned Affleck the past six weeks (that's not even counting his critics wins pre-Oscar nominations). The safest choice is Spielberg for his understated work and realization of a lifelong passion project. He would join Frank Capra and William Wyler as three-time Best Director winners. John Ford has four wins.
Watch out for: Ang Lee, Life of Pi
Let's give it up for Lee: He's the only director who's been nominated for every major prize this season (Spielberg missed at the BAFTAs). The former champ did the unthinkable and made a stirring adaptation of what was believed to be an un-filmmable project. Pi will dominate the craft categories, and respect for Lee's achievement could spread upward. Fun fact: This is Lee's third Oscar nomination and every time he's been nominated, there's been a Best Picture/Best Director split — Gladiator/Steven Soderbergh for Traffic and Crash/Lee for Brokeback Mountain. That will most likely happen again this year.
Did you know? Besides Affleck, there have only been two other times since the DGA's inception in 1949 where the DGA winner did not receive a Best Director nomination: Spielberg for The Color Purple and Howard for Apollo 13.
Who will win: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Five years to the day of his second Best Actor Oscar, Day-Lewis ought to cruise to his record-breaking third trophy (no man has ever won three lead actor Oscars). His immersive turn as the 16th president — from the hauntingly weary voice to that slouchy tall-person walk — is stunning and peerless. (Plus: Bonus points for being utterly charming on the circuit this time around and mocking his Weird Method Actor reputation.) A win would put DDL into an elite group of three-time Oscar winners that includes Walter Brennan, Ingrid Bergman, Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep, who joined last year. Katharine Hepburn leads everyone with four wins.
Watch out for: Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables
Everyone's a distant second, but we'll single out Jackman, who won the musical/comedy actor Golden Globe (beating Bradley Cooper) and found film acclaim by going back to his musical roots. And he did this.
Did you know? No one has ever won for playing a U.S. president. Past nominees were Raymond Massey (1940's Abe Lincoln in Illinois), Alexander Knox (as Woodrow Wilson in 1944's Wilson), James Whitmore (as Harry S. Truman in 1975's Give 'em Hell, Harry!), Anthony Hopkins (1995's Nixon and as John Adams in 1997's Amistad) and Frank Langella (2008's Frost/Nixon).
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Who will win: Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Jennifer Lawrence is still the favorite, but it's hard to deny that the stars are also aligning for the former French New Wave star. Her performance — a heartbreaking, unflinching portrait of a woman in inexorable decline — is arguably the best of the lot, and she's picked up momentum since her BAFTA victory two weeks ago, marking her first industry win over Lawrence and Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty). Riva was snubbed by the Globes and the SAGs, which may have not received screeners in time, but Amour's surprising nods for her, Best Picture and Best Director, show strong support. She also has the sentimental edge, which doesn't always match with a deserving winner: Sunday is her 86th birthday and she would be the oldest acting winner ever.
Watch out for: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
The It girl has the showiest performance of the nominees, a SAG win (actors are the largest contingent of Academy members) and Harvey Weinstein in her corner. The Academy also went head over heels for SLP, which is the first film in 31 years to get a nomination in all four acting categories, and Lawrence stands its best chance at winning one. At 22, she would be the category's third-youngest winner, behind Marlee Matlin, who was 21, and the first winner, Janet Gaynor, who was also 22, but a few months younger than what Lawrence would be.
Did you know? Only once has someone won an acting Oscar on their birthday: Jennifer Jones, who took home Best Actress for The Song of Bernadette on her 25th birthday on March 2, 1944.
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Who will win: Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
This category, aka the tournament of champions (all five are former winners — an Oscar acting race first), is the most unpredictable, but we'll tip Waltz. The Austrian has never lost a major award when he's been nominated, including his clean sweep three years ago for Inglourious Basterds. He's won the Globe and BAFTA, and missed out on a SAG nod, but Harvey Weinstein later admitted that he screwed up Django's campaign and didn't send screeners out by the voting deadline. Waltz's devilishly charming good guy in Django — not unlike his devilishly charming bad guy in Basterds — has one advantage over his fellow nominees: screen time. His is co-lead performance competing in a supporting category.
Watch out for: Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
Jones, the perceived front-runner earlier in the season, snagged the SAG for his curmudgeonly abolitionist. Though some feel otherwise, we doubt his infamous grumpy meme at the Globes will factor much into this. After all, he showed his self-deprecating sense of humor when he won for The Fugitive 19 years ago. Also keep an eye out for Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook), who's ratcheted up his campaign the past few weeks — crying on Katie, Weinstein playing up the fact that he hasn't won in 32 years and hasn't been nominated in 21 years.
Did you know? If Waltz, Jones, De Niro or Alan Arkin (Argo) win, they would join Anthony Quinn, Peter Ustinov, Melvyn Douglas, Jason Robards and Michael Caine as two-time winners of this category. Walter Brennan won Best Supporting Actor three times.
Who will win: Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
One song. One take. That's all it took for Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls) and that's all it'll take for Hathaway.
Watch out for: Sally Field, Lincoln
Field is two-for-two at the Oscars, but hadn't been nominated since her second win for Places in the Heart 27 years ago (yes, she was snubbed for Forrest Gump). It's unlikely she'll make it three-for-three with Hathaway's momentum, but her tortured, sympathetic Mary Todd Lincoln is a welcome comeback to movies' biggest stage. Oh, and they like her.
Did you know? Besides Field (for now), five other people have a perfect track record in the acting races, all of which are two-for-two: Luise Rainer, Vivien Leigh, Hilary Swank, Helen Hayes and Kevin Spacey. Rainer (who is the oldest living Oscar winner at 103), Leigh and Swank each have two Best Actress statuettes, Hayes won Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, and Spacey won Best Supporting Actor and Best Actor.
Who do you think will win? The 85th Academy Awards airs Sunday at 8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT on ABC.
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