- "The Artist" has been the unlikely frontrunner in the Academy Awards race
- "The Help" star Viola Davis is the red-hot favorite in that race
- All of which could make Sunday's ceremony the most predictable and anti-climactic
Martin Scorsese's "Hugo" has more nominations, and among the nine contenders for best picture, only "The Tree of Life" has made less money at the box office, but ever since the New York Film Critics Circle named a black and white French silent film the best picture of the year back in November, "The Artist" has been the unlikely frontrunner in the Academy Awards race.
And there it has remained, picking up the lion's share of the top prizes across the awards season, from the various trade guilds and industry groups to the Golden Globes and the Baftas.
There has been a similar conformity even in those categories -- like best actress -- which "The Artist" won't win. "The Help" star Viola Davis is the red-hot favorite in that race, which would extend Meryl Streep's losing streak to an unlucky 13 nominations since her 1983 win for "Sophie's Choice." All of which could make Sunday's ceremony the most predictable -- and anti-climactic -- Academy Awards in recent memory. And that's saying something!
Here's the breakdown of the major categories, who we think will win, who should win, and our selections for the most undeserved omissions from the list, the nominees that Oscar overlooked this year.
SW = Should Win
WW = Will Win
"The Artist" WW
"Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"
"Midnight in Paris"
"The Tree of Life"
Overlooked: The industry didn't know what to make of "Margaret," Kenneth Lonergan's film was overshadowed by its long and troubled backstory -- so it chose to ignore it. But this ragged, emotionally gripping drama was an unsung American masterpiece, a more probing study of grief and youth than "Extremely Loud," "The Descendants" or even "The Tree of Life".
Actress in a Leading Role
Glenn Close ("Albert Nobbs")
Viola Davis ("The Help") WW
Rooney Mara ("The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo") SW
Meryl Street ("The Iron Lady")
Michelle Williams ("My Week with Marilyn")
Overlooked: Charlize Theron won the Oscar for playing serial killer Aileen Wuornos in "Monster," but her performance in "Young Adult" is even more courageous and more nuanced. She dared to play a deeply damaged and highly dislikeable individual, and despite everything made us care. And spare a thought for Kirsten Dunst, whose chances were probably scuppered by her "Melancholia" director Lars von Trier's foolish remarks in Cannes.
Actor in a Leading Role
Demian Bechir ("A Better Life") SW
George Clooney ("The Descendants")
Jean Dujardin ("The Artist") WW
Gary Oldman ("Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy")
Brad Pitt ("Moneyball")
Overlooked: Pitt and Clooney both gave career-best performances this year, but so did Woody Harrelson, whose bigoted, self-loathing, alcoholic cop in "Rampart" didn't get the promotion he deserved.
Actress in a Supporting Role
Berenice Bejo ("The Artist")
Jessica Chastain ("The Help")
Melissa McCarthy ("Bridesmaids") SW
Janet McTeer ("Albert Nobbs")
Octavia Spencer ("The Help") WW
Overlooked: Not overlooked entirely, but Jessica Chastain could easily have been nominated twice, or even three times, in this category, such was the quality of her work as the innocent wife of the deranged Michael Shannon in "Take Shelter" and her angelic mother in Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life."
Actor in a Supporting Role
Kenneth Branagh ("My Week With Marilyn")
Jonah Hill ("Moneyball")
Nick Nolte ("Warrior")
Christopher Plummer ("Beginners") WW, SW
Max von Sydow ("Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close")
Overlooked: Patton Oswald ("Young Adult") and Albert Brooks ("Drive") had every right to expect nominations this year, and frankly their Screen Actors Guild colleagues got it wrong.
Woody Allen ("Midnight in Paris")
Michel Hazanavicius ("The Artist") WW
Terrence Malick ("The Tree of Life")
Alexander Payne ("The Descendants")
Martin Scorsese ("Hugo") SW
Overlooked: Like comedy, sci-fi movies get a raw deal at awards time. Duncan Jones made one of the smartest, most entertaining movies of the year with "Source Code." Too bad nobody noticed.
"A Cat in Paris"
"Chico & Rita" SW
"Kung Fu Panda 2"
"Puss in Boots"
Overlooked: It wasn't a great year for animation, but "Arthur Christmas" was a typically witty and ingenious effort from Aardman Animation, the studio that gave us Wallace & Gromit and "Chicken Run."
Foreign Language Film
"Monsieur Lazhar" WW
"A Separation" SW
Overlooked: Where to begin? Well, "Once Upon a Time in Anatolia" for a start, the Turkish police procedural that's part road film, part existential comedy, all masterpiece.
"Hell and Back Again"
"If a Tree Falls"
"Paradise Lost 3"
"Pina" WW, SW
Overlooked: Again, multiple omissions here, including "The Interrupters," "Senna" and "Nostalgia For the Light," any of which would have made a worthy winner.