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On the day of the Oscar nominations, EW's headline was ''Bad day for 'Argo,' 'Les Mis' and 'Zero Dark Thirty''' — and it was, at that moment. Just days later, Argo's fortunes changed. The film won Best Drama and Best Director at the Golden Globes, igniting a whisper campaign that would right the wrong of the directors branch snubbing Ben Affleck. That prophecy was confirmed time and again in the weeks that followed as Argo swept the various guild awards. On Sunday, expect to hear it announced as Best Picture.
Runner-Up: Silver Linings Playbook
Everyone suspects this is a battle between Argo and Lincoln, but the real potential spoiler here is Silver Linings. It's the first movie since 1981's Reds to land nominations in all four acting categories, which indicates broad support within the actors branch, the largest voting bloc in the Academy.
Despite her decades-long career as a producer, Kathleen Kennedy has never won an Oscar. If Lincoln somehow overcomes the Argo Express, the prize will still be making up for a snub.
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Prediction: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
''What he pulled off was in a category of one.'' This was what a director member of the Academy said, and it pretty much sums up the feelings of the majority. Day-Lewis will become the first performer to win three Oscars in the lead actor category for his role as the 16th U.S. president. No one else even comes close.
Runner-Up: Hugh Jackman, Les Misérables
His emotional, musical performance as Jean Valjean is much admired and even though he won't win, it created a lot of goodwill that may pay off the next time he has an Oscar-nominated role.
Surprise: Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
This is extremely unlikely, and Cooper has had some fun joking around about the speech he might give on Oscar night (spoiler: it would be a concession speech). But The Hangover star is perhaps the actor who benefited most from the nomination, earning respect not just as a pretty face, but as a star with sincerity and depth.
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Prediction: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
The Hunger Games star earned her first Oscar nomination two years ago for Winter's Bone and has since become one of the most sought-after actresses in the industry. Her colorful, charismatic widow in Silver Linings Playbook won over a lot of voters, and despite her youth she has shown remarkable versatility. Her off-the-wall personality also tended to charm more than it offended. She won the SAG Award and the Golden Globe for comedy/musical, but still — this is a close one, and not a lock by any means.
Runner-Up: Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
As calculating and cool as Jessica Chastain was in Zero Dark Thirty, her CIA agent kept the world at arm's distance, which may be a solid portrayal of that type of character but didn't give viewers much of a personal connection. Riva, who turns 86 on Oscar night, caused a lot of Oscar-watchers to recalculate with her in the lead after she won the BAFTA award last week, but her agonizing drama about an elderly couple reaching the end of their lives is one of those films that some voters will secretly admit they were reluctant to watch.
Surprise: Naomi Watts, The Impossible
Another film that suffered due to voter procrastination. Quite a few dragged their feet when it came to screening this tsunami disaster-drama, which may have prevented it from getting more nominations. Those who have watched it tend to become passionate supporters. She hasn't won much this season, but if there's a shock in the acting category this year it might be from Watts.
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Best Supporting Actor
Prediction: Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
De Niro's return to form after quite a few years of silly comedies and paycheck-cashing genre roles has struck a nerve with many Academy members, giving him the lead in a very tight race. Usually tight-lipped, the two-time winner put aside his reticence and campaigned hard, showing a softer side we don't always associate with the Taxi Driver and Goodfellas star. When he choked-up on Katie Couric's talk show, talking about director David O. Russell's bipolar son, it caused as much buzz as his performance.
Runner-Up: Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
The gunslinging bon vivant who rides through the deep south collecting bounties on outlaws claimed Waltz a BAFTA prize and a Golden Globe. The Austrian actor is a great charmer, which makes him an excellent campaigner. Is it too soon after his Inglourious Basterds win for another Oscar? Maybe, but the Academy adores him.
Surprise: Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
He might be the frontrunner if not for his surly personal style. That's not supposed to count in the awards race, but anyone who says it doesn't is kidding themselves. Few performances were as energetic or charismatic, however, and since he did win the SAG Award, there's a good chance he might take this one, too.
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Best Supporting Actress
Prediction: Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables
Hathaway has practically swept award season, so although there may be a little ''I Dreamed A Dream'' fatigue setting in, she's still likely to claim the top supporting actress honor. The single, unbroken shot of her performing that gut-wrenching song moved even voters who weren't a fan of the movie.
Runner-Up: Sally Field, Lincoln
She has two previous Oscars, winning each time she was nominated, but it has been a while. Her emotionally fraught First Lady brought her first nomination since 1984 and has a lot of admirers, although it will be an uphill battle to take the trophy from Hathaway.
Surprise: Helen Hunt, The Sessions
''Courageous,'' ''gutsy,'' and ''bold'' are all words voters have used to describe her performance as a sexual therapist in this comedic-drama about a disabled man trying to learn about lovemaking. If there's a long shot in this race who might take it, it's Hunt.
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Prediction: Ang Lee, Life of Pi
Sorry, Academy voters. You can?t write-in Ben Affleck in this category. With that in mind, it's worth saying again: Life of Pi is a massive directorial achievement, combining water, digital effects, animals, a new actor, and 3-D imagery — all complications which would make a lesser director tremble with terror. In fact, three other prominent filmmakers tried and failed to bring it to the screen. If Lee takes the award, it will be well earned.
Runner-Up: Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
I gave Spielberg the slight edge in EW's print edition, but the two-time directing winner has the disadvantage of being...well...himself. Whatever admiration he has earned from his peers, it's veined with a fair amount of envy. Put it this way: It's very difficult for some members of the Academy to give an ''Employee of the Year'' prize to the guy who owns the store. Will admiration for Lincoln be enough to overcome that? Based on voters I've spoken to, I'd say maybe — but if it does, only barely.
Surprise: David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
A few voters have said they're voting for him because they feel it's worth honoring subtlety over scale. No re-creations of Civil War-era Washington, D.C. or digital tigers prowling life boats here. If enough ballots are cast for this family grappling with love, football, and mental instability, it could be one of the biggest upsets in Oscar history.
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Best Original Screenplay
Prediction: Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained
He didn't win for Inglourious Basterds, which is arguably an even better script, but Academy voters remember those sorts of things and tend to count them toward the next good work a nominee does. This violent, racially charged shoot-'em-up had members cheering over its sheer blood-soaked audacity. The speechifying by Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio brings an added level of grandiloquence to the proceedings.
Runner-Up: Mark Boal, Zero Dark Thirty
Another one of the crimes of Oscar season was the way this Osama bin Laden takedown thriller got mired in false accusations and misunderstandings. Did it glorify torture? No, it actually showed torture not working, and eventually other methods are shown, leading to actionable intelligence. Careful readings didn't come soon or often enough, but if Academy voters managed to pay attention to what this blend of journalism and screenwriting actually had to say about what the U.S. government did in the search for the terrorist leader, they might push it over the top.
Surprise: Michael Haneke, Amour
Those who love this drama about death and aging are passionate and determined, leading quite a few pundits (including yours truly, for a while) to place this as their number one. The whole race is too close to call with any confidence. It really could be any one of these three films. But for now, I hear equal — if not stronger — passion for Django.
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Best Adapted Screenplay
Prediction: Chris Terrio, Argo
Taut, funny, and pulse-pounding, this script claimed the WGA trophy and is riding high on the Argo wave of support. This category is extremely difficult to call, however. As fun as Terrio's script is, it may have the least emotional depth in this field of nominees. If it wins, it will be because voters admired its finely crafted clockworks.
Runner-Up: Tony Kushner, Lincoln
The elegance of the language in this script is impossible to deny, yet somehow it has failed to build the passion necessary to dominate this award season. If there's a contender who has been robbed this year, it's Kushner. He blended real and imagined dialogue, built from letters, speeches, Doris Kearns Goodwin's historical tome Team of Rivals, and his own imagination in a seamless re-creation of backroom politicking during the Civil War. There's still a chance, but the margin will be slim.
Surprise: David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
I wouldn't bet money on it, but there's a chance that love for this movie could result in an upset here.
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Best Foreign Film
Prediction: Amour (Austria)
With Best Picture, Screenplay, and Director nods, it's hard to imagine this film losing.
Other Contenders: Kon-Tiki (Norway), A Royal Affair (Denmark)
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Best Animated Film
Prediction: Wreck-It Ralph
The one drawback here is that the older members of the Academy may not be as in-tune with video games, even the decades-old ones that pop up in this movie.
Ralph seems to have the edge, but any time an older group votes, such as at the BAFTAs or Globes, it goes to Brave.
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Best Animated Short
The black-and-white love story from Walt Disney Animation Studios is a popular favorite, although this is a prize that tends to skew indie.
Runner-Up: Adam and Dog
A homegrown, hand-drawn tale of the Garden of Eden, and man's best friend.
Surprise: Head Over Heels
A stop-motion film about a mismatched husband and wife who live on two different planes of existence — one on the ceiling and the other on the floor.
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Prediction: ''Skyfall,'' Skyfall
Adele and Paul Epworth's title theme is a massive hit, and licensed to kill at the show — which will also feature a 007 tribute to commemorate the superspy's 50th cinematic anniversary.
Other Contenders: ''Suddenly,'' Les Misérables (music by Claude-Michel Schönberg; lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil), ''Everybody Needs a Best Friend,'' Ted (music by Walter Murphy; lyrics by Seth MacFarlane)
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Best Costume Design
Prediction: Anna Karenina
Jacqueline Durran's stylized version of czarist Russian fashion, slightly skewed with 1950s influences, is favored to bring her the gold.
Other Contenders: Les Misérables (Paco Delgado), Lincoln (Joanna Johnston)
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Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Prediction: Les Misérables
It takes a lot of work to make Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman look as grim and unhealthy as they do in this musical, but Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell could take home the trophy for accomplishing just that.
Other Contenders: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Peter Swords King, Rick Findlater, and Tami Lane), Hitchcock (Howard Berger, Peter Montagna, and Martin Samuel)
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Best Production Design
This is a slight risk. Most pundits are predicting Anna Karenina, which impressed with its music-box world and model train layouts. My sample may be off, but the one voters tell me they're going for is Lincoln, due to admiration for production designer Rick Carter and set decorator Jim Erickson's detailed historical recreation.
Other Contenders: Anna Karenina (Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer), Les Misérables (Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Anna Lynch-Robinson)