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Best Picture Frontrunner: Argo
Ben Affleck's thriller about CIA agents teaming with filmmakers to create a? fake movie production to help embassy workers escape the Iran hostage crisis? is an industry favorite. Hollywood loves seeing itself save the day, and even more so when it's a true story.
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Best Picture Frontrunner: Lincoln
Early viewers regard Steven Spielberg's historical epic as a master class in acting, writing, directing, and practically every other cinematic skill. Daniel Day-Lewis is virtually assured a third Oscar for Best Actor, and his talents may help the film claim the top prize as well.
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Best Picture Frontrunner: Life of Pi
This saga of a boy lost at sea could be the first 3-D film to win Best Picture. In director Ang Lee's hands, the format adds emotional heft, since the proximity of the live-action boy to CG things — the tiger in his lifeboat, the ship that passes them by — is key to the tale.
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Best Picture Frontrunner: Les Misérables
Three decades of popularity of the Tony-winning musical have already placed its sprawling adaptation high on industry voters' must-see lists. A nomination seems a safe bet, but that also means the film has very high expectations to meet.
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Best Picture Frontrunner: Silver Linings Playbook
David O. Russell's frenzied romantic dramedy about a bipolar patient trying to find love and happiness won the People's Choice Award at this fall's Toronto Film Festival. It's more intimate and personal than some of its rivals, which could give it an underdog boost.
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Consider This: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
You don't have to be a kid to love Stephen Chbosky's adaptation of his own coming-of-age novel. It reminds us that great friends can turn the worst of times into good ol' days.
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Other Best Picture Contenders
Zero Dark Thirty (pictured)
Beasts of the Southern Wild
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Best Picture Long Shots
Django Unchained (pictured)
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
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Best Actor Frontrunner: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
He's the closest thing to a sure bet in this Oscar race. Academy members have described his performance as ''uncanny'' and ''more Lincoln than Lincoln.''
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Best Actor Frontrunner: John Hawkes, The Sessions
As a lovable disabled man trying to learn what all the fuss is about sex, the 2010 nominee for Winter's Bone might have the best shot at unseating his Lincoln costar Day-Lewis.
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Best Actor Frontrunner: Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
He dissed the awards-season rat race in an October interview, but voters couldn't ignore his emotionally (and physically) twisted moonshine addict if they tried.
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Consider This: Tom Holland, The Impossible
If the Best Actor field were less jammed, 16-year-old Tom Holland wouldn't need a special mention. But his gut-wrenching role as a lost boy in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami shouldn't be overlooked.
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Other Best Actor Contenders
Hugh Jackman, Les Misérables (pictured)
Ben Affleck, Argo
Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Anthony Hopkins, Hitchcock
Denzel Washington, Flight
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Best Actor Long Shots
Richard Gere, Arbitrage (pictured)
Jack Black, Bernie
Jamie Foxx, Django Unchained
Jake Gyllenhaal, End of Watch
Jean-Louis Trintignant, Amour
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Best Actress Frontrunner: Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Her first Oscar nod came for last year's The Help. Her second could be for her lead role as a CIA analyst tracking Osama bin Laden in Kathryn Bigelow's high-profile film.
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Best Actress Frontrunner: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Academy members are already buzzing about the Winter's Bone star's intensity as a wild woman who captures Bradley Cooper's broken heart.
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Best Actress Frontrunner: Naomi Watts, The Impossible
Previously nominated for 2003's 21 Grams, she may end up the front-runner as a mom pushed to make brutal sacrifices in the midst of the 2004 tsunami. Note to voters: Bring tissues. Really.
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Consider This: Melanie Lynskey, Hello I Must Be Going
She made her debut in Heavenly Creatures, and became famous on Two and a Half Men. But her sexy turn as a divorcée who falls for ? a 19-year-old should make her a star.
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Other Best Actress Contenders
Helen Mirren, Hitchcock (pictured)
Marion Cotillard, Rust and Bone
Keira Knightley, Anna Karenina
Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Smashed
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Best Actress Long Shots
Emmanuelle Riva, Amour (pictured)
Emayatzy Corinealdi, Middle of Nowhere
Maggie Smith, Quartet
Barbra Streisand, The Guilt Trip
Rachel Weisz, The Deep Blue Sea
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Best Supporting Actor Frontrunner: Alan Arkin, Argo
Who wouldn't cast a ballot for his irascible Hollywood producer?
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Best Supporting Actor Frontrunner: Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
His character calls himself a writer, doctor, and nuclear physicist, and he could make Hoffman a double Oscar winner.
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Best Supporting Actor Frontrunner: Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
Chewing up costars won him an Oscar for The Fugitive. He could earn another the same way as fierce abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens.
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Consider This: James Gandolfini, Not Fade Away
The focus is on a 1960s band of Rolling Stones wannabes, but Gandolfini steals the film as a brutish, unhappy father — who doesn't have time on his side.
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Other Best Supporting Actor Contenders
John Goodman, Argo (pictured)
Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
Leonardo DiCaprio, Django Unchained
Ewan McGregor, The Impossible
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Best Supporting Actor Long Shots
Irrfan Khan, Life of Pi (pictured)
Russell Crowe, Les Misérables
Dwight Henry, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Matthew McConaughey, Magic Mike
Ezra Miller, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
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Best Supporting Actress Frontrunner: Sally Field, Lincoln
The two-time nominee (and two-time winner) is earning kudos for a caricature-free turn as the stalwart wife and grieving mother Mary Todd Lincoln.
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Best Supporting Actress Frontrunner: Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables
Hathaway dropped weight, chopped her hair, and sang her heart out as the tragic Fantine — a commitment level that tends to wow.
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Best Supporting Actress Frontrunner: Helen Hunt, The Sessions
An Oscar winner for 1997's As Good as It Gets, Hunt gives a raw, sometimes naked performance as a sex surrogate working with a disabled man.
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Consider This: Gloria Reuben, Lincoln
In a film full of bravura performances, the ER veteran's subtle, heartfelt role as a slave?turned?aide to Mary Todd Lincoln personalizes the stakes of the president's fight to abolish slavery.
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Other Best Supporting Actress Contenders
Samantha Barks, Les Misérables (pictured)
Amy Adams, The Master
Amanda Seyfried, Les Misérables
Maggie Smith, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook
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Best Supporting Actress Long Shots
Emma Watson, The Perks of Being a Wallflower (pictured)
Blythe Danner, Hello I Must Be Going
Rosemarie DeWitt, Your Sister's Sister
Ann Dowd, Compliance
Scarlett Johansson, Hitchcock
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Best Director Frontrunner: Ben Affleck, Argo
Affleck could get a Best Actor nomination, but he's even more likely to be honored for his solid work in the directing category. His third knockout feature proves his filmmaking chops are for real.
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Best Director Frontrunner: Ang Lee, Life of Pi
Three other major directors tried and failed to adapt this ''unfilmable'' novel. The directing community will likely reward Lee for succeeding with their three biggest fears: kids, animals, and water.
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Best Director Frontrunner: Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
His two directing Oscars (Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan) were for historical dramas that held his sentiment in check. Lincoln may be a case of history repeating itself.
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Consider This: Josh Trank, Chronicle
Found footage and superhero are not typical Oscar buzzwords. But this riveting story of power gone awry should change that.
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Other Best Director Contenders
Tom Hooper, Les Misérables (pictured)
Paul Thomas Anderson, The Master
Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild
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Best Director Long Shots
Ava DuVernay, Middle of Nowhere (pictured)
Wes Anderson, Moonrise Kingdom
J.A. Bayona, The Impossible
Ben Lewin, The Sessions
Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained