With awards season getting into full swing and early precursor winners and nominees being announced every couple of hours, many of the major Oscar races are starting to take shape. The Golden Globes, Critics' Choice and SAG nominations have also been handed out, which helps paint a clearer picture of who to expect in the acting categories. The Directors Guild of America (DGA) won't announce their nominees until Tuesday January 8th, therefore, my confidence in the Best Director category remains limited. Here's how the six major races appear to shaping up:
Zero Dark Thirty claims the lead in the Best Picture race with only Lincoln and Les Miserables as potential spoilers. Since Zero Dark Thirty and Les Miserables are still awaiting nationwide releases, this mess could remain up in the air until late January. However, all three of these movies are as close to stone-cold-locks as you can have and each of them should find their way to a nomination.
Other expected nominees: Silver Linings Playbook, Argo and Life of Pi.
Long-shot nominees: The Master, Moonrise Kingdom, Beasts of the Southern Wild and Amour.
In 2010 director Kathryn Bigelow rode a tidal wave of acclaim en route to Best Picture and Best Director victories for her film The Hurt Locker. The honor made her the first female to ever win an Academy Award for Best Director. All early indicators point to her as a strong candidate to repeat her 2010 success for 2012's Zero Dark Thirty. Bigelow finds staunch competition from fellow directors Steven Spielberg (Lincoln) and Ben Affleck (Argo), both of whom should find their way into the final five.
Other expected nominees: At this juncture, you can expect to see Tom Hooper (Les Miserables) and Ang Lee (Life of Pi) closing out the group of nominees.
Long-shot nominees: Even though the odds are clearly against them at this point, it's still too early to count out David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook) and Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master).
Perhaps the safest bet of any resides in the Best Actor race where Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln) has all but given his award-winning speech. In fact, I wouldn't call anyone else in the crowded group a "safe" nominee. Hence, only the biggest of upsets would change this otherwise universally accepted Oscar race.
Other expected nominees: While there's no other "sure-thing" nominees in the collection of actors, I think we'll see John Hawkes (The Sessions) in the final five alongside Daniel Day-Lewis.
Long-shot nominees: I would refrain from calling these men "long-shots", it's more so a crowded six man showdown in the Best Actor category. Therefore, any combination of Joaquin Phoenix (The Master), Denzel Washington (Flight), Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook) and Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables) should be expected.
The Best Actress race has dwindled down to a head to head match-up between Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) and Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty). Since I am still yet to see the latter film, I am going to default to Lawrence who gave the most notable performance in her entire star-studded feature.
Other expected nominees: At this stage of the game, it's fair to expect the often-snubbed Naomi Watts (The Impossible) and Oscar winner Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone) in the final mix as well.
Long-shot nominees: The fifth nominee should come from the collection of Emmanuelle Riva (Amour), Helen Mirren (Hitchcock) and Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild), with the other two being left out.
Best Supporting Actor
Much like the Best Actress race, Best Supporting Actor has turned into a two man slug-fest between Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln) and Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master). I am forced to give the slight advantage to Tommy Lee Jones based on the outspoken love for Spielberg's film and the fact that any glory for Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master seems to be fading away ... and quickly.
Other expected nominees: Despite Robert De Niro's (Silver Linings Playbook) exclusion from the Golden Globes, I still expect him and Alan Arkin (Argo) to land two of the three remaining nominations.
Long-shot nominees: The Globes showed an outpouring of support for Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained, but it remains to be seen if voters end up splitting between Leonardo DiCaprio and Christoph Waltz. This means a dark horse contender like Matthew McConaughey (Magic Mike) could be a potential spoiler and benefactor from any split voters.
Best Supporting Actress
Much like Daniel Day-Lewis in the Best Actor category, Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables) feels like a mortal lock to win this race. Clearly a step down but still expected nominees, Sally Field (Lincoln) and Helen Hunt (The Sessions) are as safe a bet as any to make the final cut. While I was shocked by Amy Adams (The Master) getting the SAG subbing, I'd still bet on her being the fourth nominee.
Other expected nominees: Nicole Kidman (The Paperboy) came out of left field and was catapulted into the race after major precursor nominations from both the SAG and Golden Globes. Therefore, she has to be the frontrunner for that highly coveted fifth and final spot.
Long-shot nominees: Far from safe, both Kidman and Adams should be concerned about some possible spoilers. The most likely candidates to up and steal either of their nominations would have be the beloved SAG Nominee Maggie Smith (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) or Ann Dowd (Compliance).