What will win: The Artist
The combination of a cute dog, Harvey Weinstein and absolutely no contemporary resonances whatsoever conspire to make this the most inevitable winner since last year's cute Brit/Harvey Weinstein/absolutely no contemporary resonances whatsoever triple threat The King's Speech.
What should win: The Tree Of Life
Because none of the other nominees could match its visionary ambition while so demanding a second viewing. If only to work out what Sean Penn was doing leading that hug-a-thon.
Critical oversight: Margaret
Two recent films dealt with young people processing grief in post-9/11 New York. One, Extremely Icky and Incredibly Blah, was nommed despite stinking reviews. The other, this drama from playwright Kenneth Lonergan, was startling, intelligent, featured no U2 ballads in the trailer, and trickled into 0.2 cinemas. Go figure.
Who will win: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
This one looks like a straight scrap between two directors of lavishly sentimented industry love letters, Hazanavicius and Hugo's Martin Scorsese. The former should edge it, if only because trying to differentiate between the best film and the best-directed film is a conundrum too far for the majority of Academy voters.
Who should win: Terrence Malick, The Tree Of Life
He hasn't been seen since the 1970s. He refuses to submit to the indignities of hacks' inane questioning. He would rather cut to random shots of flora and fauna than flatter star egos. He has irritated Sean Penn. Need any more be said?
Critical oversight: Lars Von Trier, Melancholia
Because when the end of the world hits, we want it to be saturated in slo-mo, dripping in gorgeous tableaux and lovingly tossed with gobbets of Wagner.
Who will win: George Clooney, The Descendants
Because here is a prize-winning example of a Hollywood hero being JHE, aka Just Human Enough. Thus the fact that George is carrying a few extra pounds and waddles very fast in flip-flops only compounds his preternatural charm.
Who should win: Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
His tobacco-stained torpor as George Smiley left us so thoroughly drained, we needed to watch three hours of Masterchef just to raise the pulse again. And that is a great thing. We think.
Critical oversight: Ryan Gosling, Everything
When film historians look back at 2011/2012, will they remember Clooney and Pitt in stolidly sentimental fare such as The Descendants and Moneyball? Or rather the anointing of a new screen god combining the existential machismo of Steve McQueen with the officially verified cuteness of a puppy? That was rhetorical, of course.
Who will win: Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Much as we rate bookies' favourite Davis, the weight of Streep's unrewarded nominations – 12 since her last win – are likely to push her over the line. And, really, if she doesn't win, who knows what divisive British figure she will give a revisionist Meryl-over to next – Liz Jones?
Who should win: Rooney Mara, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Because it is quite something for a Hollywood starlet to nail an iconic role while retaining some mystique against an unassailable wave of "Bright Young Thing" features.
Critical oversight: Tilda Swinton, We Need To Talk About Kevin
You give her the gong for Meh-chael Clayton, but not even a moment of envelope-opening anticipation for this exquisite study in parental exasperation? Excuse us while we take her character's lead and calm ourselves with the sounds of a pneumatic drill.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Who will win: Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Because a) he, alongside Max Von Sydow, is one of two Hollywood legends in a category where legendariness is all; and b) as Ewan McGregor's gay dad, his is a stirring tale of triumph over the odds in retaining his humanity amid a welter of indie-schmindie affectation.
Who should win: Jonah Hill, Moneyball
All props to Hill for being the quiet heart of a rare sports film that doesn't leave non-sporting types flailing amid chest-bumping bravado. Plus the hitertho buffoon type proves his dramatic chops with a quite astonishing repertoire of blinks.
Critical oversight: Ezra Miller, We Need To Talk About Kevin
The most skin-crawling portrayal of demonically self-absorbed adolescence this side of Hollyoaks, and one which caused Lionel Shriver herself to address Miller with the words "You little shit". Which is good enough for us.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Who will win: Octavia Spencer, The Help
As eye-rolling housemaid Minny, Spencer's eminently cheerable performance is the thing that both awards seasons and dank Sunday afternoons were made for. Plus – spoiler alert – she restores the humble pie to its place in the comedy prop pantheon.
Who should win: Octavia Spencer/Jessica Chastain, The Help
Because their double act single-handedly stops The Help from dissolving into a puddle of good intentions and bad florals. And it would be churlish not to reward Chastain in a year when cineastes will have seen her more often than their mum (Coriolanus, The Tree of Life etc).
Critical oversight: Kathy burke, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Remember when Judi won for her six-minute Shakespeare in Love turn? Well, Burke serves up a similar exocet of a cameo here, her boozed-up, "under-fucked" MI6-er Connie a paisley swirl amid a sea of blokey beigeness.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
What will win: Midnight In Paris
Because there hasn't been this great a Woody Allen comeback since the last one. And it's quite something to take some of the 20th century's most tortured creative pioneers and make them as lovably LOLsome as the cast of 'Allo 'Allo.
What should win: Margin Call
Do you vaguely remember those blogs about whether cinema could adequately address the financial crisis? Well, this Wall Street drama did it, somewhat counter-intuitively, by putting some good actors in a room with some great dialogue. And portraying bankers as snivelling sociopaths, natch.
Critical oversight: Weekend
This superlative Brit drama about two men's two-night stand boasts the kind of artfully artless script that inspires you to turn down your iPod on the nightbus and listen to that couple discussing their mutual love of Fraggle Rock. And then wish you hadn't.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
What will win: The Descendants
That this is one of Alexander Payne's least good films is less important than the fact that a drama which starts with a family torn asunder ends with a scene of ice-cream-eating togetherness, proving that this famously astringent director can do vanilla-scoop schmaltz as readily as the next Oscar-baiter.
What should win: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
We're struggling slightly with this category, just as we did with watching Tinker Tailor itself, but we have to plump for it purely for its stonking decision to adapt a dizzyingly complex book with more concern for wallpaper than plot exposition.
Critical oversight: We Need To Talk About Kevin
I mean, we do hate to bang on and everything, but we're still getting over those masticating noises...
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