If there's one film that's drawn the most critical focus since the Oscar nominees were announced, it's "Argo." First, Ben Affleck was snubbed in the director competition, though he went on to claim the Golden Globe and BAFTA honors. The film itself, expected early on to lose to "Lincoln," then emerged as a real best-picture possibility.
Even since he was nominated, Daniel Day-Lewis has been considered by many to be a lock to take home the best actor Oscar for his lead role in "Lincoln." He's claimed the best actor honor twice before, and a third win will cement him in many critics' minds as the best actor of his generation, a sort of male Meryl Streep.
Singer Adele's torchy, compelling "Skyfall," the theme to the James Bond film of the same name, is very likely to give the singer another trophy to sit beside the Golden Globe she won for the tune.
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"Silver Linings Playbook" wasn't a box-office bonanza, but it's made a name for itself since it scored so high with Oscar nominations. The film is up for best picture, director, and for each of the four acting categories. Bradley Cooper's performance as a bipolar man isn't expected to beat out Daniel Day-Lewis as "Lincoln," but Jennifer Lawrence has a good shot in the best actress category.
How fortunes do fall over the length of a month or so! Jessica Chastain, who plays CIA agent Maya in "Zero Dark Thirty," was an early favorite to win best actress. But a sudden rise in Jennifer Lawrence's fortune and a last-minute surge for 85-year-old Emmanuelle RIva from "Amour" have some questioning Chastain's chances.
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The director nominations were controversial not for who made the cut, but for who did not -- especially Ben Affleck of "Argo" and Kathryn Bigelow of "Zero Dark Thirty." With them not on the list, Steven Spielberg is favored to win for "Lincoln," but watch out for Ang Lee of "Life of Pi."
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Can an 85-year-old French actress knock down four much younger Hollywood starlets? Emmanuelle Riva, who stars in "Amour," is suddenly emerging as a contender in the best actress category, if you believe Oscar pundits. If she wins, she'd be the oldest best actress winner ever.
She dreamed a dream, and it might just come true. Anne Hathaway is considered by many to be one of the safest Oscar bets you can place. Her role as Fantine, the devoted mother driven to prostitution by poverty in "Les Miserables," is widely acclaimed. She's already taken home the Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild award, and BAFTA award in the best supporting actress categories.
"The Impossible" was a real tear-jerker, focusing on a family's struggle to survive a tsunami. Naomi Watts' performance as the family matriarch touched many, but she's not expected to claim the Oscar for best actress against such tough competition.
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"The Master" is another Oscar-nominated film that wasn't widely seen, but won critical acclaim. It also made headlines for seeming to be inspired by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the leader of a religious movement called "The Cause," and Joaquin Phoenix plays the war vet who meets him and begins to help spread his message. Phoenix, Hoffman, and co-star Amy Adams are all nominated, though of the three, Hoffman probably has the best shot.
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"Wreck-It Ralph," which takes place inside the world of arcade video games, is probably the favorite to win the best animated film honor. But don't rule out "Brave," since anything from Disney's Pixar is automatically on a different plane than most movies meant for kids.
Those who loved "Les Miserables" on Broadway adored the film in theaters. Hugh Jackman, seen here, is up for best actor, but he's unlikely to beat Daniel Day-Lewis as "Lincoln." His co-star, Anne Hathaway, is likely a shoo-in as best supporting actor. One of the film's songs, "Suddenly," the only one written just for the movie, is up for best original song, but is not expected to best "Skyfall."
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Quvenzhané Wallis was just 5 when she was cast in her starring role in "Beasts of the Southern Wild." She received a best actress nomination, and the film was nominated for best picture. She's not expected to win, but should she pull it off, she will be the youngest ever, at 9, to take home the award.
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"Zero Dark Thirty" proved controversial with its depiction of torture as a part of the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Some feel that issue will keep it from competing with "Argo" and "Lincoln" as a reat best-picture contender, despite its heart-pounding drama.
20th Century Fox
Suraj Sharma stars in "Life of Pi," based on Yann Martel's bestselling book. The film received 11 nominations, including best picture and director, but is unlikely to take home any major Oscars.
Can Alan Arkin ride the "Argo" wave to a best supporting actor win? He's nominated, but that race is a tough one to call, despite the film's surge in popularity, thanks in part to director Ben Affleck's snub.
They like her, they really like her! Sally Field received a best supporting actress nomination for playing troubled First Lady, Mary Todd Lincoln, in "Lincoln." But it's unlikely she'll get to make another quotable speech, as Anne Hathaway is considered all but a lock to win the Oscar for "Les Miserables."