Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
Denzel Washington, Flight
Should win: There are some great performances in this group. Bradley Cooper does the impossible of making his grating personality actually sympathetic in Silver Linings. Hugh Jackman sings! Joaquin Phoenix holds a film with a totally original character in The Master. And Denzel is entirely believable as ever playing an alcoholic pilot in Flight. But one performance just so completely inhabits the character that it is impossible to ignore. No one has taken on a feature length portrayal of America's most titanic and mysterious president on the big screen in 70 years, and the reason is clear. Stepping into a statue is generally death for most performers. But Daniel Day-Lewis becomes the part so completely, that you push all the statuary out of your mind and while you are watching the film, you are with a real, tormented and troubled man thrust into great times.
Will win: There are lots of reasons why in theory DDL could lose: he's won too many times already (two Best Actor trophies sit on his mantle); Oscar is moving away from stuffy historical pieces and favoring, hipper, younger sorts roles of late; Jackman sings — and he's a former Oscar host; it's their chance to acknowledge The Master. But all of these could be's will come to naught on Sunday night. It's Daniel Day-Lewis.
Best Production Design
Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer Anna Karenina
Dan Hennah,Ra Vincent, Simon Bright The Hobbit
Eve Stewart, Anna Lynch-Robinson Les Misérables
David Gropman, Anna Pinnock Life of Pi
Rick Carter, Jim Erickson Lincoln
Should win: There are beautiful sets and costumes galore in this field. But the design for Anna Karenina, built around the conceit that the entire film was taking place on a stage which somehow became Tsarist Russia, was so imaginative and creative, it literally stole the scenes.
Will win: Between Anna, Les Misérables, and Life of Pi, you have three films built around dazzling productions, and thus a very tight three-way race for the top without much clear precedent to show it breaking towards any one of these films. That said, Anna is the peacock of the bunch, wearing its colors on its sleeves, showing off the production designer's craft and in the end, the one likeliest to walk away with it all.