Skip to main content

The Oscar statuette

Albert Watson/Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

The first Oscars, back in 1929, were the easiest to predict – the results were announced to the press three months before the awards dinner. Then, as with this year, the leading contender was a silent movie. Otherwise, things are more complicated.

When this year's Oscar nominations are announced Tuesday at 5:30 a.m. PT (8:30 a.m. ET) by actress Jennifer Lawrence and Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Tom Sherak, there will be a fresh smudge on the crystal ball because of changes the academy made last year in its nominating procedure. After bumping up the number of best-picture nominations two years ago, there will be anywhere from five to 10 nominees to consider this time around.

Every nominated film must receive at least 5 per cent first-place votes on the ballot from almost 6,000 academy members. According to AMPAS, if this system had been in effect from 2001 to 2008 (before the expansion to a slate of 10 films in 2009) there would have been years that yielded five, six, seven, eight or nine nominees.

Story continues below advertisement

For convenience, let's break down this year's predictions to "safe bets," "contenders" and "potential spoilers" in categories in which the choices remain open.


Safe bets: The Artist, The Descendants, The Help, Hugo and Midnight in Paris


If there are six films: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

If there are seven: Moneyball

If there are eight: War Horse

Story continues below advertisement

If there are nine: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Tree of Life

Potential spoilers: Bridesmaids, The Ides of March and Drive


Safe bets: Michel Hazanavicius ( The Artist), Alexander Payne ( The Descendants) and Martin Scorsese ( Hugo)

Contenders: Woody Allen ( Midnight in Paris) and Terrence Malick ( The Tree of Life)

Potential spoilers: Steven Spielberg ( War Horse) and David Fincher ( The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

Story continues below advertisement


Safe bets: George Clooney ( The Descendants), Jean Dujardin ( The Artist) and Brad Pitt ( Moneyball)

Contenders: Leonardo DiCaprio ( J. Edgar), Michael Shannon ( Take Shelter) and Gary Oldman ( Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)

Potential spoiler: Demian Bichir ( A Better Life)


Safe bets: Viola Davis ( The Help), Meryl Streep ( The Iron Lady) and Michelle Williams ( My Week with Marilyn)

Contenders: Glenn Close ( Albert Nobbs), Rooney Mara ( The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and Tilda Swinton ( We Need to Talk About Kevin)

Potential spoiler: Elizabeth Olsen ( Martha Marcy May Marlene)


Safe bets: Christopher Plummer ( Beginners), Jonah Hill ( Moneyball) and Kenneth Branagh ( My Week with Marilyn)

Contenders: Albert Brooks ( Drive), Patton Oswalt ( Young Adult) and Nick Nolte ( Warrior)

Potential spoilers: Armie Hammer ( J. Edgar), Viggo Mortensen ( A Dangerous Method) and Brad Pitt ( The Tree of Life)


Safe bets: Bérénice Bejo ( The Artist), Jessica Chastain ( The Help), Melissa McCarthy ( Bridesmaids), Jane McTeer ( Albert Nobbs) and Octavia Spencer ( The Help)

Potential spoilers: Shailene Woodley ( The Descendants), Jessica Chastain ( The Tree of Life) and Vanessa Redgrave ( Coriolanus)


Safe bets: Woody Allen ( Midnight in Paris), Asghar Farhadi ( A Separation), Michael Hazanavicius ( The Artist), Will Reiser ( 50/50), and Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumulo ( Bridesmaids)

Contenders: John Logan ( Rango) and Mike Mills ( Beginners)

Potential spoilers: Sean Durkin ( Martha Marcy May Marlene), Jeff Nichols ( Take Shelter) and Diablo Cody ( Young Adult)


Safe bets: Nat Faxon, Alexander Payne and Jim Rash ( The Descendants), and Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian ( Moneyball)

Contenders: George Clooney and Grant Heslov ( The Ides of March), Christopher Hampton ( A Dangerous Method), John Logan ( Hugo), Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan ( Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Tate Taylor ( The Help) and Steven Zaillian ( The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

Potential spoiler: Eric Roth ( Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)


Safe bet: A Separation (Iran)

Contenders: Footnote (Israel), In Darkness (Poland), Monsieur Lazhar (Canada) and Pina (Germany)

Potential spoilers: Bullhead (Belgium) and Warriors of the Rainbow (Taiwan)


Safe bets: Bill Cunningham New York, Buck, Pina, Project Nim and We Were Here

Contenders: Sing Your Song and Undefeated

Potential spoiler: The Loving Story


Safe bets: Cars 2, Kung Fu Panda 2, Puss in Boots, Rango and The Adventures of Tintin

Contenders: Rio and Winnie the Pooh

Potential spoilers: Arthur Christmas and Chico & Rita

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Author
Film critic

Liam Lacey is a film critic for The Globe and Mail. More

Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the newsletter at

You can unsubscribe from this newsletter or Globe promotions at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of the newsletter, or by emailing us at