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The Tree of Life

Oscar predictions 2012

We pick the winners, the spoilers and our favorites among this year’s nominees.

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Oscar speculation is reaching a fever pitch that won’t ebb until the ceremony on February 26. We offer breakdowns of the major races and suggest ways a ratings-starved Academy could turn each award into a headline-grabbing TV moment.

Best Supporting Actress
Will win
With her revenge-by-shit-pie triumph, Octavia Spencer’s Minny embodies the spirit of The Help: racial injustice conquered through you-go-girl tenacity. The Golden Globe and SAG winner is basically a lock.
Could win
If Spencer splits the vote with ubiquitous costar Jessica Chastain, any of their competitors might swoop in.
Should win
Though her gender masquerade is only slightly more convincing than Glenn Close’s, Janet McTeer handily steals Albert Nobbs.
Great TV moment in the making
A win for Melissa McCarthy would be a consolation prize for Bridesmaids.

Best Supporting Actor
Will win
Christopher Plummer has won every major precursor award for his performance as an out-and-proud father battling cancer in Beginners.
Could win
Kenneth Branagh playing Laurence Olivier is the kind of stunt the Academy usually goes nuts over.
Should win
Nick Nolte is heartbreaking in Warrior, but Plummer deserves this one.
Great TV moment in the making
If host Billy Crystal fails to bring the funny, an acceptance speech from Moneyball’s Jonah Hill could supply emergency comic relief.

Best Actress
Will win
The Help’s Viola Davis recently won the SAG Award, cementing her front-runner status.
Could win
Despite a record 17 nominations, Meryl Streep hasn’t won since 1983. It’s possible her Thatcher impersonation in The Iron Lady will end the dry spell.
Should win
Rooney Mara’s turn as avenging angel/hacker/punk-rock icon Lisbeth Salander was the year’s fiercest, most weirdly touching transformation.
Great TV moment in the making
Michelle Williams takes the stage and tearfully dedicates her Oscar to Marilyn Monroe, giving future ceremonies go-to clip-reel fodder.

Best Actor
Will win
In the night’s toughest call, something tells us Descendants star George Clooney will narrowly edge The Artist’s Jean Dujardin and Moneyball’s Brad Pitt.
Could win
Dujardin took the SAG. Also, he’s the heart and soul of presumptive Best Picture champ The Artist—unless you count that damn dog.
Should win
Pitt’s aging-movie-star charisma is perfectly suited to a comeback story like Moneyball.
Great TV moment in the making
Dujardin brings Uggie onstage for some live antics. Is it too late to change our prediction?

Best Director
Will win
Pitted against several legends, DGA winner Michel Hazanavicius seems poised to get swept up with The Artist’s streak.
Could win
If anyone’s going to topple the Frenchman, it’ll be fellow silent-film lover Martin Scorsese for Hugo.
Should win
Terrence Malick’s marriage of the intimate and the cosmic made The Tree of Life one of 2011’s boldest achievements.
Great TV moment in the making
Woody Allen has attended the Oscars only once. Malick never has. Either showing up would be a coup.

Best Picture
Will win
Perhaps you’ve heard of this little movie called The Artist?
Could win
The Help picked up three SAG awards, including Best Ensemble. The last two films to do that—Chicago and American Beauty—won Best Picture.
Should win
Only The Tree of Life feels like the kind of movie people will be talking about for decades to come.
Great TV moment in the making
Bridesmaids wins on write-ins. America goes to bed happy.

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