Viola Davis, Jean Dujardin
Fun fact: No movie about movie-making has won Best Picture at the Oscars. Will The Artist break that tradition at the 84th Academy Awards? We'll have to wait until Sunday (8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT, ABC) to find out, but in the meantime, let's make some predictions. Check out the nominees here, print out your ballot, make your picks and compare them to ours below.
Hugo, The Artist lead Oscar nominations
Who will win: The Artist
Done deal. After sweeping almost every major precursor, the black-and-white valentine to the silent film era is poised to become the first silent film to win Best Picture since Wings triumphed at the first Academy Awards in 1929. Stylish, warm and a feel-good delight, it's executed so skillfully that you forget there is no dialogue. Plus, it has the best secret weapon of all: Uggie.
Watch out for: The Descendants
Alexander Payne's tale of human imperfection, which took home the Golden Globe for Best Picture on the drama side, picked up some last-minute steam with some industry trophies over the weekend, including the Writers Guild Award. But it's probably too little too late.
Did you know? The Artist, which has 10 nominations (Hugo leads with 11), would be the first entirely black-and-white film to win Best Picture since 1960's The Apartment. Schindler's List, which won 18 years ago, was not completely in black and white.
Who will win: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
He's the only first-time nominee in the group, but the Frenchman, who's also nominated for Best Original Screenplay and Best Editing, ought to cruise to an easy victory here. Regardless of whether The Artist is your cup of tea, you can't deny that it's an enormous gamble that could've come off as a disingenuous gimmick. Hazanavicius pays homage to Hollywood's past while also imbuing the film with his own artistic vision. He's claimed nearly every big precursor so far, including the most reliable predictor, the Directors Guild Award, which has mismatched with the Oscars only six times since its inception in 1949.
Watch out for: Martin Scorsese, Hugo
One of Hazavanicius' few losses came at the hands of Scorsese at the Globes, which isn't that huge of a shock since the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is big on the star factor. Had Scorsese, nominated for his own love letter to movie-making, not finally won his first Oscar five years ago for The Departed, he might stand at a better chance for an upset.
Did you know? In Oscars' 83-year history, there's been a Best Picture and Best Director split 21 times, most recently six years ago when Crash won the top prize, while Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain) claimed the latter.
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Who will win: Jean Dujardin, The Artist
For a while, this seemed to be a race between best buds George Clooney (The Descendants) and Brad Pitt (Moneyball) until Dujardin shifted into pole position with his mild Screen Actors Guild Award upset. (The SAGs are voted by actors, who represent the largest voting bloc in the academy.) Dujardin, who also snagged the comedy Globe and the BAFTA, is peaking at the right time, charming the pants off everyone with his talk show appearances and Funny or Die video, and you can make the argument that his role is the most difficult. With no dialogue, he carries The Artist and captivates as George Valentin, making the 1920s star a fully realized character with solely his facial expressions and body movement that put scenery-chewing performances to shame.
Watch out for: George Clooney, The Descendants
The academy loves Clooney — nominating him, at least. He scored two nods this year (he's also up in Best Adapted Screenplay for The Ides of March) for a total of seven in six years, with one win (Best Supporting Actor for 2005's Syriana). His subtle, nuanced performance is worthy of a second statuette, but this narrative sounds a little familiar. Two years ago, Clooney seemed primed to win for Up in the Air early in the season, but he was eventually overtaken by someone with more momentum: an overdue Jeff Bridges. But at the rate he's racking up these nominations, a second win can't be that far off, right?
Did you know? Jane Wyman was the first person to win an Oscar for a silent performance in the sound era for 1948's Johnny Belinda.
Who will win: Viola Davis, The Help
Davis' poignant, sympathetic turn as a put-upon maid tugs at your heart long after the credits roll. Performance aside, if you saw the overwhelming crowd — aka her peers — reaction to her SAG victory last month, you can clearly see that they all want this for her. Even Meryl Streep wants it for her, espousing plaudits on her Doubt co-star and pal almost every chance she gets. Davis, who was nominated in the supporting category for 2008's Doubt, is a respected, longtime character actress who's getting her day in the sun. And with a film about racial inequality, there would be history tied to a Davis win: Only the second black actress to receive multiple Oscar nominations (Whoopi Goldberg being the other), she would also be only the second to win Best Actress — 10 years after Halle Berry became the first.
Watch out for: Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
The 17-time nominee and two-time champ is still seeking her third trophy, and this is her best chance to add to her collection in nearly 10 years. Streep's technically proficient transformation into Margaret Thatcher — spanning decades — is the stuff of which Oscars are made and reinforces the theory that there is nothing she can't do. She's already picked up the Globe and (predictably) the BAFTA, and with producer/awards shark Harvey Weinstein in her corner this year, her campaign has ratcheted up too.
Did you know? If Streep wins, her 29-year drought between victories would be the third longest, behind Helen Hayes (39 years) and Katharine Hepburn (34 years).
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Who will win: Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Heartbreakingly funny, sad and moving, Plummer gives a career-best performance as a late-blooming gay man. His name has been engraved on the trophy for months, and a win would also recognize Plummer's six-decade film career, which was overlooked by the Oscars until his first nomination two years ago for The Last Station. At 82, Plummer would be the oldest acting Oscar winner ever, dethroning Jessica Tandy, who was 80 when she struck gold for Driving Miss Daisy.
Watch out for: Max Von Sydow, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Von Sydow, who was previously nominated 23 years ago for Pelle the Conqueror, has been untested against Plummer on the bigger awards stages, but he should not be underestimated. Armed with a stirring, first-class mute performance, Von Sydow also has the benefit of being in a Best Picture-nominated film. Both his and the film's nods were somewhat surprising, which indicate strong support within the academy. Von Sydow is also 82 (he's eight months older than Plummer), so he would become the oldest acting winner as well.
Did you know? Plummer and Von Sydow are the oldest nominees on the male side, but they still trail the oldest performer ever to be nominated, Titanic's Gloria Stuart, who was 87.
Who will win: Octavia Spencer, The Help
Spencer has dominated all awards season and has shown no signs of vulnerability. Her feisty Minny has you reaching for the Kleenex and doubling over with laughter, and it is truly a breakthrough performance for the 41-year-old, whose long, hard-working years in the biz have earned her a lot of goodwill and admiration — let alone pals. (Remember her date to the SAGs?)
Watch out for: Berenice Bejo, The Artist
If voters are really gaga for The Artist, Bejo — and her radiant and peppy overnight sensation Peppy — could ride the momentum to a win. Helping her cause: Bejo, who's married to Hazanavicius, is arguably a lead in the film, and extra screen time is never a bad thing.
Did you know? If Davis and Spencer win, it would be the first time in 13 years that one film has won both actress awards. The sweep has occurred 10 times: Jezebel, Gone with the Wind, Mrs. Miniver, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Miracle Worker, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Network, Moonstruck, The Piano and Shakespeare in Love.
Who do you think will win?