I'll Take One Stab at This
Also, read this, which is lovely, funny, and beautifully thought-out, and way more valuable than what I'm doing here.
PICTURE: The Artist, The Descendants, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, War Horse
Anything Else to Consider? Bridesmaids, because people genuinely love it and it might have helped green-light some more projects, and A Separation, if it pulls off the kind of below-the-radar City of God surge of which it seems capable (though of course I still doubt this, especially up top)
DIRECTOR: Michel Hazanavicius, Terrence Malick, Bennett Miller, Alexander Payne, Martin Scorsese
Anything Else to Consider? I'm wondering if emeritus contenders Woody Allen or Steven Spielberg can elbow one of these guys aside, but otherwise, I think that's your roster. Again, maybe Asghar Farhadi if Separation is getting out to more people than we realize.
ACTRESS: Glenn Close, Viola Davis, Rooney Mara, Meryl Streep, Michelle Williams
Anything Else to Consider? I think Tilda's going to lose her standard spot in the precursors to the same things that brought down Angelina Jolie for A Mighty Heart: film's too small, and it's not a screener a lot of folks are just dying to pop in. If there's a seventh factor, I guess it's Charlize Theron, but I really don't think so.
ACTOR: George Clooney, Jean Dujardin, Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Michael Shannon
Anything Else to Consider? Unlike Kevin, I think Take Shelter will draw eyeballs; everything from Chastain Curiosity to Boardwalk Empire to a full year of strong reviews will help. Leonardo DiCaprio, Demián Bichir, Gary Oldman, Ryan Gosling (for Drive), and even Woody Harrelson are all possible threats, in about that order. Crowded race.
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Bérénice Bejo, Melissa McCarthy, Janet McTeer, Octavia Spencer, Shailene Woodley
Anything Else to Consider? Can you survive vote-splitting with your own projects and vote-splitting with your scene partner? I'd like to see Chastain here, but since someone has to go, I'm guessing it's her. Redgrave's Volumnia still gnashing her war-monger's teeth in the corner, where she's been most of the season.
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Kenneth Branagh, Albert Brooks, Jonah Hill, Brad Pitt, Christopher Plummer
Anything Else to Consider? The longest list of possibilities, to include Max von Sydow, Viggo Mortensen, Nick Nolte, Ben Kingsley, Patton Oswalt, Andy Serkis, and Armie Hammer. Yet Plummer remains, for me, the most heavily fore-ordained winner of the night. Exciting that all five of the other races seem genuinely open as of Christmas!
(Again, one update and additional categories to follow in January)