All of the precursors are in. The Writers' Guild of America, Directors' Guild of America, BAFTAs and Annie Awards are the only ones that have not announced winners. Here is how the race is looking a month away from the Oscars and it is a complicated race. Whereas the last number of years there were very few surprises, this year is almost impossible to predict. Which makes it much more fun.
Best Foreign Film
This one is easy to predict this year. Amour is was nominated here and best picture (and director, actress, screenplay). It should have the same effect as when Up and Toy Story 3 where nominated for animated feature and best picture. However foreign film has often not rewarded the frontrunner (the voting system and body is different in that category). Kon-Tiki is the name I have seen pop up as a potential upset, but put your money on Amour. It will be the film's only win of the night.
Best Animated Feature
There is no good precursor to predict animated feature. Unlike WGA, PGA, DGA and SAG the people voting for the Annies are not many of the same people voting for the Oscars. I would not be surprised it they rewarded Rise of the Guardians, which was snubbed for an Oscar nomination. All of the other precursors have been split pretty evenly among Brave, Wreck-It Ralph, ParaNorman and Frankenweenie. ParaNorman's chance is that Disney is campaigning against itself. It is also notable that all three stop-motion films from 2012 were nominated, which could be a sign in favor of Frankenweenie. I would wager a guess that a sizable amount of voters belong to Pixar due to their many wins and nominations, however that did not help Cars or Cars 2. I really think it comes down to which movie that Disney is pushing the hardest. I want to believe that Wreck-It Ralph will win, but it is a tight race. As for right now I am predicting Wreck-It Ralph, because these are animation professionals voting. However don't be surprised if stop-motion is rewarded or Pixar gets it by default.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Beasts of the Southern Wild was a very welcome nomination, but despite its recognition by the Academy the four surprise nominations are its rewards. Life of Pi most likely won't have enough steam to win in this category, but it has the most to gain from a potential three-way vote split. Lincoln has done the best in the precursors, but the movie is looking less and less like a sure thing. Argo is racing back to the top across the board, but Silver Linings Playbook has remained pretty strong in its position. This is the category that could tell us the winner, between the three. I will rely on my heart and stick with Chris Terrio's Argo, but definitely not a sure thing.
Best Original Screenplay
Flight is won't win. I would say that Moonrise Kingdom has a slight chance, but it doesn't look like Wes Anderson's year. Amour seems to be loved by the Academy this year, maybe this could be its second Oscar but it is a longshot (although certainly a plausible one). Django Unchained and Zero Dark Thirty are certainly the main contenders, but there is a lot working against both. There is controversy surrounding both films which seems to have hurt their chances at winning in other categories. Although Zero Dark Thirty has been spoken against by actors, writers think differently than political celebrities. It is significant that Django was not nominated for a WGA, it is looking like Zero Dark Thirty will win that important precursor. I will go with Zero Dark Thirty for the win at this point (most likely the movie's only Oscar win), but Django will not be far behind.
Best Supporting Actor
This is the toughest one to predict. I would say that Philip Seymour Hoffman is the only one who doesn't have a chance at winning. All of these five have been winning and nominated for precursors pretty evenly. Arkin is certainly a weaker nominee, but if Argo sweeps he could get in. De Niro likewise, it does not seem like it is his year for a third win. However with Streep last year and most likely Day-Lewis this year it is not out of the question. Waltz was the most popular part of his film, but he won his first Oscar only a couple of years ago. Jones on the other hand won back in 1993, and just won the SAG. However the Oscars and SAG rarely match with each other completely (2004, 2009, 2010 were recent exceptions). If there is a discrepancy, it would be in this category. I am predicting Jones with much hesitation, don't bet much money on this category if you are betting.
Best Supporting Actress
The only things standing in Anne Hathaway's way are Sally Field and Amy Adams. Adams is on her fourth nomination, career wise she should be due for a win. And Field is an industry legend returning for the first time to the big screen in a decade. Despite the strength of these two performers Anne Hathaway is one of the few sure things in the Oscar race this year. There is a very slight chance for an upset, but Hathaway is going to win.
Part of still thinks, Daniel Day-Lewis will not get a third Oscar so soon after his second. It took the much more prolific Streep and Nicholson decades to accomplish that feat. But he keeps winning everything, this is a train that can't be stopped. There is still a slight chance for the others. Jackman is a previous host, incredibly likable and well-liked, he is still a longshot. Phoenix received a nomination against incredible odds and his performance has ardent supporters. The main threat to Day-Lewis though is Bradley Cooper who's movie is gaining momentum and is fresh in people's minds. This is the kind of race where Harvey Weinstein steps in and works some last minute magic. Unless Weinstein is pushing Phoenix harder (which would not the smartest move), Cooper very well could benefit from Harvey's campaigning. I am still going with Day-Lewis, but Cooper is an interesting potential upset.
Riva and Wallis get to share a piece of Oscar trivia as the oldest and youngest nominees in history, but that is the furthest they go. This race has been between Chastain and Lawrence for a long time. Lawrence is still very young for a win. People seemed to have reacted to her Golden Globe acceptance speech poorly (although not her uncomfortably unfunny SNL monologue). But she did just win the SAG over Chastain. Zero Dark Thirty's chances for Oscars are hurt by the actor's branch. Despite being the older of the two there are many that may not vote for her. If there is a vote split it will be in this category, I assume that Watts being the most well known nominee would have the most to gain. But I am predicting Lawrence to win. Her film managed the rare four category nominations, it needs to win in one.
I really need to see who the DGA awards before I can really make an accurate predictions (I wouldn't doubt that they award the snubbed Affleck). Haneke and Zeitlin were huge upset nominations that won't have the strength to pull off a win. Haneke being a veteran over novice Zeitlin has the edge though. The race is between Russell, Lee and Spielberg. It is significant that DGA nominated Hooper, Bigelow and Affleck over Russell. Lee only has one win while Spielberg has two. If Life of Pi wins a major award it very well could be here. It looks like there will be a vote split between picture and director this year. All of these directors are well liked and respected in the industry but none of them are popular as directors this year. I am going to go with the Weinstein factor and predict David O. Russell for a first Oscar nomination. He is still remembered for his conflicts on earlier films, but people have seemed to have gotten over them. Would not count out Spielberg and Lee, but Russell has the slight edge that they don't.
Les Miserables did not land with Academy voters. Beasts of the Southern Wild and Amour won't get further than a nomination. The controversy surrounding Django Unchained and especially Zero Dark Thirty will keep them from being contenders as winners. Life of Pi is waiting to potentially clean up if there is a major vote split or sudden shift in favor, however without any acting nominations it will remain a best picture nominee. Lincoln and Silver Linings Playbook are the only two that have the necessary picture, director, acting, writing and editing nominations that every Oscar winner since 1989 has had. Lincoln certainly has the prestige, but Silver Linings has the feel good factor that the academy has favored in recent years. Silver Linings is also backed by Harvey Weinstein who managed to bet a Spielberg favorite for picture in 1998. However Argo currently has the momentum. Despite lacking the crucial directing nomination Affleck's snub could easily be explained as missing by a margin. I am predicting Argo to do the impossible and win best picture of 2012.