With last night's SAG awards out of the way, the Oscar race is finally becoming a little clearer. After months and months of uncertainty, clear frontrunners are emerging, and the race is really taking shape. That said, there's still room for a few surprises on Oscar night, which is always welcome. Which is even more impressive now that Hollywood's three big guilds have handed out their awards for 2011. No matter how many critics prizes a film takes, in the end its industry support that matters. Look no further than The Social Network/The King's Speech for a classic example of a critical favorite eventually trumped by a film that hit it off big time with the industry. And in a year where so much is uncertain, we can at least try to speculate where AMPAS' votes will go, though unlike last year nothing is quite set in stone.
Frontrunner: The Artist
The Help may have picked up the SAG's top prize, but that's for ensemble, not picture (though SAG sometimes votes as if it is). Both the PGA and the DGA have gone to The Artist, which has emerged from the field of 9 contenders as the one with the best chance. The Descendants, Hugo, The Help, and even The Tree of Life all have their ardent supporters, but ultimately, this is The Artist's to lose.
Frontrunner: Michel Hazanvicius - The Artist
The film certainly stands out among the crowd as a modern-day silent, and seeing as AMPAS generally tends to lump picture and director together, expect Hazanvicius to be swept along with his film.
Frontrunner: George Clooney - The Descendants
Though his loss last night to Dujardin was a blow to his momentum, Clooney remains the logical pick for the win, even though Dujardin is rapidly closing in on his lead. Clearly the actors love him, and the industry seems to love The Artist, so Dujardin could ultimately prove victorious. At the moment, however, Clooney's golden boy status could still be enough to keep him in first place.
Frontrunner: Viola Davis - The Help
Had Meryl Streep won the SAG award last night, I would have been ready to declare her third Oscar win all sewn up. But SAG went with Davis, whose film is clearly much more popular. Streep may have claimed the Globe, but Davis has the more popular film and the SAG momentum on her side.
Frontrunner: Christopher Plummer - Beginners
Probably the acting race's only lock, and he's only emerged recently. With back-to-back wins from the Globes and SAG, and the complete drop-out of Albert Brooks' campaign, Plummer is poised for an easy (though still very deserved) victory.
Frontrunner: Octavia Spencer - The Help
Though she's not quite the lock that Plummer is, she's pretty damn close. There's still room for co-star Jessica Chastain to sneak in and win here, but ultimately her nomination will prove to be her reward for her break-out year. Not a sure thing, but at the end of the day, this is Spencer's to lose.
That's all for now. More to come after the BAFTA awards next month, and then a final round of predictions just before Oscar night. We're almost at the end!