By Monday, the 84th Academy Awards will have come and gone, leaving in their path the crushed hopes of (on average) 80% of the nominated actors, writers, producers, directors and other movie-making folk. But a few lucky individuals will wake up to a glowing morning they'll never forget — their first full day as an Academy Award winner (except for those who'll be winning for a second, third or umpteenth time).

Here's who we think will go home with Oscar gold in the eight major categories — and who's getting cheated:

Best Picture

Nominees: The Artist, The Descendants, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, War Horse

Who Will Win: The Artist. It's won nearly everything already, and it's the film with the most nominations — a solid indicator.

Who Should Win: The Tree of Life. Why is it that this year's nine nominated films are all so sleepy? Moneyball is the only one with a pulse, and The Descendants lingers in the mind even if it never really gets as deep or entertaining as Alexander Payne's previous films. Above them all, Terrence Malick's haunting, ambitious and imaginative Tree of Life towers as the work of a true artist.

Best Director

Nominees: Michel Hazanavicius, Alexander Payne, Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Terrence Malick

Who Will Win: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist

Who Should Win: Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life, for the same reasons as above

Best Actor

Nominees: Demián Bichir, George Clooney, Jean Dujardin, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt

Who Will Win: Jean Dujardin, The Artist. Voters can't help but love Dujardin, who's already picked up the Golden Globe and the SAG, silently stealing frontrunner status from George Clooney, who was marvelous in The Descendants.

Who Should Win: Demián Bichir. The Mexican actor's heartbreaking performance in the little-seen A Better Life is lucky to be nominated, given how relatively obscure he is to the public, but it's hard to imagine anybody else in the role of an illegal immigrant father trying to provide for his only son.

Best Actress

Nominees: Glenn Close, Viola Davis, Rooney Mara, Meryl Streep, Michelle Williams

Who Will Win: Viola Davis, The Help. If you think Streep has it in the bag, you've been misinformed. Davis, the SAG winner, is the frontrunner — and to some extent always has been. She's the only actress nominated for a Best Picture contender, and she's a previous nominee (for Doubt) who's well-respected among her peers.

Who Should Win: Meryl Streep. If the Oscars were judged solely on merit, Meryl Streep would have 17 trophies at home — one for every nomination. Instead, she only has two, and the last time she won (for Sophie's Choice) was 29 years ago. For nearly three decades, she's been the underdog — and probably has always come in second place. As we've come to expect, Streep's performance as an old and ailing Margaret Thatcher is astonishingly accurate as much as it funny, surprising and brave.

Best Supporting Actor

The Nominees: Christopher Plummer, Jonah Hill, Nick Nolte, Kenneth Branagh, Max von Sydow

Who Will Win: Chrisopher Plummer, Beginners

Who Should Win: Nick Nolte, who as a recovering alcoholic in Warrior pushes himself so alarmingly close to the edge that the movie nearly topples over with him.

Best Supporting Actress

The Nominees: Bérénice Bejo, Jessica Chastain, Octavia Spencer, Melissa McCarthy, Janet McTeer

Who Will Win: Octavia Spencer, The Help

Who Should Win: Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids. McCarthy and Spencer actually have a lot in common with their respective roles; both give funny, underestimated performances at the heart of ensemble female casts. Why Spencer's portrayal of a maid in The Help has been sweeping awards while McCarthy has been left and high and dry is baffling. McCarthy was hilarious, endearing, and — unlike the other women in this category — memorable.

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Nominees: The Descendants, Hugo, The Ides of March, Moneyball, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Who Will Win: Hugo

Who Should Win: Moneyball. Aaron Sorkin handily won this category last year for The Social Network, so in the Academy's strange universe he is all but exempt this year. Too bad — Sorkin turned a baseball movie into something smart, fresh and cool. Both Pitt and Hill owe their acting nominations to him.

Best Original Screenplay

The Nominees: The Artist, Bridesmaids, Margin Call, Midnight in Paris, A Separation

Who Will Win: Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris.

Who Should Win: Bridesmaids. Oftentimes, on Saturday Night Live, it seems as if Kristen Wiig is the only person who knows what makes people laugh. With Bridesmaids, she thankfully brought that intuition to the big screen — and deserves more recognition for it.

For a complete list of nominees, go here.


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