I thought it might be worth combing through the Oscars category by category. What is most likely to win, what might win and what the dark horse could be.  I come at this three ways. First, what the general consensus is based on previous wins, Second, what the shifting buzz seems to be indicating, and third what the potential upset might be.

This weekend, is the WGA, the Eddie, the CAS and the MPSE. They will probably confirm what we already suspect, that the industry has determined its winner and that winner will go on to be confirmed at the Oscars.  It’s all over but the shouting.

One important thing to note about this year is that it might be the first time ever that the Oscars had their ballots turned in before the major guilds announced.   That seemed to throw the race into a kind of flux we’ve never seen before.  The pundits seemed more confused than ever, switching predictions each week – it’s Argo, no, it’s Silver Linings Playbook, no, it’s Les Miserables, no, it’s Life of Pi, no, it’s Lincoln, no it’s back to Argo.  After Argo won the PGA, then the SAG, then the DGA and then the BAFTA it became unstoppable.  Whether it was due to Affleck’s snub, Zero Dark Thirty’s demise or it being a really likable movie — it turned out to be the magic formula and now Ben Affleck is set to make Academy history on one week.

The other new thing that happened this year was that social media engaged like never before.  The films that really seemed to take a hard core beating in the press and then had those stories spread around like wildfire were Zero Dark Thirty, Les Miserables, Django Unchained and Lincoln.  One story was blown way out of proportion. A tweet by Spike Lee inspired debate. Torture became a war between critics defending Zero Dark Thirty and activists and politicians attacking it. It seemed to be taking it from all sides.  Les Miserables became the film people most loved to hate – those bad reviews and commentary caught on like never before.  Social media and the Oscar race, not a good combination.

But either which way, we’ll never know how things might have turned out if the Oscars had waited for the DGA to announce before they did.  But as it is now, there are five directors who are nominated that seem to be invited for no apparent reason.  Them’s the breaks with more than five nominees for Best Picture.  So far, back when the preferential ballot was in play you had to have a director nomination to win. But there wasn’t a DGA back then.  If there had been, who knows?

Best Picture
General consensus: Argo – it breaks history by becoming the first film since Driving Miss Daisy to win without a director nomination.  It will also be the third time a film has won the DGA and goes on to win Best Picture without a corresponding director nomination.  So far, only Apollo 13 and The Color Purple were that position and both lost Best Picture.
Potential shifting buzz – there isn’t any but Roger Ebert says that Silver Linings Playbook is picking up steam.
Potential upset – truly, it almost feels like any film could be read and it would not be that surprising.

Best Director
General consensus: there isn’t one but Steven Spielberg seems to be the one in the lead.  No one but Ben Affleck and early on, Kathryn Bigelow have won Best Director so we have nothing to go on here. If Spielberg wins he will become the 4th director in Academy history to win more than 2 Oscars.  Most of the time, in a split, the film with the most nominations wins either Picture or Director.  Twice in the past that wasn’t the case.
Potential shifting buzz: – it’s possible that they might award David O. Russell if they want to give Silver Linings a big award. He’s never won before. His win, along with Benh Zeitlin and Michael Haneke’s would be historic because no director has ever won without a DGA nom going back to 1949.
Potential upset: Ang Lee whose film has 11 Oscar nominations and might end up with the night’s biggest haul of awards.  This category feels like any name could be called and it wouldn’t be surprising.

Best Actor
General Consensus: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln – he’s won most of the awards so far, the major ones, most notably the SAG and the Globe awards.  Day-Lewis would be making Academy history for winning his third lead acting Oscar.  No actor has managed to pull this off yet.
Potential shifting buzz: it’s hard to say but passion for Les Miserables could put Hugh Jackman in the winner’s seat.
Potential upset: Possibly Joaquin Phoenix both for his masterful performance and for his peculiar approach to awards season. He started out resistant to it but has since found a way to campaign his own way.

Best Actress
Consensus: Emmanuelle Riva, Amour. While she didn’t get nominated for the SAG she did just win the BATA. Amour earned surprise nods for Picture, Screenplay, Director, Actor. It could turn out that this is the one big award for the movie or it could take other categories too.  Riva will be the oldest Best Actress nominee, as old as the Oscars themselves. But it’s more than that; it’s her once-in-a-lifetime performance playing a dying woman that has earned her a deserved win. I don’t see how anyone could vote against her.
Potential shifting buzz: Riva is the shifting buzz and it shifted away from Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain.
Potential upset: Naomi Watts appears to have a lot of support, probably more than anyone realizes. Most SAG voters probably didn’t see The Impossible but you can bet Academy members did.

Best Supporting Actor
Consensus: Christoph Waltz who won the Globe and the BAFTA for Django Unchained.  Waltz has a lead role compared to everyone else so in a way it’s an unfair advantage. He did just win in 2009 for playing not that different of a part. But he’s so charming he could prove to be that movie’s one big win (unless Tarantino takes screenplay).
Potential shifting buzz: Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln – he won the SAG and history generally says that the Oscar winner is either the SAG or the Globe winner.  Tommy Lee Jones is very popular but it will all depend on how much the Academy likes Lincoln.  All we have right now are the 12 nominations it has.
Potential upset: Robert De Niro who has been campaigning like a mad person and has the longest time between now and his last win and is one of Silver Linings Playbook’s four acting nods.  But Philip Seymour Hoffman won the Critics Choice and also has a lead role.  This category feels very much up for grabs.

Best Supporting Actress
Consensus: Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables – Hathaway has won every major award she’s been up for.  She’s got it in the bag.
Potential shifting buzz: none detectable
Potential upset: Jacki Weaver is the only one I could think of because of the four noms for Silver Linings, or Sally Field, whom the Academy adores. But we still don’t know if they liked Lincoln or not.

Original Screenplay
Consensus: Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained might be the consensus pick at this rate but many are predicting Michael Haneke to win here and maybe do what The Pianist did by winning director, actress and screenplay.  Mark Boal might win the Writers Guild for Zero Dark Thirty, which could give him some momentum heading into the Oscars.
Shifting buzz and Potential upset: Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola for Moonrise Kingdom

Adapted Screenplay
Consensus: Chris Terrio for Argo appears to have this thing since winning, mind-bogglingly, the Scripter.  The Scripter passed over Doris Kearns Goodwin and Tony Kushner for Lincoln so if they could do that, the WGA will likely follow suit, and if Argo is to win Best Picture it certainly can’t win without screenplay, I don’t think. It’s possible but improbable.
Shifting buzz: David O. Russell might win here if they want to reward him — especially since he just won the BAFTA.
Potential Upset: Tony Kushner is still a possibility, but it will depend again on whether the Academy “likes” Lincoln.  We don’t yet know.  Luci Alibar and Benh Zeitlin could pick up a surprise win for Beasts of the Southern Wild and might as well throw David Magee in there too for Life of Pi. This category feels like it’s anyone’s game.

Editing
Consensus: It’s Argo’s to lose
Shifting buzz: nada
Potential upset: If any other films wins in this category it might be an early signal that some other movie besides Argo is going to win – but then again, Argo probably wins this anyway, even without picture.  But Zero Dark Thirty, Silver Linings might also win here.

Cinematography
General consensus: Life of Pi — it’s expected that this will be the big winner because it is a visual effects frontrunner and the prettiest film in the lineup.
Shifting buzz: rumblings that Roger Deakins might pull off a win after ten at bats.
Potential upset: This might be a surprise win Lincoln could pick up, especially if it isn’t going to win any of the other majors.

Production Design
General Consensus: There isn’t one yet. But if you have to put something down for your office pool go for Anna Karenina.
Shifting buzz: it seems to be down to Anna Karenina versus Life of Pi.  Pi is the Best Picture contender so it might have the edge.
Potential upset: again, if the Academy wants to reward Lincoln in the techs rather than the majors it could win this.

Sound Mixing
General Consensus: Les Miserables – it’s a musical that filmed all of the vocal recordings live. I can’t see how it misses here. Also, it heads into the race with 8 nominations, one more than Argo.  That shows broad support. It probably won’t win just supporting actress.
Shifting buzz: There are rumblings of Greg P. Russell finally winning for his 16 nominations for sound.  He’s on Skyfall, which, in any other year might have won this easily but now he’s up against a musical and they almost always win.  In Contention’s Kris Tapley has been advocating for Russell for years.  This might finally be the year it pays off.
Potential upset: I really have a feeling Argo is a threat in Sound and Sound Editing. I could see it doing what Hurt Locker did and take both in a shocker.  It’s going to depend if they like the movie as much as the industry has so far.  If they do, this might be a place they can award that movie.

Sound Editing
General Consensus: Argo – it will probably win big at the MPSE this weekend, so it’s entirely possible it will also get an Oscar win.  I wonder if voters even pick this category when filling out their ballot or if they skip it, not knowing anything at all about sound editing.
Shifting buzz: Skyfall might surge in the sound cats.
Potential Upset: Zero Dark Thirty might pick up a win here, especially if it isn’t winning anywhere else.

Costume Design
General Consensus: Anna Karenina – anyone who saw the movie (key point) will no doubt have to give over their vote to the year’s most beautiful costumes.
Shifting buzz: It really doesn’t go to the best picture winner very often, although it did last year with The Artist. In an ordinary year, if Lincoln were actually winning, it would get costume on its way to sweeping. But this is a surprising year and nothing so far is going as expected.
Potential upset: Les Miserables, especially if voters really feel passionately about it but know it won’t win the major prize.

Original Score
General Consensus: Life of Pi – it doesn’t seem to have much competition
Shifting buzz: you just never know about Argo, how much they love it or what it will win. It could win this category on its way to winning everything it’s nominated for.
Potential upset: Skyfall maybe, but I can’t believe they’ll give John Williams another Oscar win, dude’s won five. But it goes without saying that if they REALLY like Lincoln, you never know where the wins will fall.

Foreign Language
General Consensus: Amour
Shifting buzz: none
Potential upset: none

Visual Effects
General Consensus: Life of Pi
Shifting buzz: none
Potential upset: probably none, but you never know about the Avengers or The Hobbit

Animated Feature
General Consensus: there isn’t one quiet yet – seems to be between Wreck-it Ralph and Brave
Shifting buzz: Wreck-it Ralph seems to be the most liked, while Brave the more ambitious (and Pixar nom)
Potential upset: Frankenweenie because it’s Tim Burton and he’s well liked in the Academy

Makeup
General Consensus: Les Miserables seem to have this in the bag. So let’s count them for Les Mis: supporting actress, sound, makeup and maybe costumes. Not a bad haul overall
Potential upset: The Hobbit, I guess, could be a threat but I doubt it.

Song
General Consensus: Skyfall

Live Action Short
General Consensus: Curfew
Shifting Buzz: You never know about Buzkashi Boys – if it isn’t too brutal for voters it might win.
Potential Upset: Henry – it is a movie about a wartime elderly man – seems like Academy catnip.

Animated Short
General Consensus: Paperman
Shifting Buzz: Adam and Dog seems to have a lot of folks talking about it.
Potential upset: the Simpsons’ Endless Daycare. You just never can underestimate the Simpsons

Doc Short
Consensus: Open Heart – it is surely the most socially conscious of them.
Shifting Buzz: I have to hope people are watching Inocente and that it will move them as it has moved me but these are all very good doc shorts worthy of the prize.

And that, as they say, is that. What say you readers about this?