It's seemed over for weeks. But is it?
The 85th Annual Academy Awards will go to Argo, Kentuckian Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook), Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln), Anne Hathaway (Les Misérables) and Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln), right? All the pre-Oscar hoopla, the earlier awards from critics' groups and guilds, point toward those conclusions.
Not so fast.
Hathaway has had best supporting actress socked away since the day she was cast as Fantine in Les Misérables. Cynical critics and heartless punters say they didn't cry when she sang I Dreamed a Dream. They're liars.
Day-Lewis gave us a once-in-a-lifetime interpretation of Abraham Lincoln, historically accurate and wonderfully human. Best actor belongs to him. Period.
But Lawrence — the front-runner for best actress in the somewhat overrated "Love cures mental illness" dramedy Silver Linings Playbook — might give way to the sentimental favorite, the legendary Emmanuelle Riva from Amour. I'm still pulling for Naomi Watts, who tears your heart out in the under-appreciated tsunami drama The Impossible. But Riva will win.
Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln) and Robert DeNiro (Silver Linings Playbook) are the toss-up choices for best supporting actor, two venerated icons of the silver screen. Since everybody else in the category is, like them, already an Oscar winner, there are no real dark horses here. If it's an Argo kind of night, doesn't Alan Arkin have a shot? Oh, give it to Jones, see if it softens his mood.
"Best directors direct best pictures," as the Oscar wags know. And because Ben Affleck, who has taken Clint Eastwood's place on the Warner Bros. backlot — a hitmaker who acts in and directs prestige pictures — cannot win best director because he wasn't nominated, Argo is facing a headwind in pursuit of best picture. But Argo has won everything in sight.
Zero Dark Thirty and the hit Django Unchained have that same shortcoming. No best director nomination.
People respected Amour and Life of Pi. But where's the love? Beasts of the Southern Wild would rank with the biggest best picture upsets in history. The Lincoln blowback — historical shortcomings — is severe enough to suggest Spielberg won't win best director or best picture.
So the movie in which Hollywood saves the day and the hostages, Argo will win.
Best director is a tossup. Ang Lee might be the favorite now, for Life of Pi, and the venerable bad boy Michael Haneke (Amour) might have bit of buzz. But the mad money has to be on Benh Zeitlin of Beasts of the Southern Wild. He will never, ever make a movie as novel as this one.
Brave has won a lot of pre-Oscar guild prizes, but I still figure Wreck-It Ralph will win best animated film; Searching for Sugar Man will win best documentary; and the costume and production design prizes will go to Anna Karenina and/or Les Misérables. The screenwriting awards will go to Argo and probably Zero Dark Thirty.
But big surprises on Oscar night? First-time host Seth MacFarlane might have to provide those.
85th Annual Academy Awards
8:30 p.m. Feb. 24 on ABC
Pre- and post-shows:
All shows are Feb. 24 unless otherwise noted.
■ Countdown to the Red Carpet: The 2013 Academy Awards. Fashion, early arrivals, etc. 1:30 p.m., E!
■ Live From the Red Carpet: The 2013 Academy Awards. Red-carpet interviews, etc. Ryan Seacrest and Giuliana Rancic host. 5:30 p.m., E!
■ 2013 Academy Awards Red Carpet With Chris Harrison. 6 p.m., TV Guide Channel.
■ The Oscars Red Carpet Live! 7 p.m., ABC.
■ E! After Party: The 2013 Academy Awards. Awards highlights, parties, etc. 11:30 p.m., E!
■ Jimmy Kimmel Live: After the Oscars. 12:05 a.m. Feb. 25, ABC.
■ Fashion Police: The 2013 Academy Awards. Best and worst of fashion. 8:30 p.m. Feb. 25, E!