Newsday critic Rafer Guzman's Oscar picks

Students from Adelphi University act out their version of Oscar-nominated films in the style of a silent movie. Videojournalist: Meredith Daniels (Feb. 22, 2012)

advertisement | advertise on newsday

You'll see plenty of famous faces at Sunday's Academy Awards ceremony, but the acceptance speeches may come from some less familiar folks.

Though there's always room for surprises, established directors like Martin Scorsese and Terrence Malick will likely lose to a little-known Frenchman, while Meryl Streep -- now breaking her own record with 17 nominations -- will probably watch the best actress Oscar go to Viola Davis. Major stars like Charlize Theron, of "Young Adult," and Leonardo DiCaprio, of "J. Edgar," weren't even nominated.

All of which may open the Oscars to further criticism that they're focusing on small-scale movies most people haven't seen. (Recent best picture winners included "No Country for Old Men," a middling box-office performer, and "The Hurt Locker," which grossed a scant $17 million.) This year's shoo-in for the best picture award is a silent film, "The Artist," that still isn't in wide release. Good timing, then, from the ever-popular Billy Crystal, whose ninth installment as host seems guaranteed to pull in viewers.

Here's the breakdown of Oscar contenders in the major categories. Though "The Artist" will be the talk of the evening, other movies are likely to get their share of gold. "The Help" should do well in the acting categories, Scorsese's "Hugo" seems destined for several technical awards, and Woody Allen will probably pick up a screenwriting Oscar for "Midnight in Paris."

BEST PICTURE

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"The Artist"

"The Descendants"

"Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"

"The Help"

@Newsday

"Hugo"

"Midnight in Paris"

"Moneyball"

"The Tree of Life"

"War Horse"

advertisement | advertise on newsday

WHAT SHOULD WIN "The Artist." Heard enough great things about it yet? If you haven't seen it, you're depriving yourself of a terrific time at the movies.

WHAT WILL WIN "The Artist"

advertisement | advertise on newsday

BEST ACTOR

Demian Bichir, "A Better Life"

George Clooney, "The Descendants"

Jean Dujardin, "The Artist"

Gary Oldman, "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy"

Brad Pitt, "Moneyball"

WHO SHOULD WIN Dujardin. His wordless but captivating performance as a silent film star was a reminder of how magical the movies can be.

WHO WILL WIN Clooney. Whenever glamorous movie stars prove that they're serious actors, Oscar voters usually hand over a statue.

BEST ACTRESS

Glenn Close, "Albert Nobbs"

Viola Davis, "The Help"

Rooney Mara, "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"

Meryl Streep, "The Iron Lady"

Michelle Williams, "My Week With Marilyn"

WHO SHOULD WIN Streep. Though the movie felt one-dimensional, her performance as Margaret Thatcher was shrewd, funny and compassionate.

WHO WILL WIN Davis. Her role as a maid confronting racism in the Deep South couldn't be better tailored to the Oscar crowd.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Kenneth Branagh, "My Week With Marilyn"

Jonah Hill, "Moneyball"

Nick Nolte, "Warrior"

Christopher Plummer, "Beginners"

Max von Sydow, "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"

WHO SHOULD WIN Branagh. His performance as Laurence Olivier was a funny, touching tribute to a fellow Shakespearean.

WHO WILL WIN Plummer. He's 82, he's playing a gay character and he doesn't have an Oscar. In short, a lock.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Berenice Bejo, "The Artist"

Jessica Chastain, "The Help"

Melissa McCarthy, "Bridesmaids"

Janet McTeer, "Albert Nobbs"

Octavia Spencer, "The Help"

WHO SHOULD WIN McTeer. As a swaggering, guilt-free cross-dresser, she's the crucial ingredient in this moving but underrated film.

WHO WILL WIN Spencer. Her sassy character is the comic-relief version of Davis'.

BEST DIRECTOR

Woody Allen, "Midnight in Paris"

Michel Hazanavicius, "The Artist"

Terrence Malick, "The Tree of Life"

Alexander Payne, "The Descendants"

Martin Scorsese, "Hugo"

WHO SHOULD WIN Hazanavicius. His light touch and deep love for a still-vibrant art form made this movie irresistible.

WHO WILL WIN Hazanavicius

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

"A Cat in Paris"

"Chico & Rita"

"Kung Fu Panda 2"

"Puss in Boots"

"Rango"

WHAT SHOULD WIN "Rango." This hilariously weird Western didn't impress at the box office, but it somehow developed a stealth following. It recently won the Annie, the animation-industry honor.

WHAT WILL WIN "Rango"

Where to watch the Oscar action Sunday

COUNTDOWN TO THE RED CARPET (1:30-5:30 p.m., E!) -- A celebration of Oscar nominees, celebrity lifestyles and Hollywood.

ON THE RED CARPET (4:30-6 p.m.; 6:30-7 p.m., WABC/7)

LIVE FROM THE RED CARPET (5:30-8:30 p.m., E!) -- Giuliana Rancic and Ryan Seacrest interview arriving celebrities

LIVE FROM THE ACADEMY AWARDS (6-8 p.m., WPIX/11)

OSCARS RED CARPET LIVE (7-8:30 p.m., ABC/7) -- Robin Roberts, Tim Gunn, Louise Roe, Jess Cagle and Nina Garcia host.

THE 84TH ANNUAL ACADEMY AWARDS (8:30 p.m., ABC/7) -- Billy Crystal hosts from the Hollywood and Highland Center (formerly the Kodak Theatre).

E! AFTER PARTY (11:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m., E!) -- Highlights from the ceremony and the parties.

JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE: AFTER THE ACADEMY AWARDS (12:05 a.m., ABC/7),

Coming soon: Newsday's Entertainment newsletter, for the latest on celebs, TV, more.

You also may be interested in: