Having claimed virtually every major precursor honor, including the two strongest best picture bellwethers – the PGA Award (15 of its 22 winners repeated at the Oscars) and DGA Award (the film directed by 50 of its 63 winners repeated at the Oscars) – this French-financed, Hollywood-shot, Harvey Weinstein-distributed love letter to the movies is poised to become the first silent film in 83 years and the first black-and-white film in 18 years to win the top Oscar. (My sense is that The Artist's primary challenger is not Hugo, which scored one more nomination than it did but was shut out of the acting categories, but rather The Help, which lacks noms for directing, screenplay, and film editing – it has been 79 years since a film won best pic without those three – but features a massive, diverse, Crash-like ensemble that is adored by actors, who constitute the largest branch of the Academy, and possesses the weight and gravitas that some feel the frontrunner lacks.) (...)
The »Clooney of France« is in a tight race with George himself – both won Globes – but Dujardin won the SAG Award (the last seven winners of which repeated at the Oscars) and BAFTA Award (five of the last seven winners repeated at the Oscars), so I give him the edge. Only the fourth Frenchman ever nominated for this Oscar – the others were Maurice Chevalier (twice), Charles Boyer, and Gerard Depardieu – he would be the first to ever win it.
Expect Davis to hold off Streep because she has never previously won (Streep has twice, albeit not in 29 years), is up for a well-liked film (a best pic nom, unlike Streep’s), offers a chance to make history (she would be only the second black best actress winner), and has already beaten Streep on her home turf (with the critics and actors). The only other nominee with any hope of pulling off an upset is Williams, who is young, sexy, played a real person, and showed a lot of skin on screen and off, but hasn't campaigned nearly as aggressively as Davis or Streep.”