These are the categories in which I haven't seen all of the nominees, so rather than ranking the films I'll just discuss each award and hopefully the commentary should move quickly.
Tomorrow I'll break down all the acting categories.
Foreign Language Film Nominees
A Royal Affair
Of these, I've seen Amour, A Royal Affair, and War Witch. A Royal Affair was a beautiful costume drama, based on the true story of the affair between the Queen of Denmark and the king's personal physician. It was beautiful shot, costumed, and acted... but once the actual affair begins, the rest of the movie just seems like a predictable, inevitable downward spiral. It loses a lot of tension. Amour is good, great even, but it's awfully slow, and I wonder if there's really something all that original there. My favorite was definitely War Witch, about a young girl who becomes a child soldier. There was a fantastic element of magical realism, the performances were heartbreaking, and I felt like the movie actually had something to say about the relationship between innocence and violence. Plus it wasn't nearly as action-driven as this trailer lets on, it was much more restrained than all that.
These are all categories where voters have to have seen all the nominees in order to vote. Amour is far and away the front-runner, but that could just be because it's the one most pundits have seen. Whenever I've seen people state their preferences, the picks are all across the board.
Will win: Amour. I'll still predict it, but do not be surprised by another one of those upsets we've seen so often in this category.
Should win: War Witch
Should have been nominated: How could I even know?
Documentary Feature Nominees
5 Broken Cameras
How to Survive a Plague
The Invisible War
Searching for Sugar Man
The only one I haven't seen is The Gatekeepers. Last year, it was the one film with a late release that I hadn't seen that ended up winning. I doubt that will happen here - Searching for Sugar Man will probably win this no problem. And it's very good. I thought How to Survive a Plague was interesting in some ways but dull in many others. The Invisible War sheds light on some pretty big problems with sexual abuse in the military and 5 Broken Cameras was a fascinating look at the life of a non-violent Palestinian town. These are all good films - but none of them really made me jump up and down. Sugar Man has the most off-beat, peculiar subject matter, so sure, I'll say it can win.
Will win: Searching for Sugar Man
Should win: Sugar Man or The Invisible War
Should have been nominated: I haven't seen many other docs this year, but there's always several that miss the cut here - look them up from people who know more about it.
Live Action/Documentary Short Films
I had the opportunity to see these nominees when they came to a nearby theater, but money and time prevented me from taking that opportunity. I'll update with actual predictions based on what I can figure out closer to Sunday.
Animated Short Film Nominees
Adam and Dog
Head Over Heels
The Longest Daycare
I've not seen Adam and Dog or Head Over Heels. The Longest Daycare is basically a short episode of The Simpsons - it's clever and fun to watch, but do we really need to give the Simpson guys an Oscar? Fresh Guacamole is also fun, but not really substantial. Paperman is the frontrunner here - but again, that's the one nominee that probably everyone has seen because it's Disney, it showed before Wreck-It Ralph screenings, and they released it online a few weeks ago. The voters have to have seen all five, so who's seen the two I haven't? I've seen trailers, and I have to say that Adam and Dog looks beautifully animated, and it's a story about man's best friend... I wouldn't be shocked to see it upset here. Paperman is pretty and cute and sweet... but it's also not exactly new. In fact, the "boy sees girl in opposite buildings" setup looked to me like it practically ripped off this other short film, "Signs," that I rather enjoy:
So... although it's lovely and deserving, I'm not exactly crazy about it the way some people are.
Will win: Paperman - again, I'm predicting conservatively for now, but look out for a spoiler.
Should win: Based on the trailer alone, I'd almost argue Adam and Dog
Should have been nominated: Again, no clue.