In some ways, we already know who the Academy members will choose when they announce the Oscar nominations on Jan. 10. After all, the Academy members are movie industry insiders (including producers, writers, directors, actors), and this past week, several of their professional guilds unveiled their members' own picks for film honors.

The Producers Guild of America nominations, which tend to line up with the Oscar Best Picture nods, were announced last Thursday, and the list contains most of the expected titles: "Argo," "Beasts of the Southern Wild," "Django Unchained," "Les Miserables," "Life of Pi," "Lincoln," "Moonrise Kingdom," "Silver Linings Playbook," "Skyfall," and "Zero Dark Thirty." The only wild card on that list is "Skyfall," which may be the best-reviewed and highest-grossing James Bond movie in the franchise's 50-year-history but is still (let's be honest) a James Bond movie. Nonetheless, the expansion in recent years of Oscar's Best Picture category from five nominees to as many as 10 was meant to allow for such acclaimed but populist hits to crack the list. Since it's unlikely that "The Avengers," "The Dark Knight Rises," or even "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" will win Academy favor, "Skyfall" isn't a bad guess for which smash movie might qualify. My own guess would be an animated hit (probably Pixar's "Brave" but possibly "Wreck-It Ralph"), but the PGA segregates animated movies into their own list. (Its picks for best animated feature are "Brave," "Frankenweenie," "ParaNorman," "Rise of the Guardians," and "Wreck-It Ralph.")

Last Friday saw the announcement of the Writers Guild of America nominations, which give a good idea of which screenwriters will be Oscar-nominated (and perhaps which movies could make the Best Picture cut). Despite the omission of some awards-season favorites as ineligible because they weren't produced with Writers Guild oversight -- including "Django Unchained," "Les Miserables," "Amour," "Beasts Of The Southern Wild" and "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" -- there should still be plenty of overlap between the WGA's list and the Academy's. For original screenplay, the Guild nominated John Gatins ("Flight"), Rian Johnson ("Looper"), Paul Thomas Anderson ("The Master"), Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola ("Moonrise Kingdom") and Mark Boal ("Zero Dark Thirty"). For adapted screenplay, the Guild named Chris Terrio ("Argo"), David Magee ("Life of Pi"), Tony Kushner ("Lincoln"), Stephen Chbosky ("The Perks of Being a Wallflower"), and David O. Russell ("Silver Linings Playbook"). When the Oscar nominations are announced on Jan. 10, it's easy to imagine "Django" and "Amour" taking the places of "Flight" and "Looper," or "Les Miz" (which Hollywood had tried for decades to adapt from the Broadway musical) taking the place of "Perks," but otherwise, this list seems on the money.

On Tuesday, the Directors Guild of America's nominations, usually considered one of the most reliable Oscar indicators for the Academy's Best Director trophy (and by extension, Best Picture, since those prizes usually match up) bestowed favor upon Steven Spielberg ("Lincoln:"), Tom Hooper ("Les Miserables"), Kathryn Bigelow ("Zero Dark Thirty"), Ang Lee ("Life of Pi's ") and Ben Affleck ("Argo"). Left out in the cold were such Best Pic favorites as Quentin Tarantino ("Django Unchained"), Paul Thomas Anderson ("The Master"), Wes Anderson ("Moonrise Kingdom") and David O. Russell ("Silver Linings Playbook"). It's worth noting that all the DGA choices except Affleck are previous Oscar winners. Affleck is a less experienced helmer than the two-decade directing veterans left off the list, but his movie was a big mainstream hit that drew near-unanimous acclaim from critics and audiences.

Add to these the nominations announced last month by the Screen Actors Guild -- actors make up the largest branch of the Academy -- and we have a pretty full picture of what the Oscar nominations will look like. The lead actors picked by their own union are Bradley Cooper ("Silver Linings Playbook"), Daniel Day-Lewis ("Lincoln"), John Hawkes ("The Sessions"), Hugh Jackman (*Les Miz") and Denzel Washington ("Flight"); those remain the five names to beat, though Joaquin Phoenix ("The Master") might supplant Hawkes or Washington. For Best Actress, they picked Jessica Chastain ("Zero Dark Thirty"), Marion Cotillard ("Rust and Bone"), Jennifer Lawrence ("Silver Linings Playbook"), Helen Mirren ("Hitchcock") and Naomi Watts ("The Impossible"). They, too, are the top choices, despite some outlying support for "Beasts of the Southern Wild" star Quvenzhane Wallis and "Amour" star Emmanuelle Riva, who, at ages 9 and 85, respectively, would be the youngest and oldest nominees ever.

For Supporting Actor, the SAG voters nominated Alan Arkin ("Argo"), Javier Bardem ("Skyfall"), Robert De Niro ("Silver Linings Playbook"), Philip Seymour Hoffman ("The Master") and Tommy Lee Jones ("Lincoln"). Oscar winners all, they may cede a spot (probably Bardem's) to Christoph Waltz or Leonardo DiCaprio from "Django." As for supporting actresses, SAG picked Sally Field ("Lincoln"), Anne Hathaway ("Les Miz"), Helen Hunt ("The Sessions"), Nicole Kidman ("The Paperboy") and Maggie Smith ("The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel"). That sounds about right, aside from Kidman, who's likely to swap out for "The Master" co-star Amy Adams at the Academy. Finally, for Best Ensemble Cast (the SAG equivalent of Best Picture), the union members picked "Argo," "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," "Les Miz," "Lincoln," and "Silver Linings Playbook." Apparently, awards season fave "Zero Dark Thirty" screeners didn't reach SAG members before their nominations went out, but it'll almost certainly replace "Marigold" on this list.

Of course, Oscar nominating ballots were due back at the Academy a few days ago, so it's unlikely that the Guild nominations (other than the SAGs) had any significant influence on Oscar voters. But they do likely represent the thinking of the various voting blocs of the Academy. And as the guilds actually name winners and hand out prizes over the coming weeks, their picks could influence the final votes of the Academy members before the Feb. 24 Oscars.
CATEGORIES Movies