Best Actor: The Best Actor race this season has more or less belonged to George Clooney for his performance in The Descendants, with The Artist's Jean Dujardin on his coattails as the underdog. After their dual Globe wins (Clooney in Drama, Dujardin in Comedy) they remain the two to beat. Both gave memorable speeches, with Clooney gracious as ever and Dujardin utterly winning in his Hollywood coming out. But expect the tie to go to Clooney; on Tinseltown's biggest night, it will be hard to resist rewarding its biggest A-lister.
The acting nominees are chosen in a similar way to those for Best Picture, with voters ranking the actors and number one votes being the most important. So performers with passionate supporters—Gary Oldman from Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, for example—could conceivably be nominated for an Oscar over J. Edgar's Leonardo DiCaprio—who is receiving respectful, but not rapturous accolades—even though Oldman was snubbed by the Globes. Shame's Michael Fassbender, thanks to the ranking system, should be considered a shoo-in nominee, along with Moneyball's Brad Pitt.
Best Actress: It's already been said that a good Golden Globes acceptance speech is invaluable (Sandra Bullock's Blind Side Oscar was a reward for her performance doling out memorable thank yous at precursor award shows as much as it was for playing Leigh Anne Tuohy). So that makes this award Meryl Streep's to lose for The Iron Lady. Her breathless, effusive, witty, and touching speech was classic speech that will endear her to Oscar voters. Best Actress this year is ostensibly a three-way race between Streep, The Help's Viola Davis, and My Week With Marilyn's Michelle Williams. Thanks to a particularly classy speech—adorable anecdotes about an adorable daughter are golden—for her Best Actress in a Comedy win, Williams actually jumps ahead of Davis in this race.
Tilda Swinton seems primed to join them for We Need to Talk About Kevin as a nominee, with those who saw the indie raving about her performance, and Albert Nobbs' Glenn Close on shaky ground as a fifth nominee. Poised to spoil: Melancholia's Kirsten Dunst or even Bridesmaids's Kristen Wiig.
Supporting Races: The Supporting Actor and Actress categories at the Globes are not divided into Comedy and Drama like the other major races, making it easier to pinpoint a frontrunner after Sunday night. And any betting awards guru would be wise to place money on repeat victories for Beginners' Christopher Plummer and The Help's Octavia Spencer at the Oscars. In an ensemble brimming with scene-stealers (not the least of who is another likely Oscar nominee, Jessica Chastain), Spencer makes out with the most loot—which, in this case, is audience laughter and tears. Both she and Plummer delivered heartfelt, endearing speeches and—this is important—appeared genuinely happy to be on stage receiving their awards. (Thus not repeating Eddie Murphy's mistake of looking miserable during his speech—one that George Clooney, in his attempt to appear overly humble, risks making.)