HFPA voters will wrestle with one of the strongest dramatic fields in years, even without “Amour” and “Rust and Bone” in the mix. This category is English-language only.
Classic precursor: Reflects the lush romantic artifice of ’81 contender “The French Lieutenant’s Woman.”
If not the big one: As Karenin, Jude Law impressively shrivels into a cuckolded wretch.
Classic precursor: True-life rescue yarn grips despite known ending, like ’73 nominee “Day of the Jackal.”
If not the big one: Alan Arkin’s Hollywood schlockmeister could be recognized.
“Beasts of the Southern Wild”
Classic precursor: Takes us as deeply into the swamps as ’94 nominee “Nell.”
If not the big one: Lead moppet Quvenzhane Wallis is unforgettable.
Classic precursor: Multiplies by six the overlapping narratives of ’06 winner “Babel,” with a similar we’re-all-connected message.
If not the big one: Possible supporting mention for Hugo Weaving or Jim Broadbent.
Classic precursor: Likely to echo the crisp teamwork of ’66 nominee “The Professionals.”
If not the big one: HFPA voters are no less eager than the Academy’s to slot stars into the supporting ranks. This could be Leonardo DiCaprio’s turn.
Classic precursor: ’62 nominee “Days of Wine and Roses,” another harrowing examination of alcoholic decline.
If not the big one: Denzel’s tour de force may not be overlooked.
Classic precursor: As sly an expose of a great man’s kinks as ’04 nominee “Kinsey.”
If not the big one: Helen Mirren’s anguished re-creation of the Master’s unhallowed muse may figure strongly.
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”
Classic precursor: ’01 nominee “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.”
If not the big one: Greenscreen genius Andy Serkis could finally get recognition in the supporting category.
Classic precursor: Shares with ’84 nominee “The Killing Fields” the Southeast Asian locale and climactic emotional reunion.
If not the big one: Naomi Watts’ degree of suffering could be enough to propel a thesp into contention.
“Life of Pi”
Classic precursor: Goes even further than last year’s “Hugo” in applying 3-D to character and theme.
If not the big one: Esteemed Ang Lee may get his fourth helming nod for the undeniable effort.
Classic precursor: Big-budget biopic of a brooding loner wielding power and dogged by destiny? Sounds like ’04 winner “The Aviator.”
If not the big one: Daniel Day-Lewis has a fine shot at emancipating the lead actor trophy from Miss Golden Globe’s hands.
Classic precursor: Tortured Joaquin Phoenix seeks from Philip Seymour Hoffman the same kind of mentoring Kirk Douglas sought from Anthony Quinn in ’56 nominee “Lust for Life.”
If not the big one: Phoenix and Hoffman have good shots, as does supporting actress Amy Adams.
Classic precursor: The social conscience of ’79 nominee “The China Syndrome,” minus ticking clock.
If not the big one: Matt Damon, John Krasinski and Dave Eggers look likely to cop a writing nod.
Classic precursor: As in ’68 nominee “Charly,” someone disabled gets a brief, joyous glimpse of what it’s like to be “normal.”
If not the big one: John Hawkes makes placing a pure soul in a twisted body look easy.
“Zero Dark Thirty”
Classic precursor: Same helmer and scribe as ’09 nominee “Hurt Locker”; possibly greater impact because the Bin Laden caper remains so raw.
If not the big one: Scripter Mark Boal could earn recognition for managing so much technical material.