And it has come down to this. The final week before the Oscar nominations. The major guilds have weighed in. The two most corrupt precursors have handed out their awards in hopes that Oscar will match and therefore increase their relevancy. Those of us at Sundance who care enough will be setting their alarm clocks for 5:30 in the AM to watch the nomination announcement live on Tuesday, Jan. 25. And wouldn't you know it, but the dang Brits have thrown a wrinkle into our final guesstimations.

True it only affects a couple of categories, but who knows what devious devices exist within the heart of a voter looking to defy studio campaigning. And who knows what the final nominations will look like. Perhaps yours truly.
div> Thanks to BAFTA, the British Film Academy, we must tread carefully around the two actress categories now. For the second time in three years, critic groups have more or less fell in line when the studios have specifically campaigned an actor or actress in a particular category. Despite better judgment over the years, many of them listed Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider), Scarlett Johansson (Lost In Translation) and Kate Winslet (The Reader) as supporting players even though their characters had as much, if not more, screen time than their male counterparts. And Keisha was most certainly the lead character. Just as Mattie Ross is in the Coens' True Grit.

Except once again, Hailee Steinfeld has been getting lauded in the supporting category by over 15 groups, including the Screen Actors Guild. They also nominated Winslet as a supporting actress for The Reader, an award which she won from the guild. But then came BAFTA and she won for the same role in the Lead category, where they have just nominated Steinfeld. (And Rachel Weisz for The Constant Gardener in 2005 and Jennifer Connelly in 2001 for A Beautiful Mind, when everyone including the Oscars had them in Supporting.) The overseas Academy also ignored the listing of Lesley Manville as a Lead Actress on their screener case for Another Year and nominated her amongst the Supporting players. It can be hard to predict a list of five when it is unclear where a performance is going to end up. Oscar ballots were already due before the Globes, the BFCA or BAFTA announced their winners and nominees, so it's a little late for voters to rethink their choices.

But not for us playing the Oscar game. Despite whatever confident egos we might possess, somewhere inside we are always second-guessing our choices. How did we not see it? Why was I so adamant in sticking with that film. Here are things to pay attention to while the "ooohs" and "aaahs" are coming out of the press rows during the announcement:

- It will begin with one of the first categories. Someone is going to be getting snubbed out of Supporting Actor. Only Bale & Rush are safe at the moment. The numbers suggest that Jeremy Renner & Andrew Garfield should be in. But either of them could be left off to make room for Mark Ruffalo and John Hawkes. As good a time to play a hunch as any.

- Watch the early nominations for 'The Town' and 'Winter's Bone'. Both could have an acting nomination, but pay attention to Adapted Screenplay. Probably only room for one. But is it the token way to honor Affleck and the ladies or the paved path to a Best Picture nomination. Again, probably only room for one.

- '127 Hours' is everyone's favorite gut play for a snub in the weeks leading up to the nominees. Franco's nod is a lock. Danny Boyle is still likely on the outside looking in for Director, but might be closer than some believe. Watch out for that Adapted Screenplay category though. The numbers are very much in its favor. But if it is dropped there, it might make room for both 'The Town' and 'Winter's Bone' there...and Best Picture.



- Watch out for the 'Toy Story 3' snubbing. With competition stiff in both Picture and Adapted Screenplay, do not be too surprised if the Academy decides that 'Up' was enough to satisfy the 'WALL-E' snubbing and that they do not feel the need to give another Animated Feature top billing when they have their own ghettoized category, one which did not exist when the first two films were released. Two films that helped change the quality of animated films as we know it today. If any film is worthy of at least a token nomination for Best Picture it is this one. But I will stop panicking once it is one of the last nominees announced.

- Do not panic if 'The Social Network' does not lead in the nominations. It is up against films that will be tech-heavy. As many as five ('127 Hours', 'Black Swan', 'Inception', 'The King's Speech' & 'True Grit') could tie or out-nominate the Fincher film. Remember, do not panic. It is still the frontrunner. Until Oscar journalists try to drum up fake drama and the backlash campaign begins. And even then, it is still the frontrunner.

After that, what more is there to say. Well, plenty. But let us get to the final predictions.