A few random things have occurred to me, and, since this appears to be the live thread, I'll put them here:
The last of the old-pro critics' groups, the National Society, goes on Saturday. BJ intimated after NY/LA that this might be the place for 12 Years a Slave to win a major prize. But the relentlessness with which all the East Bumfuck critics have swarmed over McQueen's film make it less likely the choice of a group that prides itself on coolness. I have an idea this might be where Inside Llewyn Davis wins the top award, and I wouldn't be surprised if Kechiche or Sorrentino vied for best director.
Speaking of those regional critics: they've certainly lived down to my low view of them this year. With all the options available -- particularly under film/director/actor and supporting actress -- they've fallen in line for the pre-season-decreed slate with breathtaking uniformity...proving once and for all they're not critics, just Oscar bloggers with delusions of grandeur: mini-versions of the Broadcast Critics.
I presume the Broadcasters will echo the template (12 Years/Ejiofor/Blanchett/Leto/Nyong'o), with only director questionable (most of the midget groups have picked Cuaron, but the Broadcasters rarely split film and director). What I wonder is, will the Broadcasters set the debate this year as they too often have, with their awards now being given out not only after the Oscar nominations but also after the Globes (and only two days prior to SAG)? Their influence has recently seemed to derive from going first, and having the ability to guide those two groups to follow their lead (even on uncertain choices like Melissa Leo). If those groups strike out in other directions (and I could see both doing so), we might actually have a suspenseful year.
The early Globes & SAG presentations, in case anyone doesn't know, come from networks trying to avoid competition with the Olympics. The Oscars are also trying to stay out of the way, in their case by moving the ceremony to a late-by-recent-standards March. This has created an odd circumstance where the only prelim to be given out post February 1st is the tangentially-related BAFTA -- which is to say, all guilds will be done more than a month prior to the Oscars. Some have felt that the compressed deadline is partially responsible for the numbingly predictable results of recent years -- that there's never been time for voters to get the kind of wild hair that led to Halle Berry or Adrien Brody. Might that full month of no developments create more opportunity for surprise?
I'm still more committed than most to the idea that Sally Hawkins will make the supporting actress list at the Oscars. Call this rationalization or weird insight, but it's struck me that some recent surprise or at least uncertain supporting nominees have been matched to very likely lead acting winners: Ethan Hawke in Training Day, Maggie Gyllenhaal in Crazy Heart, Jacki Weaver last year (even Michael Shannon is half a match, since he got nominated for the film we expected to be Winslet's best actress vehicle). It may be that voters make a point of watching those most-highly-touted lead performances, and some of their co-stars can benefit (though Mila Kunis didn't).
I guess some people are still pushing the Tom Hanks/Mr. Banks possibility. The odd thing about that performance is, you hear a lot of "They love Tom Hanks, for Christ's sake", or "He's playing Walt Disney, for Christ's sake". What no one ever seems to say is, "Boy, Hanks was great in that". They DO say that about his Captain Phillips work (at least the final moments); if he's nominated for one, I dearly hope it's that.