It’s that time again. I know we’ve had the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs, but this one’s the big one. The 84th Academy Awards, jam-packed with gushing acceptance speeches, dazzling smiles and floor sweeping dresses beamed to you all the way from the shiny bright Kodak Theatre, the venue of choice for the Hollywood elite.

2010 was The Hurt Locker versus Avatar, 2011 The King’s Speech versus The Social Network and this year? Actually it’s been blown wide open. Silent movie The Artist is an obvious favourite with the ‘novelty factor’ bringing back the good old days. This film’s ten nominations include Jean Dujardin for best actor, Berenice Bejo for actress in a supporting role and this movie is also in contention for the much coveted best picture award. However, it’s not going to be easy. For a start the Actor In a Leading Role category is crammed with the likes of George Clooney for his highly emotive performance in The Descendants, Brad Pitt’s in there for his portrayal of Oakland A Manager ‘Billy Beane’ in Moneyball (an actual decent sports movie!) and not forgetting the nod to Gary Oldman for British film Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the adaptation of John Le Carre’s  1974 spy novel. So that category’s anyone’s guess.

Perhaps most interesting is the 11 nominations for Scorsese’s 3D fantasy Hugo. For those of you who haven’t seen this astounding piece of cinematography, its set in 1930s Paris and tells the remarkable story of an orphaned boy who goes on a quest to discover the secret held by a broken automaton. Not convinced? Believe me this is the one to watch.

Then there’s the Actress In a Leading Role category. For the ladies it’s been the year of the biopic with Michelle Williams nominated for her incarnation of Marilyn Monroe and Meryl Streep taking on the role of the mighty Margaret Thatcher. A nod also goes to Viola Davis who plays maid Aibileen Clark in The Help, a film set in Civil Rights era America managing to balance just the right amount of comedy and weighty drama. I think we all know that Meryl’s got it sewn up for The Iron Lady, but with relative newcomer Rooney Mara in there for her turn as feisty oddball Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo you never know what might happen.

And the most important one? The Best Picture category contains an abundance of drama with the epic War Horse, 3D Hugo and black and white movie The Artist going head to head. The Help with its watchability factor and the heart-wrenching tale of The Descendants are fair contenders. It seems the winner of the category could be any of the above, however, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a film slipped in amidst the box office smashes. This film starring Oscar royalty Sandra Bullock and Tom Hanks features first-time actor Oskar Schell as an eleven-year old New Yorker left a key by his father after 9/11. His search across the city unfolds into an extraordinary tale of discovery. It’s not released in the UK until February 17th but with its great cast, serious storyline and a hero to root for, this could be the dark horse of the Academy Awards.

Predictions made, all will be revealed on February 26th. I know I’ll be there…