Who’s going to make the biggest noise at this year’s Oscars? Will silence prove golden for hot favourite The Artist? Will The Help clean up?  Or will The Descendants inherit all the glory?

With the clock ticking down to Sunday night’s ceremony, we’re going to predict the major winners, sorting out the dead certs and the close calls … and revealing the films and stars who would win if we had our way and the movies that Oscar forgot.

Best Film
The Artist
War Horse
The Descendants
Midnight in Paris
Moneyball
The Tree of Life
The Help
Hugo
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

This year the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has come up with a 9-strong field of Best Film nominees (down from last year’s 10)  – but one runner is so far out in front as to make this category – and many others too – an almost foregone conclusion. This time last year you’d have been thought mad to suggest that a French black-and-white silent movie would be the odds-on favourite to win big on Oscar night – yet 2012 looks set to be the year of The Artist.

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Will win: The Artist
Should win: The Artist
Who’s missing: Drive

Best Director
Michel HazanaviciusThe Artist
Martin ScorseseHugo
Alexander PayneThe Descendants
Terrence MalickTree of Life
Woody AllenMidnight in Paris
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJITlnI8cR0
Will win: Michel Hazanavicius
Should win: Michel Hazanavicius
Who’s missing: Nicolas Winding Refn (for Drive)

Best Actor
Demian BachirA Better Life
George ClooneyThe Descendants
Jean DujardinThe Artist
Brad PittMoneyball
Gary OldmanTinker Tailor Soldier Spy

George Clooney and Jean Dujardin split the Best Actor awards at the Golden Globes – Clooney winning the Drama category and Dujardin the Comedy/Musical one. A month ago you’d have said Hollywood insider Clooney would have the edge, but The Artist bandwagon is currently so strong that Bafta winner Dujardin looks a cert to scoop this gong too. And very well deserved too, though I’d like to see Gary Oldman’s incredibly subtle performance in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy get major award recognition.

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Will win: Jean Dujardin
Should win:
Gary Oldman
Who’s missing: Michael Fassbender (in Shame)

Best Actress
Glenn CloseAlbert Nobbs
Viola DavisThe Help
Meryl StreepThe Iron Lady
Rooney MaraThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Michelle WilliamsMy Week with Marilyn

This year’s Best Actress contest only has two real contenders – Meryl Streep and Viola Davis (former Oscar-nominated co-stars in Doubt, in which Davis blew Streep off screen). Streep’s uncanny performance as Margaret Thatcher certainly impressed this year’s Bafta voters, but I suspect that on home territory Davis’s role as The Help’s stoic maid Aibileen will win the hearts of the Academy. My vote, though, would go to Michelle Williams for her sensational performance as Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn.

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Will win: Viola Davis
Should win: Michelle Williams
Who’s missing: Tilda Swinton (in We Need to Talk About Kevin)

Best Supporting Actor
Christopher PlummerBeginners
Jonah HillMoneyball
Kenneth BranaghMy Week with Marilyn
Nick NolteWarrior
Max von SydowExtremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Kenneth Branagh was enjoyably waspish as Laurence Olivier in My Week with Marilyn and Max von Sydow’s wordless performance spoke volumes in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Yet they’re almost certain to lose out to 82-year-old Christopher Plummer for his moving role in Beginners as an elderly father who comes out as gay at the age of 72.

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Will win: Christopher Plummer
Should win: Kenneth Branagh
Who’s missing: Hunter McCracken (in The Tree of Life)

Best Supporting Actress
Bérénice BejoThe Artist
Jessica ChastainThe Help
Melissa McCarthyBridesmaids
Janet McTeerAlbert Nobbs
Octavia SpencerThe Help

Octavia Spencer’s crowd-pleasing performance as feisty outspoken Minny in The Help makes her the runaway favourite for this category, though Bérénice Bejo could benefit from all that love for The Artist. My pick, however, would be Spencer’s The Help co-star Jessica Chastain, whose jittery white trash blonde was just one of an incredible run of brilliant performances she delivered last year in films as diverse as Take Shelter, The Debt and The Tree of Life.

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Will win: Octavia Spencer
Should win: Jessica Chastain
Who’s missing: Elle Fanning (in Super 8)