Bridges, Winslet, Ledger and Mo'Nique. These four were runaway winners in their years, so it's easy to choose them. For Best Actor, I chose Bridges over Firth and Day-Lewis because it doesn't seem likely that Day-Lewis would win a second before Bridges got his first, and Bridges would be seen as more overdue than Firth. However, I think Day-Lewis (since There Will Be Blood was loved) might be strong competition.
1) Lead Actor Dujardin seems to be the weakest here. I can easily see him fall out of contention first. Penn & Day-Lewis already had an Oscar before. I think the sentiment could easily let Bridges have the win. Even though Firth doesn't have an Oscar, I think Day-Lewis just seems more poised to snatch the Oscar away from Bridges for his performance. I would rank Bridges, Day-Lewis, Firth, Penn and Dujardin according to likely to win.
2) Lead Actress I would say it's a 3-way race between Portman, Winslet and Cotillard. I don't think Bullock is strong enough to fight the rest of the other contendors. Streep, as we have seen in many years past, can't win when there's a slight frontrunner. So I do think she will sit this one out. Cotillard has the disadvantage of being in a foreign film so it's a bit hard sell. Winslet has been seen as overdue and I think she will edge out Portman in the end. I would rank Winslet, Portman, Cotillard, Streep and Bullock according to likely to win.
3) Supporting Actor I think this race is between Ledger & Plummer. The brilliant performance from the too-soon-to go Ledger and the brilliant aging actor. Sentiment has to be between this two. Ledger is one of the rare post-humous wins. I'm not sure whether when faced with Plummer, the sentiment is strong enough. It's really a tossup between this two. In the end, I decided to rank Plummer, Ledger, Waltz, Bardem & Bale according to likely to win.
4) Supporting Actress I think this seems to be Monique's to lose. I find it hard to see anyone else winning. I would rank Monique, Cruz, Spencer, Leo & Swinton according to likely to win.
Hmmmm..... That's an interesting question. I think no one could beat Mo'Nique and Ledger in supporting, only with Waltz very close to Ledger. The leading men are more diffucult, but I think DDL gave the most powerful performance, Bridges was seen as overdue, so was Firth (well, kind of + real person), Penn has only won the Oscar five years ago but played gay AND a real person. Jean Durjardin was lucky to be nominated in a year were a silent french movie became the most critical love. When it comes to the battle of the leading ladies, it's even harder. We have here two "overdues" solved (Winslet's first, Meryl's third), Winslet played in a film about a Nazi crime plus was in a BP nominee, Cotilliard and Meryl played iconic roles/real famous persons, but both ther film got mixed reviews and were not nominated for best picture. Though the Make Up won Oscars too, for visibly aging. Natalie Portman had the phsyical torture of playing a thin ballerina with strange hallcinations (you know, I can't help but wonder what would have happened if they'd played "The Nutcracker" instead of "Swansea") and she was in every scene. So was Bullock and her movie was a huge hit in the USA in 2009. She might have still won with that popularity over Meryl,but I'm not sure if she could have beaten an actress with a lead role in a Nazi crime movie or a phsychal AND mentally disturbed ballerina or a famous french singer. Plus the three actresses were a lot younger than her. It's not really one of my favorite wins, but I guess Portman, with Winslet at second. If they'd (well, four of them) had been up against Helen Mirren for The Queen, there was no chance against her.
Daniel Day Lewis (slight edge over Jeff Bridges) - Penn won before, Dujardin is too new for this competition, Firth is the dark horse. While Bridges is seen overdue, DDL was in a BP frontrunner (I understand that Dujardin and Firth were in BP winners, but DDL is in a tour de force performance here. It might be even one of the iconic ones this decade.)
Natalie Portman (slight edge over Winslet) - Bullock will be the welcome to the club, it will be just one of those other noms for Streep, Cotillard is the young hot thing usually nominated. What gives Portman the edge was that the Academy isn't hurrying up rewarding Winslet, and I think they can wait for a seventh nom for her. Portman's film, while divisive, was truly a showcase of Portman all throughout and it will be enough to reward her
Ledger - Plummer might benefit from being the only one who's not a villain here (Bale is more of c0cky though), but Ledger will be helped more since this is the last time to reward him
Mo'nique and Spencer might share the same voters (the times when a woman of color won, there's no other contender sharing the vote. Henson and Davis both nommed in 2009 but both lsot to Cruz), but Mo'nique can steamroll her way to the Oscar. Swinton got lucky with a weak competition, and they couldn't even nominate her now despite giving strong performances. They'll probably wait for Cruz to give her a Leading one, and the world will move on even if Leo hadn't won for The Fighter.