When you begin to pay attention to the awards circuit, it’s difficult to find out which critic circles or award ceremonies have a great track record with their predictions. It’s easy to get lost in the flurry that is the awards season, especially around this time of year when every other major town is hollering about who they deem as their top picks. This week on Oscar Scuttlebutt not only do we clear up the air of confusion, helping you figure out who’s going for what, along with a run down of the Best Actor race.

First let’s take a glimpse over the top couple of actors that everyone’s in love with at this point in time due to their performance. There’s the obvious choice that is Daniel Day-Lewis, a man who easily could get Oscar #3 in his hands next year for his terrific portrayal of the sixteenth president in Lincoln. Seriously, this man has for the most part been obliterating the competition. At this rate the Academy might just FedEx him the Oscar in the next month just to get it over with. Then there’s Hugh Jackman taking on the meaty role of Jean Valjean, an ex-convict who tries to escape his past and become a better man in Tom Hooper‘s Les Misérables. Jackman is an incredible performer who can sing, dance and move you with his fine acting skills. He’s been getting a lot more love for this role than this reporter expected. Maybe he’ll give Daniel Day-Lewis some good competition.

But then you can’t bring up this category without Bradley Cooper who I consider to be more of a dark horse nominee more than anyone else. Don’t get me wrong, he’s entertaining in Silver Linings Playbook, but to claim that his performance is nothing but Oscar material is stretching it. At the same time not everyone has my mindset since a good chunk of critics have been praising his performance in this film even weeks before the movie was released theatrically. He’s won a couple of awards so far, but will he win the Oscar? Probably not, but he’ll at least be nominated at this point.

Now onto the last two slots. Who would we throw in there? Well Joaquin Phoenix for his excellent performance in what might be this years’ most underrated movie, The Master. He’s not the only man on our list who’s coping with addiction, but the combination of that and the character’s own complex, unpredictable and violent personality is the equivalent of a stick of dynamite ready to explode. Thankfully the Paul Thomas Anderson picture is getting a decent Oscar push and is slowly winning awards for its acting, and we hope this film’s awards momentum keeps going until the main cast is nominated by the Academy.

Lastly there’s Denis Lavant from Holy Motors. You thought we were going to say Denzel Washington in Flight, didn’t you? Nope, sorry but none of these actors hold a candle to what this French actor was able to do in Holy Motors. Even though the movie is layered in surrealism and leans a lot more into the artistic side of film rather than the self-explanatory mainstream cinema, Lavant struts his acting stuff as he plays several characters within the span of the movie. Next to Beasts of the Southern Wild, Holy Motors is just that one movie that many can’t stop talking about since it debuted at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. It’s cinema gold, but sadly Lavant’s chances of being nominated for this year’s Academy Awards are low, just because of his competition like John Hawkes (The Sessions) and Mr. Washington. Still, I’m keeping hope alive in the thought that there’s still a chance he could be nominated and get more recognition for what he pulled off onscreen.

What’s everyone else saying on the subject? Most of our awards critics believe that Daniel Day-Lewis, Bradley Cooper and Hugh Jackman are more or less shoe-ins for the Oscar nomination list, or at least that’s the impression we’re getting from the awards circuit. This past weekend we saw the LA, NY and Boston Film Critics circles announce their winners. The LA Film Critics sector kept hope alive for The Master as it walked away with Best Director, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress. Did we mention that we absolutely loved the fact that Roger Deakins won for Best Cinematography in Skyfall? Because we do. Zero Dark Thirty and Lincoln reigned supreme in NY and Boston, which is to be expected. Kathryn Bigelow‘s chances of going home with her second Best Director Oscar are increasing as time goes along.

We can’t forget the bigger award shows that just released their nominations. What both the Golden Globes and SAG nominations have proven is that they very much prefer Helen Mirren in Hitchcock to Emmanuelle Riva in Amour, something that may piss off hardcore cinephiles. It’s still a surprise to see Jack Black‘s name pop up every once in awhile, which it did in the Golden Globes’ list for his role in Bernie. And yes, we were one of the many groups of people who completely forgot that Salmon Fishing in the Yemen came out in theaters earlier this year.

And look at this sudden awards resurgence by Nicole Kidman in the lukewarm picture The Paperboy. Never would have guessed that the critically bashed movie would see the light of day in the awards circuit. At least Javier Bardem got some love in the SAG nominations for his wonderful villain role in Skyfall. Good work SAG!

We’re in the eye of the storm when it pertains to the awards season. It may be a bit overwhelming to take in right now, but man is it thrilling to see who’s getting the proper attention for what, along with a couple of surprises down the road.