GAYLE EDMUNDS draws up her race card for the 85th Academy Awards, which take place tonight

. She picks the frontrunners, the popular favourites, the dark horses and her personal choices for the top four categories

BEST ACTOR RACE
THE FRONTRUNNER
Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln: He’s after all the awards-season silverware and arrives at the final unbeaten

BEST ACTRESS RACE
Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty: She was denied last year, but this year she’s taking Oscar home

THE DARK HORSE
Joaquin Phoenix for The Master: Although dark characters are his thing, this one’s not going to get him to the podium Emmanuelle Riva for Amour: A coup to be nominated, but last year was the French one with The Artist

THE POPULAR FAVOURITE
Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings Playbook: This pretty boy proves he’s got a bit more to give than he gave in The Hangover Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook: This young woman is on everyone’s casting list and she’s big with the teens

THE CRITIC’S CHOICE
Hugh Jackman in Les Misérables: I am a sucker for a man who can sing about his feelings Naomi Watts for The Impossible: She outperforms a tsunami – ’nuff said

SCRATCHED
Denzel Washington in Flight: This film just hasn’t got off the ground Quvenzhané Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild: This film is way off the radar of the rest of Hollywood

BEST DIRECTOR RACE
THE FRONTRUNNER
Steven Spielberg for Lincoln: His seventh nomination. He’s won three – a formidable opponent

BEST FILM RACE
Lincoln: Nominated for 12 Oscars, this is sure to be one of many wins

THE DARK HORSE
David O Russell for Silver Linings Playbook: Not enough gravitas to beat his peers Les Misérables: This is not the year for a musical win, but its all-round brillance might hit the right note with voters

THE POPULAR FAVOURITE
Ang Lee for Life of Pi: The magic it weaves casts a powerful spell that might convince voters Argo: Oscar cocking a snook at Ben Affleck is the big story. This award might smooth the way

THE CRITIC’S CHOICE
Michael Haneke for Amour: It might be first nomination lucky for this outstanding German auteur Zero Dark Thirty: Kathryn Bigelow was also dissed for best director, a travesty indeed

SCRATCHED
Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild: This first-timer has dues to pay first Amour: Too foreign Beasts of the Southern Wild: Off the radar Django Unchained: Too much competition and controversy Life of Pi: Oscar’s not feeling whimsical this year. It’s an issues year Silver Linings Playbook: Too light for the big one
GAYLE EDMUNDS, JACO GROBBELAAR, Graphics24