Critics, Oscar prognosticators and curious observers alike tend to look at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as a living, breathing organism hooked up to a giant unibrain (let’s say an older, largely male and mostly white unibrain). Like a finicky house pet, the Academy has likes and dislikes, some inexplicable and others as easy to read as the flapping of a golden retriever’s tail. Sometimes, its thinking is as blankly straightforward as that of a goldfish. But it’s also capable of Abyssinian-catlike capriciousness and mystery. What will happen this year? If we knew for sure, it wouldn’t be so much fun to try to guess. And so here are a few predictions’ worth of scattered kibble, based partly on the past proclivities of this shadowy creature known as the Academy, with some wild conjecture thrown in—counterweighted with my own personal favorites in each category. I take no responsibility for the occasional knocked-over vase, and face it: The surprises are half the fun.

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