Film critic Paul Steward makes his predictions for the Oscars

Joaquin Phoenix played the Joker

Joaquin Phoenix played the Joker - Credit: Archant

For film fans, the dawning of the new year means that awards season is once again approaching. Oscar nominations will be announced on January 13 before the Dolby theatre, Los Angeles, hosts the 92nd academy awards on February 9.

Rene Zellweger as Judy Garland

Rene Zellweger as Judy Garland - Credit: Archant

Paul Steward takes a look at the runners and riders in the six main categories and gives his predictions on who has the best chance of securing a golden statuette.

Best supporting Actress

Laura Dern is currently the hot favourite to nab the best Supporting actress Oscar, for her portrayal of steely divorce lawyer Nora Fanshaw in the Netflix produced Marriage Story.

Her competition comes in the unlikely form of popstar/actress Jennifer Lopez who gained rave reviews for her turn as a lap dancer turning the tables on her Wall Street clients in Hustlers.

The Boxing Day release of Greta Gerwigs Little Women throws up a lot of actresses who could potentially end up in this category, with the excellent Florence Pugh, perhaps the most likely, whilst Margot Robbie could also be in the running for her role in the yet to be released Bombshell, in which she stars alongside Nicole Kidman and Charlize Theron as Fox News anchors taking on the toxic male atmosphere at their station.

Other names not to be discounted include Annette Benning for the Report, and Thomasin McKenzie for JoJo Rabitt.

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Top Pick - Laura Dern

Outside Bet - Florence Pugh

Best Supporting Actor

The performances in Martin Scorsese's gangster epic The Irishman are certain to gain attention in the best supporting actor category, with both Al Pacino and Joe Pesci delivering some of their best work for years.

Three-time nominee Brad Pitt also stands a good chance of nabbing his first acting Oscar for his portrayal of stuntman Cliff Booth in Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

While rumours abound that Tom Hanks may run in the best supporting category for his charming turn as Ted Rogers in the film A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood'.

Other names in the running include Willem Dafoe for the Lighthouse, Anthony Hopkins for his portrayal of Pope Benedict in Netflix film The Two Popes and Jamie Foxx for legal drama Just Mercy.

Top Pick - Joe Pesci

Outside Bet - Brad Pitt

Best Actress

Rene Zellweger's portrayal of Judy Garland in the American entertainers biopic has many tipping her for the best actress Oscar, however she will face stiff competition from Scarlett Johansson for her emotional performance in Marriage Story. Luptia Nyong'o's stunning dual performance as doppelgängers Adelaide and Red in Jordan Peele's Us is undoubtedly deserving of recognition, whilst outsider Cynthia Erivo has been gradually gaining support for her role in Harriet, the life story of American Abolitionist Harriet Tubman. Charlize Theron for Bombshell and Awkwafina for the Farewell are also very likely to be in the running.

Top Pick - Rene Zellweger

Outside Bet - Lupita Nyong'o

Best Actor

Three-time nominee Joaquin Phoenix looks to secure his first Academy Award for his transformative performance in Todd Phillips DC origin film Joker and is currently the bookies favourite. Meanwhile Phoenix's co-star Robert De Niro is also tipped to be in the running for his portrayal of hit man Frank Sheehan in Martin Scorsese's The Irishman.

Others likely to be considered are Antonio Banderas for Pain and Glory, Adam Driver for his turn opposite Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story and Leonardo DiCaprio for his leading role in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Whilst a late contender comes in the unlikely form of comedian Adam Sandler, who is receiving rave reviews for his performance in crime drama Uncut Gems.

Top Pick - Joaquin Phoenix

Outside Bet - Adam Driver

Best Director

Two of Hollywoods most acclaimed filmmakers, Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino, go head-to-head in the race for the best director prize. Scorsese for his decade spanning gangster epic The Irishman which has been hailed in some quarters as his late career masterpiece, and Tarantino for the beautifully crafted love letter to the 1960's Once upon a time in Hollywood. Tarantino has won two Oscars before in the Original Screenplay category but never walked away with the directors prize. Something that is perhaps long overdue.

The Newly knighted Sir Sam Mendes will also be looking to add to his accolades for his World War One drama 1917, which is due to be released in mid January.

Parasite, Korean filmmaker Bong Joon Ho's follow-up to Snowpiercer and Okja is also not yet released in the UK but is creating quite the buzz stateside, giving him an outside chance, whilst Greta Gerwig's take on the literary classic Little Women could also see her feature in the running.

Top Pick - Quentin Tarantino

Outside Bet - Greta Gerwig

Best Picture

In the past the Oscar for Best picture and Best Director usually went hand-in-hand, however since 2010 when the preferential voting system for best picture was reintroduced it has become much more divided. This year the field is wide open for the Academy's most coveted prize. Jay Roach's Bombshell seems to be the current front runner, followed closely by Bong Joon Ho's Parasite, and Todd Phillips excellent Joker. However the aforementioned Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, The Irishman and Little Women also stand a very good chance. Lulu Wang's The Farewell, Marriage Story, 1917, and Taika Waititi's Anti hate satire JoJo Rabbit are all also likely to be considered worthy of votes, making this category the hardest to predict.

Top Pick - 1917

Outside Bet - Once Upon a Time in Hollywood