When I was but a wee lad, I would struggle mightily to fall asleep on Christmas Eve, ultimately succumbing to the Sandman's beckoning for a few hours before rousing pre-dawn to coax my parents into believing that sleep was overrated. These days, Christmas seems more of a hassle than it's worth, but there is still one event capable of stoking the fires of anxious excitement within me. The Oscars. Yeah, I'm an Oscar geek. Judge me if you must. Being a movie buff, a love for the Oscars is an easy stretch. I get enjoyment in pouring over the nominees list, trying to determine who stands the best chance of walking away with the golden statuette. If I've learned one thing from my many years of watching the Oscars, it's that the most deserving and the most likely to win can be very different things. We can expect much of the same this year. When it comes to predicting the winners, it often pays to follow your head and not your heart. The Academy can be fickle, and while they try desperately to portray themselves as hip and progressive, reality is, the voting block still can't seem to get out of it's own way when it really boils down to selecting the winners. Fear not, I'm here to help you make some sense of it all. Looking for an edge in your office Oscar pool? Want to impress your friends and family with your vast prognostication skills? Whatever your motivation, climb on board and take these fearless predictions to the bank. In this article I will examine the Best Supporting Acting races. Traditionally, if an upset is going to happen, it will come from one of the supporting categories. There are certainly front runners, but nothing is a given in these races. Best Supporting Actress Berenice Bejo - The Artist Jessica Chastain - The Help Melissa McCarthy - Bridesmaids Janet McTeer - Albert Nobbs Octavia Spencer - The Help Let's eliminate Melissa McCarthy right out of the gate. Certainly she was the best part of Bridesmaids, but are we really naive enough to think hers was the best supporting performance of the entire year? Remember earlier when I said the Academy likes to fashion itself as hip and progressive? Consider McCarthy's nomination as a smoke screen to drive home that point. I loved her in Bridesmaids, but she should just be happy for the invite and enjoy the after parties. While the Academy loves weird period crap like Albert Nobbs, you must have some semblance of buzz around yourself come award season. Albert Nobbs has none. Janet McTeer has even less. McTeer's name being called here would rank as one of the all time biggest upsets in Oscar history. No chance. I find it odd that the Academy chose The Help as a representation of Jessica Chastain's performances from last year. I have no issue with her being on this list, but for my money she would have been up for her heartfelt performance in Take Shelter. I'd even consider arguments for her turn in The Tree Of Life over The Help. In any case, of all of the great performances in The Help, hers just doesn't stand quite as tall. She's a great actress and I'd expect to see her back again very soon. Not her year. No film is riding the wave of momentum quite like The Artist these days. The buzz is off the charts, but despite all of the frenzy, Berenice Bejo is hanging on for dear life. I did mention that these supporting categories sometimes surprise us on Oscar night, and if you are akin to rolling the dice on a possible upset, take a chance on Bejo. I just don't think she has enough support to pull this off. The clear front runner here is Octavia Spencer. Her turn as Minny Jackson stands out in a movie that was littered with phenomenal performances. Her role required moments of heart wrenching resolve, emotional poignancy and comedic timing. She met the task at every turn. She's gathered quite a collection of awards for this role already. It would be unfortunate to see her fall short here. Should Win - Octavia Spencer Will Win - Octavia SpencerBest Supporting Actor Kenneth Branaugh - My Week With Marilyn Jonah Hill - Moneyball Nick Nolte - Warrior Christopher Plummer - Beginners Max Von Sydow - Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close Recall what I said about Melissa McCarthy and the Academy wanting you to believe it's got a finger on the pulse of the younger audience? Put Jonah Hill in that same conversation. I liked Moneyball, but when I think about the best of the best in movies, which is what the Oscars is supposed to be about, a performance needs to stand out and be memorable. Think back to Christian Bale's role in The Fighter or Christoph Waltz in Inglorious Basterds. They were memorable. Did anyone walk out of Moneyball and truly say to themselves, "Wow, Jonah Hill was amazing."? Exactly. Nick Nolte was fine in Warrior. The problem I have is that he essentially played Nick Nolte. This role was no stretch for him. This was nothing more than a courtesy nomination for whatever reason, and unfortunately, Albert Brooks (Drive) was the benefactor of the snub. Kenneth Branaugh is suffering from the same fate as Janet McTeer. What little buzz is circulating around My Week With Marilyn is falling at the heels of lead actress Michelle Williams. Branaugh has received more press over the last year for directing Thor than his role here. Not gonna happen. Max Von Sydow is a sentimental pick. Unfortunately, he was in a movie that most critics and audiences aren't too keen about, and he's up against an even more sentimental pick in Christopher Plummer. I have to be honest, I haven't seen Beginners, but what I know of Christopher Plummer tells me he was likely as impressive as advertised. The Academy loves to dish out "lifetime achievement" awards in these categories, especially to the men. Since Plummer has the buzz and the better movie, expect him to walk away the winner here. Should Win - Christopher Plummer Will Win - Christopher Plummer Stick with me over the next couple of days as I will continue to run down the key races for Oscar gold. For now, feel free to heap praises upon me or direct your ire as you see fit in the comments section below.