Well, it’s T-minus a week to the big show, and we’re hard at work finalizing our predictions in all the categories. As always, there are many categories up in the air, and many fierce battles between two worthy contenders. Yes, the Best Picture race is practically a done deal. Slumdog Millionaire has exceeded everyone’s expectations, including our own, and swept all the Guild awards. It’s the most dominating force in recent memory since Return of the King. The big question now is how many statutettes it will amass on Sunday night. In recent years, no one film has won more than five Oscars. Slumdog stands to shatter that mark. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most competitive races.

Best Actor: Sean Penn v. Mickey Rourke

Rourke has the momentum and the great comeback story, but Penn has many things going in his favor too. He’s the established actor with a body of work that easily rivals other multiple winners like Tom Hanks and Hilary Swank. He gives an amazing, transformational performance as Harvey Milk, and he’s featured in a Best Picture nominated film. It’s hard not to think of Penn as the favorite. The question here is whether people will vote with their heads or their hearts. All in all, it could be as close as a coin toss.

Best Supporting Actress: Penelope Cruz v. Viola Davis v. Amy Adams

Cruz is ahead by virtue of winning the BAFTA award. But for some reason, she hasn’t quite captured the imagination of the voters, which is why this race remains wide open. Also, as we know, Best Supporting Actress is always a category prone to upsets. Viola Davis has a shot by virtue of that extremely powerful 12 minute scene in Doubt. So does Amy Adams. who has a bigger role and is a rising star in the industry that’s quite beloved. Of course, you see the problem. Davis and Adams could easily split the vote, making Cruz an even heavier favorite. This one will go down to the wire.

Best Original Screenplay: Milk v. WALL-E v. In Bruges

It’s been a while since we had a genuine race in this category. Juno, Little Miss Sunshine, and Crash were overwhelming favorites and all went home with the gold. Milk won the Writer’s Guild Award, which is a big boost, but it also doesn’t resemble the typical Oscar winning film. It’s not really quirky or original, it’s just plain good writing. In Bruges is more in line with past winners and it recently won the BAFTA award, but have enough people seen it? WALL-E’s inclusion is intriguing. Even absent dialogue, it’s an amazing screenplay and probably deserves to win. But will enough people be able to understand that a script isn’t just about crackling dialogue? Milk probably has the edge, but any of the three could easily take it.

Best Cinematography: Slumdog Millionaire v. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button v. The Reader

If Slumdog sweeps, some people expect, it will take this award. Also in its favor is the fact that it won the American Society of Cinematographer’s Award this weekend. But remember, the Academy often goes for the most beautiful film which would then favor Benjamin Button. The Reader features gorgeous, albeit subtle photography done by the legend Roger Deakins, who was nominated twice last year but didn’t win. Still, voters usually vote for the name of the film, not the person. It’s realistically a tight, tight race between Slumdog and Button.

Best Visual Effects: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button v. The Dark Knight v. Iron Man

Again, the obvious choice at first glance is Button, which reminds some people of Forrest Gump. But Gump was more revolutionary is placing Tom Hanks alongside US Presidents and cutting off Lieutenant Dan’s legs. It was more shocking fifteen years ago, whereas now we kind of expect effects to be dazzling. Along that train of thought, historically the film with the biggest effects often wins, a la Spiderman 2, Pirates 2, and King Kong. That would favor big blockbusters like Iron Man and The Dark Knight. The trouble with Iron Man is that the effects are similar to Transformers and that movie didn’t win. The Dark Knight featured great effects, but nothing you haven’t seen before. This will be a closer race than many anticipate, but Button is still the odds-on favorite.