Unlike the hosts of other ceremonies skewing the odds for certain favorites, the 92nd Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars 2020, to be held Sunday at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood here, seems to be more predictable than in previous years.
For nominations, the psychological thriller "Joker" led with 11 nominations, narrowly beating fellow contenders, including the mob drama "The Irishman," period dramedy "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," and World War I epic "1917," with 10 nominations each.
South Korean director Bong Joon-ho's black comedy "Parasite" won six nominations.
For the hotly contested Best Picture, Martin Scorsese's 3.5-hour mob epic "The Irishman" led as a fan favorite in the early season and almost collected all of the other award nominations for the category.
But it was soon supplanted by Quentin Tarantino's historically-revisionist ode to the 1960s Hollywood -- "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood."
With its tongue-in-cheek insider view of the film and television industry in the 1960s, the film seems like an Oscar shoo-in, garnering Best Picture nominations at the Golden Globes, Cannes Film Festival and British Academy Film Awards.
Yet, the writing was on the wall, as it got consistently edged by Sam Mendes' "1917," which erupted on the scene to great fanfare. As a latecomer, Mendes' visually stunning war epic possesses all elements the Academy likes and belongs to the much favored wartime genre.
Todd Phillips' dark and dystopian "Joker" also got some Oscar buzz, especially after winning the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.
But lately, the only potential spoiler in "1917's" sprint to the podium is the dark horse contender, Bong's "Parasite."
"Parasite," South Korea's entry for Best International Feature Film, swept into the Best Picture race by sheer momentum after winning the Golden Globes, Cannes Film Festival and British Academy Film Awards.
For the Best Director category, Greta Gerwig's fresh and nuanced take on "Little Women" seems good for a nomination, but not good enough for an Oscar's Best Director nomination, creating much controversy over the Academy's continuous lack of recognition for female directors.
Scorsese, arguably Hollywood's most revered living director, was an early contender for this category because of "The Irishman." He's been nominated for the award five times and won once for "The Departed."
But then pro-Tarantino sentiment surged. It seemed the quirky auteur might finally bring home his long overdue Best Director award after winning two gold statues previously for screenwriting.
Tarantino also racked up multiple Golden Globes, British Academy Film Awards, and Critics Choice Awards nominations this year, but has only taken home the award from the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts.
Then Mendes, a previous Best Director Oscar winner for "American Beauty," nudged Tarantino out of the front row with his adroitly directed "1917."
But again as with the Best Picture contest, it's not out of the question that Bong could lap Mendes for a surprise win given that he's already nabbed the Cannes Film Festival.
For the best acting categories, the lead and supporting awards are not so intensely contested this year, so one hopes for great acceptance speeches to keep audiences from dozing off.
For Best Actor and Actress, there has been much talk of Antonio Banderas' superb performance in "Pain and Glory" and Saoirse Ronan's for "Little Women" or Charlize Theron's for "Bombshell."
However, now it looks like a lock for Joaquin Phoenix, for his unnerving performance in "Joker," and Renee Zellweger, for her note-perfect performance in "Judy." Both have won the Golden Globes, British Academy Film Awards, and Screen Actors Guild Awards during the season.
If it turns out to the case, this would be Phoenix's first Oscar win and Zellweger's second, who has won Best Supporting Actress in 2004 for her role in "Cold Mountain."
In the Supporting Actor and Actress categories, Brad Pitt is considered a shoo-in for his role in "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," while Laura Dern is likely to take the gold statue for her performance in "Marriage Story." Both have also dominated the aforementioned awards.
It would be Dern's third Oscar nomination and first win, and Pitt's sixth Oscar nomination and second win, and both have won Best Picture for "12 Years a Slave."
For the Best Original Screenplay, industry pundits see this as a neck and neck race between Hollywood titan Tarantino's "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" and Boon and Han Jin-won's startling and inventive "Parasite."
For the Best International Feature Film, there isn't a soul in Seoul or Hollywood who doesn't think "Parasite" will win the award.