I have not seen the all the films that earned nominations, but I have seen several of the most highly acclaimed films of 2011, including the following: The Descendants, Midnight in Paris, The Artist, Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy, Warrior, Moneyball, Margin Call, The Tree of Life, Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.
I have not seen these films yet: The Help, The Iron Lady, Beginners, Hugo
I have based my Oscar picks on my impressions of the films that I have seen, as well as several other factors, such as other awards won to date (Golden Globes, SAG, etc.), and more intangible reasons, such as how I think the Academy perceives the reputation and overall body of work of the actor/writer/director. The values and politics of the Academy certainly comes into play for some awards so I attempted to include that in my choices.
My favorite films of 2011 wereThe Artist and The Descendants and I think those two films will battle for most of the top awards, but there were several other strong films, including Moneyball, Midnight in Paris and The Tree of Life, among others, so I look forward to Academy Awards with great interest.
Michel Hazanavicius – The Artist
George Clooney – The Descendants
UPDATE: I think momentum has swung. My new pick is:
Jean DuJardin – The Artist
Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady
Christopher Plummer – Beginners
Octavia Spencer – The Help
Midnight In Paris