I've won the Oscar pool two years running now. Can I make it three?
Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role:
Penélope Cruz in "Nine"
Vera Farmiga in "Up in the Air"
Maggie Gyllenhaal in "Crazy Heart"
Anna Kendrick in "Up in the Air"
Mo'Nique in "Precious"
Mo'nique is such a lock for this category that I can't even think of a second choice. Probably one of the "Up in the Air" women. Maggie Gyllenhaal's nomination was a bit of a surprise, and "Nine" has been mostly spurned by critics, so if anyone is going to upset Mo'Nique, it'd be Anna Kendrick or Vera Farmiga. But they won't. Mo'Nique has won every Supporting Actress award possible; Oscar'll be just one more.
1st Pick: Mo'Nique
2nd Pick: Vera Farmiga.
Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Matt Damon in "Invictus"
Woody Harrelson in "The Messenger"
Christopher Plummer in "The Last Station"
Stanley Tucci in "The Lovely Bones:
Christoph Waltz in "Inglourious Basterds"
Same as Supporting Actress but with "Christoph Walz" in place of "Mo'Nique". Let's see, fill some space. This is the highly-regarded Christopher Plummer's first Ocar nomination. Woody Harrelson's nomination was a bit of surprise amongst the industry. Matt Damon's one of a pair of acting nominatons (along with Morgan Freeman) from "Invictus", a film that many expected to make a bigger splash at the Oscars but missed a crucial best pic nom. There was some buzz before the nominations as to whether or not Stanley Tucci would be nominated for "The Lovely Bones" or "Julie and Julia". His darker turn in "Bones" won out. Also, Christoph Waltz is going to win.
1st Pick: Christoph Waltz
2nd Pick: I dunno...Milhouse
Performance by an Actress in a Lead Role
Sandra Bullock in "The Blind Side"
Helen Mirren in "The Last Station"
Carey Mulligan in "An Education"
Gabourey Sidibe in "Precious"
Meryl Streep in "Julie & Julia"
It's been a two race for some time between first time nominee Sandra Bullock and Mrs. Oscar, Meryl Streep, which each lady picking up a share of the pre-Oscar awards. Bullock remains in the lead, and her film's surprising best picture nomination likely gives her the edge. But you can never count Meryl Streep out.
1st Pick: Sandra Bullock
2nd Pick: Meryl Streep
Performance by an Actor in a Lead Role
Jeff Bridges in "Crazy Heart"
George Clooney in "Up in the Air"
Colin Firth in "A Single Man"
Morgan Freeman in "Invictus"
Jeremy Renner in "The Hurt Locker"
From what I hear, Colin Firth's work in "A Single Man" is phenomenal, but Jeff Bridges victory, after sweeping up numerous other awards, is almost as assured as that of Waltz or Mo'Nique's. If it turns into a "Hurt Locker" night, it's possible that Jeremy Renner could ride that wave to an upset. But I'm still putting my money on Bridges.
1st Pick: Jeff Bridges
2nd Pick: Jeremy Renner
Achievement in Directing:
James Cameron "Avatar"
Kathryn Bigelow "The Hurt Locker"
Quentin Tarantino "Inglorious Basterds"
Lee Daniels "Precious"
Jason Reitman "Up in the Air"
The battle of the exes was more or less over before it began. While a case can be made for Cameron winning this award (orchestrating something like "Avatar", using never-before-used technology and riding roughshod over all the various elements of the film was no mean feat, and he did win the Golden Globe), at this point it's Bigelow's to lose. Her film is racking up awards left and right, and most importantly, she became the first female director to win the Directors Guild award. Only six times since its inception in 1948 has the DGA winner failed to win the Best Director Oscar (the last time it happened was in 2003, when "The Pianists" Roman Polanski beat out "Chicago" director Rob Marshall). Unless there's a sudden and huge groundswell of support for "Avatar" across the board, it seems likely that Bigelow will continue to make history and become the first female director to win an Oscar.
1st Pick: Kathryn Bigelow
2nd Pick: James Cameron
Best Motion Picture of the Year
"The Blind Side"
"The Hurt Locker"
"A Serious Man"
"Up in the Air"
Despite twice as many nominees (and the early consideration of "Up in the Air" as the film to beat) this is a two way race between David and Goliath, "Hurt Locker" and "Avatar". Though David is the favorite going into the awards, Cameron's blockbuster Goliath can't entirely be counted out just yet. Both films are tied for the most nominations (usually the film with the most nominations wins). "Avatar" has won no guild awards, while "Hurt Locker" has swept up the pre-Oscar trifecta of the Producers, Directors and Writers Guild awards as well the best picture award from the BAFTAs (the British Oscars). Basically, with the exception of the SAG award and a Golden Globe, "Hurt Locker" is following in the Oscar footsteps of "Slumdog", last year's winner. "Avatar" does have a Golden Globe win to its credit (neither film won the SAG's equivalent to best picture, which went to "Inglorious Basterds") and there is some concern that, like "Brokeback Mountain" and "Crash" in 2005, Academy voters may award Bigelow the Directing Oscar and give best picture to the more viewer-friendly "Avatar". Even moreso than "Slumdog" the awards' paths of "Hurt Locker" and "Brokeback Mountain" are eerily similar, leading some to conclude that "Hurt Locker" will share the final outcome of "Brokeback".
Another consideration, though: along with the expansion of the Best Picture category, voters are voting differently for best picture this year. Instead of picking just one winner, they were asked to essentially rank the films, assigning each a value 1-10. Dave Karger, Entertainment Weekly's Oscar guru, believes this new way of voting might help "Hurt Locker" avoid the fate of "Brokeback". While more voters may select Avatar as their number one film, it is a much more divisive film than the almost-universally acclaimed "Hurt Locker". Thus, more voters are likely, if not to rank it at #1, to rank it fairly high. Thus, "Hurt Locker" may pull out a win thanks to higher overall numbers, even if more voters pick "Avatar" as #1. Mr. Karger's reasoning seems sound enough for me to pick "Hurt Locker" for the win, but I'm still not counting out a surprise "Avatar" win.
Either way, one thing is for certain: after the award is given, the winner will either be the highest grossing best picture winner of all time, or the lowest grossing.
1st Pick: "The Hurt Locker"
2nd Pick: "Avatar"
In other races:
"Avatar" is pretty much a lock to win the Visual effects Oscar.
"Up" best picture nomination pretty much assures it a win in the Animated Feature category in a strong year for animated films.
Another minor battle is in the Original Screenplay category, where "Hurt Locker" is duking it out with "Inglorious Basterds". "Hurt Locker" has the edge, with its WGA win and the overall support (and likely multiple wins) for the film, but the strength of Tarantino's much-acclaimed war picure lies in its screenplay; if voters are going to award it anything, it'll be this award.
Adapted Screenplay, meanwhile, is drama-less: "Up in the Air" has pretty much won every award it can thus far.