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Oscar Eye: Predicting The Winners After The Critics And Globes Had Their Say

Note: if you're interested in some slightly out-of-date Oscar conversation, head over here and listen to a podcast I recorded last week with The Film Experience's Nathaniel Rogers and Low Resolution's Joe Reid. It's a fun chat and we'll be doing more as the season goes on. Looking at my Oscar column from last week, it's hard to believe I was ever so young... so doubtful about the quality of Avatar, so convinced of Up in the Air as the potential runaway favorite, so certain that Matt Damon's Invictus performance would quickly be forgotten.

It's been a very big couple of days in the Oscar prognosticating biz, and let's start with the big one: the Golden Globe nominations. As always, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association made some whackadoo choices sure to not make it through to the Oscars-- Tobey Maguire for Brothers, A Serious Man shut out of screenplay, Julia Roberts for Duplicity-- but coming on the heels of the weekend's critics awards, it gives us a lot to think about. The Globes' Best Drama nominees of Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds Precious, and Up in the Air all seem like safe contenders for Best Picture, along with Nine from the Comedy/Musical category. All of the above films did nicely in the acting, directing or writing categories, and even though both Lee Daniels and Rob Marshall were left out of the directing categories, both have a decent chance of making into that final five as well.

The Globes were also able to solidify a few underground campaigns that might not have necessarily been assumed to have mainstream appeal. Jeff Bridges and Colin Firth are definitely in the mix for their tiny movies Crazy Heart and A Single Man respectively, while Michael Stuhlbarg remains in spoiler position for A Serious Man, representing the only Globe nod for that film. Helen Mirren's Last Station bid, despite an overall lack of buzz for the movie, seems assured, as does Julianne Moore for A Single Man, though she's in the weakest position among the five Globe nominees.

As for the weekend's critic's awards-- which I rounded up in part here and here if you missed them-- it's clear that The Hurt Locker will be the big critical darling of the season, and all that support is likely enough to guarantee Kathryn Bigelow a Best Director nod (where she'll almost definitely go up against ex-husband James Cameron) as well as a Best Picture berth for the film. A lot of smart people are suggesting that the Academy is likely to shine brighter on Up in the Air-- more palatable, more technically perfect, more starry-- and I tend to agree. But it's downright miraculous that a movie released so early in the year, and premiering at the 2008 Toronto Film Festival, is managing to keep up so much traction.

Though Sherlock Holmes has yet to debut, it seems to be a non-factor beyond the Globes race (Robert Downey Jr.'s Best Actor in a Comedy/Musical was a nice surprise), so the only major question at the box office remains Avatar. Will audiences flip for it the same way critics did? Cameron showed up on The Today Show yesterday in an attempt to get women to go for the giant blue cat people, and the Golden Globes' faith in Avatar likely represents some expectation of their own that the movie will be a hit with audiences (they love nothing more than good ratings). I've talked to a lot of people about Avatar over the past few days, and the consensus seems to be that it will have a good-to-greatish opening weekend, but word of mouth through the holidays will be what really sells it. It's the strategy that worked for Titanic, a film that opened on December 19 with a $28 million opening weekend and had made it to $120 million by New Year's Day.

Unless it flops miserably, which seems unlikely, Avatar is a guaranteed Best Picture nominee-- but if it's a big hit, it might be hard to deny it the Oscar itself. Up in the Air and The Hurt Locker are both very strong, of course, but the phenomenon of a Best Picture nominee that's also a giant box office hasn't come around since, well, Titanic. Leave it to James Cameron to come back and show us all how it's done.

Below the charts have been updated with requisite commentary on how the various precursors have affected my choices, and a lot of trimming the fat-- there are many potential nominees on these lists who, quite simply, will not make it into Oscar. Later this week the Screen Actors Guild announces their nominees-- the Best Ensemble prize being their equivalent of Best Picture, and not likely to include Avatar this could get interesting-- and after that it'll be until the New Year before another major precursor comes along. A good time to sit back and catch up on some movies, or, you know, see your family. Whatever works for you at Christmas.

oscar winner prediction

BEST PICTURE

Weak as they are, Nine and Invictus are still in the mix following the Globes attention, while An Education and A Serious Man seem as vulnerable as ever after being all-but-ignored by the Globes and the critics alike. The Hurt Locker is now inevitable, and has been bumped up to Mortal Lock. An Education and Julie & Julia feel like the fuzziest inclusions at the moment, but I'm still not positive enough about A Serious Man, and have no idea what would replace An Education if it fell out-- The Last Station? A Single Man? Right now there's not enough evidence to change it either way.

oscar winner prediction

The Hurt Locker

Precious:Based on the Novel 'Push' By Sapphire

Up Up in the Air

oscar winner prediction

Avatar

An Education

Inglourious Basterds

Invictus

Nine

A Serious Man

oscar winner prediction

The Blind Side

Julie & Julia

The Last Station

Sherlock Holmes

A Single Man

The Road

oscar winner prediction

500 Days of Summer

Bright Star

Brothers

Crazy Heart

District 9

The Hangover

The Informant!

Public Enemies

Star Trek

Where the Wild Things Are

oscar winner prediction

BEST DIRECTOR

First things first: Kathryn Bigelow, having swept the critic's awards and earning lots of buzz for being a potential first-ever female Best Director winner, is now a Mortal Lock alongside Jason Reitman. Also, over the weekend I made a bet as to whether Tarantino or Eastwood would get the fifth director slot, presuming that Bigelow, Reitman, Cameron and Daniels are all locks. But now I'm feeling less certain than ever about Daniels's chances, given the Globes snub. I'm leaving him in for now partly in hopes that I'll win the bet, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Eastwood and Tarantino both make it instead.

oscar winner prediction

Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker

Jason Reitman, Up in the Air

oscar winner prediction

James Cameron, Avatar

Lee Daniels, Precious

Clint Eastwood, Invictus

Rob Marshall, Nine

Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds

oscar winner prediction

Jane Campion, Bright Star

Joel and Ethan Coen, A Serious Man

Tom Ford, A Single Man

Lone Scherfig, An Education

oscar winner prediction

John Hillcoat, The Road

Michael Hoffman, The Last Station

Peter Jackson, The Lovely Bones

Michael Mann, Public Enemies

Oren Moverman, The Messenger

Steven Soderbergh, The Informant!

Jim Sheridan, Brothers

oscar winner prediction

BEST ACTOR

Jeremy Renner popped up a time or two in the weekend critic's awards despite the overall domination by Bridges and Clooney, and despite the fact that Tobey Maguire somehow jumped in and grabbed his Globe nomination, Renner still seems likely to capitalize off The Hurt Locker's universal praise. Still, the fifth slot is shaky. The SAG nominees could clear things up, but if they go for anyone but Renner, it'll blow it open even wider.

oscar winner prediction

Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart

Colin Firth, A Single Man

oscar winner prediction

George Clooney, Up in the Air

Matt Damon, The Informant!

Daniel Day-Lewis, Nine

Morgan Freeman, Invictus

Viggo Mortensen, The Road

Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker

Michael Stuhlbarg, A Serious Man

oscar winner prediction

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, 500 Days of Summer

Tobey Maguire, Brothers

James McAvoy, The Last Station

Sam Rockwell, Moon

oscar winner prediction

Sharlto Copley, District 9

Johnny Depp, Public Enemies

Ben Foster, The Messenger

Hal Holbrook, That Evening Sun

oscar winner prediction

BEST ACTRESS

Bullock got that Globe nomination, though given the void left by Streep's placement in Comedy, it's hard to translate that. She's not going to win any criics' prizes, but with Streep, Mulligan and Sidibe continually sucking all the air out of the category, the final two slots could belong to anyone. Tilda Swinton made an interesting run at Best Actress in my critic's group voting, but she still seems way too out there for Academy purposes.

oscar winner prediction

Carey Mulligan, An Education

Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia

Gabourey Sidibe, Precious

oscar winner prediction

Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side

Marion Cotillard, Nine

Abbie Cornish, Bright Star

Helen Mirren, The Last Station

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Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart

Natalie Portman, Brothers

Saiorsie Ronan, The Lovely Bones

Tilda Swinton, Julia

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Michelle Pfeiffer, Cheri

Audrey Tautou, Coco Before Chanel

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BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Molina was left out of the Globe nominees in favor of Matt Damon, and given the Academy's longtime love affair with Clint Eastwood, I'm worried Damon could get in for his completely OK performance. An Education, where have you gone? I don't think Molina is down for the count-- SAG seems likely to go for him-- but his publicity team needs to go into overtime.

oscar winner prediction

Alfred Molina, An Education

Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds

oscar winner prediction

Matt Damon, Invictus

Woody Harrelson, The Messenger

Christopher Plummer, The Last Station

Peter Sarsgaard, An Education

Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones

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Richard Kind, A Serious Man

Anthony Mackie, The Hurt Locker

Paul Schneider, Bright Star

Stanley Tucci, Julie & Julia

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Alec Baldwin, It's Complicated

Jude Law, Sherlock Holmes

Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Road

oscar winner prediction

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

As Mo'nique remains unbeatable in every precursor awards, it's a little tricky to tell who will fill in the last few slots. The Globes lineup of Mo'nique, Kendrick, Farmiga, Cruz and Moore seems like a pretty solid one, but I still wonder about Cotillard getting knocked down to Supporting-- where she belongs-- and taking Cruz's spot. Hard to tell right now.

oscar winner prediction

Mo'Nique, Precious

oscar winner prediction

Penelope Cruz, Nine

Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air

Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air

Julianne Moore, A Single Man

oscar winner prediction

Mariah Carey, Precious

Marion Cotillard, Nine

Judi Dench, Nine

Samantha Morton, The Messenger

oscar winner prediction

Diane Kruger, Inglourious Basterds

Melanie Laurent, Inglourious Basterds

Paula Patton, Precious

Susan Sarandon, The Lovely Bones

Staff Writer at CinemaBlend