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Oscar Eye: Predicting The Winners While We Wait On Avatar

This week is the week that it all happens. As I write this critics all over the country are getting their first look at Avatar, and the earliest, vaguest word out of the London premiere is that it's good-- maybe even really good, maybe even great. I'm going ahead and posting this much-delayed Oscar column before we know for sure what any of this means, but the spot I have had reserved for Avatar in the Best Picture top 10 is not going anywhere.

I'm going to go straight into the chart updates both because I"m short on time-- have to run out for an It's Complicated screening soon-- and because it's pretty much all about the charts right now. Nearly everything is out, and while a few key movies remain under embargo-- Sherlock Holmes, come out soon!-- the roster that this year's Oscars will have to choose from is pretty much set. Not that that means anyone knows what will happen-- this year's awards, including Best Picture, are as uncertain as they've been in years. But the key players are mostly out in plain sight.

As far as momentum goes, there's been a perceptible shift toward Up in the Air in the last week or so, starting with the National Board of Review naming it their Best Picture and the Washington D.C. Film Critics following suit, and continuing as a series of critics include it on their top ten lists-- Peter Travers, whose tastes frequently align with the Academy's, put it at #2. With the stranglehold that Precious held on Oscar buzz finally fading, it's time for Up in the Air, with its timely message about job loss and disconnection from others, to step into the breach. If a few more critic's awards follow suit, it could become the runaway frontrunner before Christmas.

Now, on to the charts. Tomorrow I see Avatar, this weekend I vote with the New York Film Critics Online, and on Tuesday I come back with what should be a pretty clear picture of the race-- even if I and everyone else still don't know what will actually happen.

oscar winner prediction

BEST PICTURE

As I said, Up in the Air is well-poised to become a favorite, and now The Blind Side is suddenly very much in the conversation, as some become convinced it could be the populist choice. I'm not allowed to talk about Sherlock Holmes really, but I consider it very much in the race. And Avatar, based on the earliest word, still seems likely too. Invictus and Nine are both weaker than they ought to be, but it's too early to give up on them entirely, and they seem precisely like the middle-of-the-road prestige choices that will be easy to fit in with the 10.

oscar winner prediction

Precious:Based on the Novel 'Push' By Sapphire

Up Up in the Air

oscar winner prediction

Avatar

An Education

The Hurt Locker

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 Lovely Bones

The Informant!

Public Enemies

Star Trek

Where the Wild Things Are

oscar winner prediction

BEST DIRECTOR

Invictus may be a fairly safe shot for a nomination, but I'm not so sure about Clint Eastwood-- the movie's rugby scenes are incomprehensible, and Morgan Freeman does much of the heavy lifting. I'm replacing him with James Cameron, again, and in a slightly bolder move, replacing Rob Marshall with Quentin Tarantino. It might be wishful thinking. Also, Jason Reitman becomes the first director to move into the "Mortal Lock" category, now that Up in the Air has received so much universal praise. Way to go!

oscar winner prediction

Jason Reitman, Up in the Air

oscar winner prediction

Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker

James Cameron, Avatar

Lee Daniels, Precious

Clint Eastwood, Invictus

Rob Marshall, Nine

Lone Scherfig, An Education

oscar winner prediction

Jane Campion, Bright Star

Joel and Ethan Coen, A Serious Man

Tom Ford, A Single Man

Peter Jackson, The Lovely Bones

Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds

oscar winner prediction

John Hillcoat, The Road

Michael Hoffman, The Last Station

Michael Mann, Public Enemies

Oren Moverman, The Messenger

Steven Soderbergh, The Informant!

Jim Sheridan, Brothers

oscar winner prediction

BEST ACTOR

The fifth slot in this category-- the one not possessed by Bridges, Firth, Clooney or Freeman-- seems very shaky right now. But I see Jeremy Renner snagging more critic's awards than anyone else, and if the spot doesn't just go to Daniel Day-Lewis by default, he's the young upstart most likely to get it. Freeman is vulnerable, though-- he's good in Invictus but not revolutionary. Maybe there will be room for McAvoy after all.

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

James McAvoy, The Last Station

Viggo Mortensen, The Road

Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker

Michael Stuhlbarg, A Serious Man

oscar winner prediction

Sharlto Copley, District 9

Johnny Depp, Public Enemies

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, 500 Days of Summer

Hal Holbrook, That Evening Sun

Sam Rockwell, Moon

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Ben Foster, The Messenger

Tobey Maguire, Brothers

Ben Whishaw, Bright Star

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BEST ACTRESS

Bullock's nomination potential seems to be coming entirely out of a media-produced echo chamber-- Awards Daily says it could happen, so the LA Times says it could happen, so Entertainment Weekly says it could happen, and then suddenly it does. That doesn't make the hype any less real, though, and with no major contenders yet to come, really, Bullock may have pulled it off for real. We'll see how things go as The Blind Side slips away from the box office and what we're left with is a performance, not a money-making machine.

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Carey Mulligan, An Education

Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia

Gabourey Sidibe, Precious

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Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side

Marion Cotillard, Nine

Abbie Cornish, Bright Star

Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart

Helen Mirren, The Last Station

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Michelle Pfeiffer, Cheri

Natalie Portman, Brothers

Saiorsie Ronan, The Lovely Bones

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Audrey Tautou, Coco Before Chanel

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BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Last week I went out on a limb and included Woody Harrelson here-- and then the NBR goes ahead and gives him the win. I'm prescient! Or, really, just luck. But the "time to reward Woody" meme seems to be sticking, and while Waltz still seems like the likeliest winner here, I'm glad there's room for Harrelson at the table. Matt Damon's Invictus performance is a complete non-entity, and Tucci remains super vulnerable, so suddenly there's plenty of room.

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Alfred Molina, An Education

Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds

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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

Anna Kendrick is fantastic in Up in the Air, and I now consider her a lock for a nomination right alongside Mo'Nique. I still wonder about Kendrick and Farmiga both making it in, and Penelope Cruz getting nominated just a year after her win seems unlikely too, but this seems like the only possible combination at the moment. Bear with me while things sort themselves out.

oscar winner prediction

Mo'Nique, Precious

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Penelope Cruz, Nine

Judi Dench, Nine

Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air

Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air

Julianne Moore, A Single Man

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Mariah Carey, Precious

Melanie Laurent, Inglourious Basterds

Samantha Morton, The Messenger

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Kate Hudson, Nine

Diane Kruger, Inglourious Basterds

Paula Patton, Precious

Susan Sarandon, The Lovely Bones

Imelda Staunton, Taking Woodstock

Emma Thompson, An Education

Staff Writer at CinemaBlend