It's impossible for anyone to know who's going to be nominated for the Academy Awards in April, but that never stops it from being fun. This early, the only thing we know is a cataclysm of movie stars and directors who may or may not combine to win the elusive gold. At this early stage, I'll take my own crack at who's already taken a bite at the front-runner status:
Javier Bardem, BIUTIFUL
Matt Damon, THE INFORMANT
Johnny Depp, PUBLIC ENEMIES
Morgan Freeman, THE HUMAN FACTOR
Viggo Mortenson, THE ROAD
I disappointingly go for an all-movie star line-up here, but not without good reason. Freeman plays Nelson Mandella in a film directed by Clint Eastwood (this is a perfect formula for Oscar. Mortenson is the lead in the film based on the hard-hitting Cormac McCarthy novel (if you've read it, you'd know why Mortenson is perfect). Damon combines with Stephen Soderberg and packs on the pounds. Depp combines with Michael Mann, and plays bank robber John Dillinger as well. As for Bardem, he's starring in a film by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (isn't it surprising that these two have never worked together?).
Penelope Cruz, BROKEN EMBRACES
Carey Mulligan, AN EDUCATION
Michelle Pfeiffer, CHERI
Natalie Portman, BROTHERS
Audrey Tautou, COCO AVANT CHANEL
I'm going with two foreign-language performances, which isn't exactly the smartest move, but its hard for me to ignore Oscar's love of biopic (Tautou plays Coco Chanel), or Cruz once again musing Pedro Almodovar. As for Portman and Pfeiffer, those are both just educated guesses/wishful thinking. Portman is in a tragedy directed by Jim Sheridan, and Pfeiffer reconnects with Stephen Frears for a period drama. There's mush to be said about getting an early start (ask Richard Jenkins), and Carey Mulligan sure has all of the early buzz for An Education.
James Cameron, AVATAR
Peter Jackson, THE LOVELY BONES
Michael Mann, PUBLIC ENEMIES
Lone Scherfig, AN EDUCATION
Martin Scorsese, SHUTTER ISLAND
The 70's and 80's might have been Scorsese's prime, but the Oscars love him this decade (he's gone 3/3 with Best Director nominations for his feature narrative films since 2000). James Cameron may have been silent since Titanic, but he's amassed a great enough buzz for Avatar that this seems like a sensible pick. Michael Mann is a great director they've never fully loved, while Jackson is great director which they like... occasionally. Both have a strong chance this year. Which leaves me with Lone Scherfig, which means that if I'm right, she will be only the fourth woman EVER nominated as a director. Like I said before, it helps to be a front-runner.
Best Supporting Actor
Billy Crudup, PUBLIC ENEMIES
Matt Damon, THE HUMAN FACTOR
Tobey Maguire, BROTHERS
Mark Ruffalo, SHUTTER ISLAND
Stanley Tucci, THE LOVELY BONES
It sure looks like a good year for Damon, and he does have very stong pull early for both lead and supporting categories. I think Crudup will ride some Watchmen momentum, and get a nod for the more conventional performance (he plays J. Edgar Hoover). Tucci plays a child murderer, which would seem extremely baity if I didn't wholly admire Tucci as a performer. I pick Maguire only because the early word is that he's great in the role (and I think he didn't totally rub out ALL of his good will with Spider-Man 3). As for Ruffalo, he has to get a nomination eventually, doesn't he? DOESN'T HE?
Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Clarkson, WHATEVER WORKS
Judi Dench, NINE
Lisa Kudrow, 17 PHOTOS OF ISABEL
Leslie Mann, FUNNY PEOPLE
This is really, truly a hopefest. Nothing would make me happier (at least at this point) than to see this line-up next January. Clarkson, Mann, and Kudrow are wonderful comedic performers, but they rarely get their due. These roles seem pretty good. Dench is an Academy mainstay, and is said to have one of the better roles out of all the actresses in Nine. As for comedienne Mo'Nique, her performance in Precious has been much talked-about (More on that here). Let's see if this long-shot nomination hopeful can stay ahead in the race.
The Human Factor
The Lovely Bones
Pretty conservative choices here, I know, but I would go to war with this line-up (at this point of the year, at least). We've got the small film that no one saw coming (but everyone saw coming) with An Education. The endearing, mythologizing biopic with The Human Factor. A hard-hitting tragic drama in The Lovely Bones. An expertly made gangster film with Public Enemies. And then we also have a Martin Scorsese film (Shutter Island); nuff said about that.