Javier Bardem, BIUTIFUL
Matt Damon, THE INFORMANT!
Morgan Freeman, INVICTUS
Viggo Mortenson, THE ROAD
Jeremy Renner, THE HURT LOCKER
I don't think Johnny Depp is a real contender for Public Enemies this year anymore (though you never know, the Academy voters are weird with him). The trailer for The Informant! boggled a few with its surprisingly broad humor, but I think people are starting to feel like this is Damon's year (though I don't see it). Bardem teaming with Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu for Biutiful seems like a perfect combination, while Morgan Freeman playing Nelson Mandela for Invictus (in a Clint Eastwood movie, no less) seems like a sure nomination lock. As for the last spot, I'd hoped that Sam Rockwell's stupendous work in Moon would get recognized, but it seems like another non-star in another indie is gaining more steam: Jeremy Renner's great work in The Hurt Locker. *Almost forgot to mention Viggo, who I will always be picking to be nominated, since I'm anticipating The Road so much.
Charlotte Gainsbourg, ANTICHRIST
Helen Mirren, LOVE RANCH
Carey Mulligan, AN EDUCATION
Gabourey Sidibe, PRECIOUS
Audrey Tautou, COCO AVANT CHANEL
This category is a little more unclear. I think Carey Mulligan performance in The Education seems safe, as she's had non-stop buzz for almost the entire year. The film Precious is building great steam since its premiere in Sundance this January, and Gabourey Sidibe has a good chance to ride that wave to a nomination. Helen Mirren has gained, I believe, Streep-esque status, by which I mean any buzz-worthy performance has a good shot, and Love Ranch seems just edgy and funny enough to stir up audiences. Those who have seen Coco avant Chanel have said good things, and the Academy loves seeing young, attractive actresses like Tautou play real people (remember Marion Cotillard?). A wild card: Descriptions of Charlotte Gainsbourg's work in Antichrist seems excruciating and brave, and the win at Cannes doesn't hurt either.
Best Supporting Actor
Matt Damon, INVICTUS
Alfred Molina, AN EDUCATION
Kodi Smit-McPhee, THE ROAD
Stanley Tucci, THE LOVELY BONES
Christoph Waltz, INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS
I think Damon may be a little safer in this category than in the lead, because they may honor him here if they feel The Informant! is too goofy. Molina and Tucci seem a little bit like locks already, don't they? They both have that "great actor who's seldom recognized, now in a perfect, nominate-able performance to get him his breakthrough" feeling, right? I think so. As for Smit-McPhee, if The Road is anything like the book, then it's a very juicy role, and the Academy is always open to nominating children if the role is right. I end with Cannes Best Actor winner Christoph Waltz, because even though Inglourious Basterds isn't Oscar material at all, this is the little space where it could get recognized if it becomes as popular as Quentin Tarantino's other films.
Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Clarkson, WHATEVER WORKS
Marion Cotillard, NINE
Emily Mortimer, SHUTTER ISLAND
Susan Surandon, THE LOVELY BONES
I don't know how automatic supporting female performances are nominated for Woody Allen films, but it seems pretty secure that Clarkson will get recognized for Whatever Works even though most people did not take to the movie itself particularly. Mo'Nique has had half a year of buzz for her surprisingly deep portrayal of an abusive mother in Precious. Surandon and Mortimer are both in very bait-y roles (crazy maniac for Mortimer and grieving grandmother for Surandon), and seem like odds for nominations. The film Nine has a slew of high-profile actresses in supporting roles, but I'm going to say that Cotillard will stand out, if only because she's also very impressive in Michael Mann's quickly forgotten Public Enemies.
Anything more ironic than Mo'Nique being a leading candidate for an Oscar, and Sam Rockwell being looked over once again?
Best Original Screenplay
Pedro Almodóvar, BROKEN EMBRACES
Mark Boal, THE HURT LOCKER
Bo Giocobe & Nicolas Giocobe, BIUTIFUL
Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber, 500 DAYS OF SUMMER
Bob Peterson, UP
Best Adapted Screenplay
Nick Hornby, AN EDUCATION
Peter Jackson & Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens, THE LOVELY BONES
Spike Jonze & Dave Eggers, WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE
Damien Paul, PRECIOUS
Joe Penhall, THE ROAD
The screenplay awards will be interesting, since the split between original and adapted always gave certain films a moment that they wouldn't get elsewhere. Now, though, with ten Best Picture nominees, I'm not really sure if they won't just take the ten nominated films and split them in half. For now, I'm going to say that is what will mostly happen, though I think films like 500 Days of Summer and Precious will sneak in there with their small, but strong following. Meanwhile, I'm not sure about Broken Embraces' overall Oscar potential, but Pedro Almodóvar will probably break the mold and get another nomination for writing, because he still has a hold over the voters.
Kathryn Bigelow, THE HURT LOCKER
James Cameron, AVATAR
John Hillcoat, THE ROAD
Peter Jackson, THE LOVELY BONES
Lone Scherfig, AN EDUCATION
This is probably a long shot, since the chances of two women being nominated in one year seems unlikely. Despite the growing number of female filmmakers and their brewing influence, the film industry is still very much an old boys' club, and the Academy is no exception. That said, I'd be very disappointed if Kathryn Bigelow isn't even in the discussion for her superb work on The Hurt Locker, and Lone Scherfig is a well-respected filmmaker doing one of the most talked-about films this year, so I think they're both good bets. I pick Peter Jackson and John Hillcoat because they are both given the responsibility of creating wondrously, and sometimes harrowing worlds, and if they both live up to expectation, the result will be spectacular. Lastly, I see Avatar being a hit-or-miss Oscar prospect, but its strongest chances are in the Best Director category since James Cameron is still a much-respected, and very ambitious filmmaker (where has he been? Swimming in Titanic money, I presume).
I love this movie and have essentially picked this to be a bit of a sleeper-pick for every major category.
The Hurt Locker
The Lovely Bones
Where The Wild Things Are
It seems weird that I'm predicting ten films, so there are surely a number of films on this list that most likely won't be there when I'm doing my final predictions in December. Movies like An Education, The Lovely Bones, and Invictus seem like they would be safe even in a five-movie set, while The Road, Shutter Island, and Biutiful seem like coin-flips reduced to safe choices because the list is expanded. With the remaining nominations, I'm going with some wild cards like the Rob Marshall musical Nine, Spike Jonze's dreamy recreation of the children's book Where The Wild Things Are, the astonishing and beautiful Pixar film Up, and my personal favorite 2009 film so far, the taut Iraq film The Hurt Locker. What's the point of predicting this early if you're not going to have irrationally idealistic hope?