What to Expect from Next Week’s Oscar Nominations

With the 2010 Oscar nominations coming February 2 (same day as Lost starts!), I’ve decided to compile a guide with my predictions for the nominees. It’ll be interesting to see how they stack up to the final results. The contenders that I list as “locks” are the ones that I would be highly surprised the see snubbed. “Good bets” are those who have a good shot at being nominated, but could miss out. And the “best of the rest” are those who I feel could either fill the rest of the category, or bump one of the good bets.


Best Picture

The big buzz with the Best Picture category this year (aside from its complicated new voting procedure) is the fact that there will be ten nominees, as opposed to the usual five. This leaves a lot of room for films that wouldn’t normally get recognized to be nominated, yet there are really just a handful of films competing for the win.

The Locks: There’s virtually no chance that Avatar will miss out on a nomination, especially after its Golden Globe win. The blockbuster definitely has a good shot at winning the whole thing. Right now, it seems like the only other two movies that have a shot at winning are The Hurt Locker and Up in the Air. And while it has the disadvantage of not being in theatres during awards season, Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds is also pretty much guaranteed one of the ten spots, as is Precious, despite its slight loss of momentum since its big win at TIFF.

Good Bets: A lot of people thought that Wall-E should have received a Best Picture nomination last year, so with ten slots available this year, the beloved Up is bound to get Pixar its first Best Picture nomination. Invictus may have gotten snubbed at the Globes for Best Drama, but I think the Academy will make room for Eastwood’s latest project.

Best of the Rest: The last three slots are really hard to call. There are nearly a dozen films that could fill those spots, but none of them have much of a shot at snagging the win. I think An Education and A Serious Man have a pretty decent shot at receiving a nomination based on strong critical reception and acclaimed performances. The last spot is even harder to call, but if I had to guess, I’d say The Messenger might sneak in. But there are plenty of other options. Crazy Heart has the benefit of a powerhouse performance from Jeff Bridges to help propel it into the mind of Academy voters, as does A Single Man, with Colin Firth’s acclaimed performance. The Lovely Bones and Nine were once considered to be major contenders, and though they’ve both received poor reviews from critics, there’s a slim chance one of them (more likely Nine) might still make it on the strength of their directors and casts. Star Trek and District 9 were acclaimed sci-fi blockbusters, but with Avatar already fitting that description, their chances are slimmer. And speaking of blockbusters, don’t be too shocked if The Hangover gets one of the spots.

Wishful Thinking: I’d love to see (500) Days of Summer get some recognition, but with its loss at the Golden Globes, it’s chances are not good. Even less likely to receive a nomination is Spike Jonze’s wonderful Where the Wild Things Are.


Best Actor

The Locks: It’s currently a race between George Clooney for Up in the Air and Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart. And with his win at the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards, it seems like Bridges has all but secured his spot at the podium Oscar night. Colin Firth is also bound to pick up a nomination for his work in A Single Man, but unless there’s some kind of upset, he’s unlikely to win.

Good Bets: Despite Morgan Freeman‘s snub at the BAFTAs, and Invictus‘ exclusion from Best Picture at the Globes, I still don’t think the Academy will ignore Freeman for his turn as Nelson Mandela. That’s the kind of role that the Oscars live for. As for the fifth spot, the previously underappreciated Jeremy Renner has a good shot at rounding out the category for his work in The Hurt Locker.

Best of the Rest: I think that the five men listed above will be the five to get nominated. It’s hard to get a sense of other actors’ buzz, since everyone seems so sure of the five nominees. But if there were to be an upset, it could be from The Road‘s Viggo Mortensen. Ben Foster and Sam Rockwell have also gotten loads of praise for The Messenger and Moon, but I don’t think that either of them will have the momentum to steal Renner or Freeman’s spot.

Wishful Thinking: At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I loved Joseph Gordon-Levitt in (500) Days of Summer. With the Globe nomination, he has a tiny shot at getting a nomination, but it’s highly unlikely that the Academy would recognize such a young actor for a comedic role. And Max Records gave one of the best performances from a child that I’ve ever seen in Where the Wild Things Are.


Best Actress

The Locks: As bizarre as this may sound, it’s likely that either Julie & Julia or The Blind Side will have given us an Oscar winning performance. Meryl Streep was considered a frontrunner since J&J‘s release, and now Sandra Bullock has unexpectedly become a major contender in the Best Actress race. They won their respective categories at the Globes and tied at the Critics Choice Awards, and now it looks like they’ll be facing off for Oscar gold. Poor Carey Mulligan.
In the wake of all of the Sandra Bullock excitement (who knew such a thing existed?), it seems like she’s been pushed aside a bit. With a slew of critics’ awards for her performance in An Education (including a win from the National Board of Review), Mulligan will almost certainly be nominated, but I’m doubtful that she’ll be able to beat the two heavyweights in this category.

Good Bets: Newcomer Gabourey Sidibe is likely to get recognition for her emotional performance in Precious, but the fact that this is her first film could hurt her chances slightly, as might all of the focus being put on Mo’Nique’s performance.

Best of the Rest: For those keeping track, that leaves one spot available in this category. Helen Mirren seems like the most likely choice for her work in The Last Station. She would be my guess to round out the category, but it’s possible that the Academy will want to recognize someone new (since Mirren won just back in 2006 for The Queen). Emily Blunt has been getting rave reviews (and a Golden Globe nomination) for The Young Victoria. She’s a respected young actress, and she might be rewarded for her work in the period piece. And perhaps one of the youngest, most respected actresses in Hollywood is Saoirse Ronan, who received a supporting nod for her work in Atonement two years back. But the fact that the lead Actor and Actress categories rarely recognize child actors (not to mention the critical ravaging of The Lovely Bones) won’t help her chances any. Abbie Cornish (Bright Star) and Michelle Monaghan (Trucker) also got great reviews for their performances, but they and their films have been largely overlooked this awards season.

Wishful Thinking:
Zoe Saldana may never have appeared in non-blue form during Avatar, but she gave a raw, fearless performance.


Best Supporting Actor

The Locks: Having won just about every precursor award in existence, there is no way that Christoph Waltz won’t be nominated for Inglourious Basterds. And while he’ll likely be adding one more award to his collection on Oscar night, the excitement in this category is surrounding who the other four nominees will be (yes, they’re still going to bother). There are about seven men fighting for four spots in the line-up. Woody Harrelson is probably the only one of them who’s more or less guaranteed one of those spaces.

Good Bets: Veteran actor Christopher Plummer has a good shot at being recognized for his work in The Last Station, as does double Globe nominee Matt Damon for Invictus, despite the fact that both of them recently missed on a BAFTA nomination, and that Plummer was snubbed at the Critics Choice Awards. And while critics haven’t liked The Lovely Bones, most of them have been raving about Stanley Tucci‘s turn as a killer. The only thing that might hurt him is that he may lose a few votes for those who wish to nominate him for his charming work in Julie & Julia instead.

Best of the Rest: It’s definitely possible that Alfred Molina could sneak in to this category thanks to early raves for his performance in An Education. And while he doesn’t seem to have much of a campaign going, many critics latched on to newcomer Christian McKay for his performance as a young Orson Welles in none other than Me and Orson Welles. It would probably be considered far more surprising if Alec Baldwin got a nomination for It’s Complicated, or if The Hurt Locker‘s Anthony Mackie managed to snag a spot, but I wouldn’t count either of them out yet.

Wishful Thinking: I know it’s an odd choice, but I think that Zach Galifianakis gave one of the funniest, most memorable performances in a long time in The Hangover.


Best Supporting Actress

The Locks:
Mo’Nique‘s win for her monstrous turn in Precious has been locked up for a while now. Her only possible competition is from Up in the Air‘s Anna Kendrick, but at this point, it’s Mo’Nique’s award to lose.

Good Bets: Kendrick’s co-star Vera Farmiga has a very good shot at picking up her first nomination and rounding out a trio of acting noms for Up in the Air. If the wonderful Julianne Moore gets a spot in the line-up for her apparently brief role in A Single Man, she’ll have to settle for her fifth consecutive loss come Oscar night.

Best of the Rest: Once again, we’re left with one spot, and several candidates. Marion Cotillard (who I believe has now had her campaign switched to the supporting category) and Penelope Cruz have won praise for their work in Nine, but a after being shut out for all five Golden Globe awards, and all ten Critic’s Choice Awards that it was nominated for, the film’s chance at any Oscar nominations seems to be sinking fast. Meanwhile, Inglourious Basterds seems to be gaining strength as the awards season progresses, so either Melanie Laurent or Diane Kruger could steal the last spot. The other contender is Samantha Morton, who is not only receiving accolades for The Messenger, but is also coming off of a decade full of acclaimed performances. Forced to make a prediction, I’m guessing that Cotillard might still be the fifth nominee.

Wishful Thinking:
Emily Blunt was fantastic in the criminally underrated Sunshine Cleaning. She balanced humour and depth with a subtlety similar to that which Anna Kendrick is being praised for.


Best Director

The Locks: Despite what he claims in this Rolling Stone article, James Cameron clearly learned nothing from his “I’m king of the world!” debacle at the 1998 Oscars, judging his Na’vi-tinged Golden Globe acceptance speech in any indication. But douchebaggery aside, Cameron has a good shot at adding another Oscar to his mantle for Avatar. His main competition is in Kathryn Bigelow who is being praised for her gritty direction in The Hurt Locker. Just to keep things interesting, it so happens that Cameron and Bigelow are ex-husband and wife (Bigelow was his third of five wives). If Bigelow gets nominated (which she surely will) she’ll be only the fourth female director to get recognized by the Academy. This could be the year that a woman finally wins Best Director.

Good Bets: With his third film, Up in the Air, Jason Reitman gave his most mature work yet, and he’ll likely be rewarded for it with his second Oscar nomination. Also in contention is the always interesting Quentin Tarantino, whose Inglourious Basterds struck a chord with viewers and critics alike.

Best of the Rest: At this point it seems to be a toss-up between Lee Daniels (Precious) and Clint Eastwood (Invictus) for the fifth spot. Neither will win, but it depends on whether the Academy wants to recognize a promising new director, or a reliable vet. My guess is that Daniels will take it.

Wishful Thinking:
Spike Jonze, as always.


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