It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

No, not Christmas – It’s Oscar Season! That wonderful time on every movie lover’s calendar where we get to sort through an ever-expanding list critics and industry awards until that inevitable morning when the nominees are revealed.

But I’m sure most people have far too much time on their hands to make sense of all this, luckily we’re here to help. Below is the first in our weekly Oscar Power rankings. As always, these candidates are listed in order of the likelihood of their being nominated and not to win.

Best Picture

RK (LW) Movie Comments
1 (n/a) Slumdog Millionaire Winner of the DC Film Critics, National Board of Review (NBR) and now a Broadcast Film Cricitcs Association (BFCA) and Golden Globe nod.  This year’s “Juno” as the requisite indie crowd-pleaser.
2 (n/a) The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Epic Scale, plum release date and inclusion on the BFCA and NBR lists to go with its Golden Globe nomination.  Potentially the second coming of “Forrest Gump” with the same screenwriter to boot.
3 (n/a) Milk Don’t let the virtual shutout at the Golden Globes fool you, the Hollywood Foreign Press almost always whiffs on a lock for Best Picture, “Milk” won the New York Film Critics Circle (NYFCC) Award and has been a mainstay at all other critics awards.
4 (n/a) The Dark Knight It’s got the box office, the buzz and now it’s starting to get shortlisted by the critics organizations.  Looks like it will transcend it’s popcorn movie status.
5 (n/a) Frost/Nixon Every year there’s a film that seems like a lock for Best Picture but you know hasn’t any chance of winning.  “Frost/Nixon” is that film this year, getting just enough buzz and critics award love to crack the top five, but not enough to win it.
6 (n/a) Wall-E This Pixar classic won the LA and Boston Film Critics Awards and has been included on the BFCA, AFI and NBR lists, but since the creation of the Best Animated Feature Award it’s virtually impossible for an animated pic to get nominated for the big prize.
7 (n/a) The Wrestler Mickey Rourke is the biggest buzz earner this year and that word-of-mouth has propelled this film to the NBR, AFI and BFCA top ten lists.  Could an Oscar nod be next?
8 (n/a) The Reader This one is really starting to creep up the list with standout performances from Kate Winselt and Ralph Fiennes and now a BFCA and Golden Globe nomination.
9 (n/a) Revolutionary Road A killer pedigree with Leo, Kate and Sam Mendes and now a Golden Globe nomination for Best Picture.  Unfortunately, the Globe nod is its only major one so far.
10 (n/a) Doubt Who would have thought a movie based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning play and directed by an Oscar-winning director with Meryl Streep and Phillip Seymour Hoffman in the leads would be this low?  Well, when a film’s only recognition this year is inclusion on the BFCA list, it’s hard to ignore that is a longshot.
Best Director

RK (LW) Director – Movie
1 (n/a) Danny Boyle – Slumdog Millionaire Best Picture normally overlaps with Director and this year Slumdog is collecting the most awards for each.
2 (n/a) David Fincher – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button The good thing about this category is that it is about to give two extremely talented directors their first nominations.  How nice.  The same rules for Boyle also apply to Fincher.
3 (n/a) Christopher Nolan – The Dark Knight Other than Heath Ledger’s performance, Nolan’s direction received the most praise from this film.  The lack of a Golden Globe nod hurts, but not too much.
4 (n/a) Ron Howard – Frost/Nixon Oscar LOVES Ron Howard, and he’s been getting all the necessary (BFCA, Golden Globe) precursor nominations.
5 (n/a) Gus Van Sant – Milk The film has a much better chance of getting nominated for Best Picture. The lack of a Golden Globe nod hurts him much more than his film, but he’s still likely to get in.
6 (n/a) Stephen Daldry – The Reader The surprise darling of the Golden Globes. He’s got Oscar clout too with previous nominations for Billy Elliot and The Hours.  He has a great chance to be the Director that doesn’t match up with the Best Picture nominees.
7 (n/a) Mike Leigh – Happy-Go-Lucky He won the New York Film Critics Circle Award, but Happy-Go-Lucky may be a little too light for the Academy.
8 (n/a) Sam Mendes – Revolutionary Road He’s a previous Oscar winner (American Beauty) and that Golden Globe nomination helps, but that’s the only nod he’s gotten so far this year, he has some climbing to do.
9 (n/a) Darren Aronofsky – The Wrestler This all depends on how far Mickey Rourke can take him.  He hasn’t gotten any precursor love yet, but he could ride the Mickey train to the Kodak.
10 (n/a) Clint Eastwood – Changeling Just because he’s Clint and there are no other viable candidates.
Best Actor

Actor – Film Comment
1 (n/a) Sean Penn – Milk There’s a reason he was the only person who had anything to do with Milk getting a Golden Globe nomination – It’s because he’s amazing. I think this one is locked in.
2 (n/a) Mickey Rourke – The Wrestler The comeback story of the year.  Rourke has been getting rave reviews since the Venice film festival and now the precursors are joining in with the BFCA, Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA) and Golden Globes are all showing him love.
3 (n/a) Frank Langella – Frost/Nixon He takes his portrayal of Tricky Dick from the stage to the big screen and is getting fantastic results.  The Golden Globes and BFCA both agree.  He’s the reason this movie is getting so many raves.
4 (n/a) Clint Eastwood – Gran Torino He won the National Board of Review Award for Best Actor and Oscar absolutely loves him.  Plus, he’s made it no secret that this may be his final acting role.
5 (n/a) Leonardo DiCaprio – Revolutionary Road The Golden Globe nomination helps this blossoming Academy fave big time.  He’s no lock by any stretch of the imagination, but it feels like he’s in right now.
6 (n/a) Brad Pitt – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Despite the BFCA and Golden Globe nods it just feels like he’s going to get snubbed this year.  The Academy may see his performance as more of a triumph of Special Effects than acting.
7 (n/a) Richard Jenkins – The Visitor He was getting huge buzz when this film came out, but that was back in March and now it seems like an afterthought.  His lack of a Golden Globe nomination really hurts his chances.
8 (n/a) Josh Brolin – W. People just love to rave about Brolin and this movie earned him a lot of buzz and a Golden Globe nomination.  Though he’s more likely to get nominated in another category (see below).
9 (n/a) Javier Bardem – Vicky Cristina Barcelona He’s hot off an Oscar win for No Country For Old Men and just got a Golden Globe Nomination for this role.  He could ride the Penelope Cruz wave to a nomination, but probably not.
10 (n/a) James Franco – Pineapple Express There really aren’t any viable candidates left, so we’ll put James Franco on the list just to point out that according to the Hollywood Foreign Press, having dirty long hair and giggling a lot is worthy of a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor.
Best Actress
RK (LW) Actress – Film Comments
1 (n/a) Anne Hathaway – Rachel Getting Married Her revelatory performance has single-handedly catapulted an otherwise terrible film into consideration in all categories.  She’s piling up the precursors and an Oscar nomination is a mere formality at this point.
2 (n/a) Meryl Streep – Doubt She’s actually getting a lot of negative reviews for this film, but the Golden Globe and BFCA nods should be enough to get her a fourteenth Oscar nominations, because she is Meryl Streep after all.
3 (n/a) Angelina Jolie – Changeling She’s been earning great buzz for this film all year and another Oscar nomination is starting to feel overdue at this point.  The BFCA and Golden Globe nods support her cause.
4 (n/a) Sally Hawkins – Happy-Go-Lucky By all rights, Hawkins should be first on this list (She’s won more critics awards than anyone up to this point) but since this is a light comedy from England she still has a good chance of getting passed over by Oscar.
5 (n/a) Cate Blanchett – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button A BFCA nod is all she’s gotten so far, but a couple years ago the Academy passed a rule that said Blanchett has to get nominated for an Oscar every year she’s in a movie.  So the odds are with her getting in regardless.
6 (n/a) Melissa Leo – Frozen River Leo’s performance in this tiny Canadian film has earned raves all year along with nominations from the BFCA and the LAFCA, but will anybody notice a film so small?
7 (n/a) Kate Winslet – Revolutionary Road She’s actually been getting better reviews and more awards for The Reader (see below) but how can voters ignore her and Leo’s reunion?
8 (n/a) Kristin Scott Thomas – I’ve Loved You So Long She got a Golden Globe nomination for this role, plus she has the added difficulty of performing it entirely in French.  She’s the dark horse.
9 (n/a) Meryl Streep – Mamma Mia! Voters could possibly flee Doubt and decide to nominate her for this film instead.  It did make over $500 million worldwide and she’s a lock to win a Golden Globe for the role.
10 (n/a) Kate Beckinsale – Nothing But The Truth Admittedly, we’re out of viable candidates in this category – but she did get a BFCA nod for this role!
Best Supporting Actor

RK (LW) Actor – FIlm Comments
1 (n/a) Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight The most talked-about performance of the year is now getting the most awards.  Look for this generation’s James Dean to not only get nominated but win this award.
2 (n/a) Josh Brolin – Milk A victim of the Golden Globes’ shutout of Milk, but that shouldn’t affect him too much: Brolin’s won almost as many awards as Ledger and it seems everyone’s been dying to nominate him in some shape or form for the last two years.
3 (n/a) Robert Downey, Jr. – Tropic Thunder If Ledger gave the most buzzed-about performance then Downey was simply the most buzzed-about actor this year.  Look for the Academy to overcome its comedy bias for Downey here – the BFCA and Golden Globes already have.
4 (n/a) Phillip Seymour Hoffman – Doubt The buzz on Doubt has been trending universally downward in the last few weeks, but that shouldn’t impact Hoffman’s chances.  He’s gotten the same amount of love awards-wise as Downey and he’s in a heavy drama.
5 (n/a) James Franco – Milk With Ledger and Brolin hogging all the awards it starts to get harder to find viable candidates, so consider Franco the first of the guesses.  This movie is getting a ton of good buzz and he did get a BFCA nomination for his performance – easily the best of his young career.
6 (n/a) Tom Cruise – Tropic Thunder Listed this high because of his Golden Globe nomination – and what a great nomination it was.  Everyone who left this movie was talking about Cruise.
7 (n/a) Michael Shannon – Revolutionary Road This movie seems to be DOA buzz-wise and his crucial role may be overlooked as a result.  So far, everyone but the St. Louis Film Critics echo that sentiment.
8 (n/a) Ralph Fiennes – The Reader Even though he got a Golden Globe nomination for his role in The Duchess (huh?) he’s more likely to get an Oscar nomination for this more well-regarded film.
9 (n/a) Eddie Marsan – Happy-Go-Lucky He could ride Sally Hawkins’ coattails to a nomination.  He was runner-up for the LAFCA award.
10 John Malkovich – Burn After Reading The Coen Brothers’ farce has been getting some significant precursor buzz and Malkovich is the only actor to receive any of it so far with a St. Louis Film Critics nomination.
Best Supporting Actress

RK (LW) Actress – Film Comments
1 (n/a) Penelope Cruz – Vicky Cristina Barcelona Let’s list her credentials shall we?  Winner: NBR, LAFCA, NYFCC, Boston Film Critics, Nomination: BFCA, Golden Globe.  How do you say lock in Spanish?
2 (n/a) Viola Davis – Doubt This film may be receiving a lot of negative buzz, but none of it is being directed at Davis.  She’s getting raves to go along with her Golden Globe and BFCA nominations.
3 (n/a) Kate Winslet – The Reader Despite the fact that she’s gotten a couple leading actress nominations from some critics groups, Winset is entered as a supporting actress for this film and already scored a Golden Globe nomination in this category.  She’s already close to a sure thing every year, and this is no exception.
4 (n/a) Marisa Tomei – The Wrestler Of everything about The Wrestler is likely to get boosted by Mickey Rourke’s performance, Tomei is the surest thing.  The Golden Globes and BFCA agree.
5 (n/a) Amy Adams – Doubt Doubt has an excellent chance of going two-for-two in this category with Amy Adams’ portrayal of novice nun at the center of the film’s controversy.  Golden Globe agrees.
6 (n/a) Taraji P. Henson – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button As Benjamin’s adoptive mother, Henson has a very crucial role in the film, one with the type of emotional weight with which Oscar often falls in love.  The BFCA is already enamored with Ms. Henson.
7 (n/a) Rosemarie DeWitt – Rachel Getting Married Anne Hathaway will probably need a chiropractor after the Oscar nominations. DeWitt is riding her coattails to a nomination and has the honor of being the only person other than Penelope Cruz to win an award in this category so far this season (The Washington, D.C. Film Critics).
8 (n/a) Frances McDormand – Burn After Reading She’s gotten two nominations – a Golden Globe in the lead category and a St. Louis Film Critics in this won.  Seems like this is the best fit for her character and her best chance for a nom.  As slim as they may be.
9 (n/a) Beyonce Knowles – Cadillac Records She was nominated for a Golden Satellite in this category, and Oscar just loves it when you can sing and kind of act (See Hudson, Jennifer).
10 (n/a) Evan Rachel Wood – The Wrestler Another likely beneficiary of the Mickey Rourke wave.  She hasn’t received any precursor love yet, but look for the buzz to grow as this film gains momentum.