This should have been the easiest year to predict the Oscars ever. It should have been an easy five-spot for Best Picture: The Hurt Locker, Avatar, Inglorious Basterds, Up In The Air, Precious and take home your five-out-of-five. But now the Academy had to go mess with everything and throw ten nominees at us.

And you know what? I love it. I love the fact that the final five slots have turned into a free-for-all over the last month, because being correct is boring. There’s nothing more mundane than waking up at 5AM to see the nominees read and simply circling all the ones you predicted. This year will be different. At least we can hope.

And with that, here are my predictions for the nominees in all the major categories at this year’s Oscars. As always, these are listed in order of their chance to be nominated. This has nothing to do with how likely they are to win. Those will be posted tomorrow.


Best Actor

1 (Previous Rank: 2) – Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart

LOCK – This looks like the year of the Bridges as he has taken home the Globe, the SAG, and the Critics Choice in the last few weeks. Buzz just keeps growing for this movie.

2 ( 1) – George Clooney in Up In The Air

LOCK – Don’t take the move down as a sign of any sort of slip by Clooney’s campaign. It’s just that Bridges is even more of a certainty.

3 (3) – Colin Firth in A Single Man

LOCK – Even though buzz is a bit cool on this film right now, Firth has earned a steady stream of precursors and has the Weinsteins on his side. An easy first nomination for the English actor.

4 (4) – Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker

LOCK – Renner has been the biggest beneficiary of the buzz for this movie from an acting standpoint. This will carry him to his first nomination.

5 (5) – Morgan Freeman in Invictus

LOCK – Five locks? Yes, the category is that certain. Freeman is the most tenuous of those positions as buzz has waned recently for this film, but that shouldn’t really affect him that much.

6 (7) – Matt Damon in The Informant!

Damon kind of has no chance here (voters will look his way for supporting) which shows just how locked in the top five are.

7 (6) – Daniel Day-Lewis in Nine

It’s never a good idea to count out a multi-Oscar winner in a Weinstein musical. Which is the only reason Day-Lewis is sitting this high.

8 (10) – Sharito Copley in District 9

There’s some buzz for Copley, but he hasn’t really won anything yet. That won’t be nearly enough to penetrate this top five.

9 (8) – Nicolas Cage in The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

At this point, why not throw a wild card in the rakings? It’s not like the top five is vulnerable. But seriously, the Ebert raves and notices from Tornoto and the National Society of Film Critics make Cage at least worth a mention.

10 (9) – Joseph Gordon-Levitt in (500) Days of Summer

Levitt really needed to win the Golden Globe. He didn’t, so he’s at the bottom of the list.

Best Actress

1 (1) – Meryl Streep in Julie and Julia

LOCK – Meryl Streep is, well, she’s Meryl Streep. So she’s a lock in pretty much any year she makes a movie and all those awards this year once again affirm her status as the Grand Dame of locks.

2 (4) – Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side

LOCK – For most of the season, Bullock looked like a fringe nominee. Then she went ahead and swept the Golden Globes, Critics Choice and SAG awards. Now she’s the lock of all locks (well, if you don’t count Streep).

3 (2) – Carey Mulligan in An Education

LOCK – The It Girl has been falling for the last month. She’ll still definitely be nominated, but it’s not a stone cold certainty like it once was.

4 (3) – Gabourey Sidibe in Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire

LOCK – She was a major buzz magnet early in the season, now she’s a fringe lock. Which is still pretty good.

5 (5) – Melanie Laurent in Inglorious Basterds

Nobody has a real hold on this fifth slot, meaning it’s the most ripe for a surprise. This would be a great time for the Weinsteins to sneak in another nominee, and I think they just might do it.

6 (7) – Emily Blunt in The Young Victoria

Blunt has been like a yo-yo with the buzz meter, but has quietly gained some steam recently. It could be enough to push her through, but she’ll probably end up on the outside looking in.

7 (6) – Helen Mirren in The Last Station

Mirren is the logical choice to fill the fifth slot due to her SAG nomination, but of all the movies in contention, this is the one that fewest Academy members will have seen – seeing as nobody has seen this movie. That means she’ll probably be left out.

8 (8) – Abbie Cornish in Bright Star

The National Society of Film Critics runner-up is about all early favorite Cornish can hang her hat on. Buzz never held up for this movie.

9 (NR) – Tilda Swinton in Julia

Swinton has been a favorite of pundits since the beginning of the year, but hasn’t locked up any precursors to speak of. She’s got a lot of strong online buzz, but that probably won’t be enough to carry her in. Still, in this wide open race for the fifth slot, anything is possible.

10 (9) – Marion Cotillard – in Nine

Nine seems dead, and so does Cotillard’s Oscar campaign. It’s not impossible though.

Dropping Out: Yolande Moreau in Seraphine (10)

Best Supporting Actor

1 (1) – Christoph Waltz in Inglorious Basterds

LOCK – He’s one just about every single precursor so far. This would be the biggest surprise in the history of the Oscars. Wait, in the history of mankind.

2 (2) – Woody Harrelson in The Messenger

LOCK – The couple that Waltz missed went to Harrelson. On paper, he’s virtually gotten nothing – but that’s just because Waltz took everything there was to take.

3 (3) – Stanley Tucci in The Lovely Bones

LOCK – Tucci may have wound up in a DOA Oscar movie, but his performance is heralded enough to carry him through.

4 (4) – Matt Damon in Invictus

Damon hit the SAG and Globe double whammy so that just about cinches it for him. Still, it’d be nice if anybody had mentioned this movie in the last seven weeks.

5 (5) – Christian McKay in Me and Orson Welles

McKay still looks like the fifth nom heading into tomorrow morning’s ceremony. He just manage to wrangle enough precursors to lock a very flaccid grip on the last spot.

6 (6) – Christopher Plummer in The Last Station

Like Mirren, Plummer seems the logical choice for a nomination, especially since he notched both a Golden Globe and SAG nomination. Also like Mirren, however, he appears in a movie that probably just a handful of Academy member actually saw.

7 (7) – Alfred Molina in An Education

Here he his. Holding steady to the seventh slot. No reason to move him up, no reason to move him down. He probably won’t get nominated, but he’s just enough of a darkhorse to keep him this high.

8 (10) – Anthony Mackie in The Hurt Locker

It’s clear now (following a DGA and PGA sweep) that The Hurt Locker is the favorite film in the industry, that means Mackie’s hopes aren’t completely dashed. They’re not really present, but they aren’t altogether gone either.

9 (8) – Paul Schneider in Bright Star

His National Society of Critics win is probably the only accolade he’ll enjoy this year.

10 (9) – Peter Capaldi in In The Loop

Poor In The Loop, it looked ready to storm through Oscar season, then it got wiped out in the last few weeks with no precursors at all. Capaldi is the biggest victim.

Best Supporting Actress

1 (1) – Monique in Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire

LOCK – She overcame some early PR stumbles to move into the top of the lock position with Golden Globe, critics Choice and SAG wins.

2 (2) – Anna Kendrick in Up in the Air

LOCK – It’s strange, because all she’s done is lose awards for the last two months, yet this hasn’t affected her placing at all. That just shows how dominant Monique is.

3 (3) – Vera Farmiga in Up in the Air

LOCK – Just about the same level as Kendrick with a few fewer precursor nominations to her credit.

4 (4) – Julianne Moore in A Single Man

Here’s the first spot any of these categories really get wide open. Any of the next four could grab these two spots. Moore seems the best candidate because of her Golden Globe and Critics Choice nominees, but she’s hardly a lock.

5 (5) – Diane Kruger in Inglorious Basterds

She also has the Weinstein touch on her side, plus a SAG nomination. The ensemble win for Basterds at the SAGs also strengthens her case – looks like the actors really like this movie.

6 (6) – Samantha Morton in The Messenger

It’s hard to leave her out because she always seems to sneak into these available sixth slots (In America, Sweet & Lowdown) but the Critics Choice nominations is her only big precursor get thus far, so she’ll probably be left out.

7 (7) – Penelope Cruz in Nine

Nine’s being completely DOA at the Oscars really kills Cruz’s chances – still you can’t ignore the Golden Globe and SAG double, plus the fact she won just a year ago.

8 (8) – Marion Cotillard in Nine

She’s been split between Lead and Supporting all year which has killed her momentum in each category. If Nine gets a supporting nominee, it’ll likely be Cruz.

9 (9) – Melanie Laurent in Inglorious Basterds

Laurent’s being left out of the SAG shortlist after a strong start to the campaign makes it seem like she’ll be entered as a lead, all but dooming her supporting chances.

10 (10) – Maggie Gyllenhaal in Crazy Heart

We still need a tenth spot, and Bridges’ supporting lady is as good as any.

Best Director

1 (1) – Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker

LOCK – The DGA win made her the most likely nominee. Though it’s very close.

2 (4) – James Cameron for Avatar

LOCK – It’s very close between Cameron and his ex-wife. He got the Globe, which could make him King of the World.

3 (3) – Quentin Tarantino for Inglorious Basterds

LOCK – He never really WON much this Oscar season as a director, but everyone loves the film – mostly for him – and he does have those Weinsteins in his corner.

4 (2) – Jason Reitman for Up in the Air

LOCK – This is starting to look like a Screenplay-and-that’s-it type of film, but Reitman is still a cinch for his second Best Director nomination.

5 (6) – Lee Daniels for Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire

It’s kind of a cop out to pick the five DGA nominees, but Daniels really is the strongest candidate remaining, though that only gives him a weak hold on this spot.

6 (7) – Neill Blomkamp for District Nine

This is starting to look like it might happen, but it may be a bit too late for his campaign. Though it won’t be a surprise to see him nominated.

7 (5) – Clint Eastwood for Invictus

Invictus has died a slow death in terms of buzz over the last few weeks, and now Eastwood looks like he won’t get a nomination.

8 (NR) – JJ Abrams for Star Trek

As buzz for Star Trek starts to rise, its director may come along for the ride. Though it seems like a bit of a longshot.

9 (10) – Joel & Ethan Coen for A Serious Man

Can’t ever count out these Academy darlings. Though it may be a good idea this year.

10 (8) – Wes Anderson for The Fantastic Mr. Fox

Fox is really starting to be hailed as a major accomplishment lately, though many voters will probably feel the Best Animated Feature nomination is good enough for Anderson.

Dropping Out: Pete Docter for Up (9)

Best Original Screenplay

1 (1) – The Hurt Locker by Mark Boal

LOCK – This hasn’t hit the most precursors, but its WGA nomination puts it at the head of this list.

2 (2) – Inglorious Basterds by Quentin Tarantino

LOCK – This one DID snag the most precursors, but its being left out of WGA (albeit because it was ineligible) keeps it off the top.

3 (3) – A Serious Man by Joel & Ethan Coen

This actually got more precursors than Locker, but hasn’t matched its buzz. The WGA nod means it’s almost a lock, but not quite.

4 (4) – (500) Days of Summer by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber

Another critics darling that managed to lock down the all-important WGA nomination. Still, it’s just not quite a lock.

5 (5) – Up by Pete Docter

Pixar has been raking in the nominations in this category recently, but animation can never quite be a lock. Even though this is looking pretty secure.

6 (6) – Avatar by James Cameron

This hit the WGA and that was it. It has more buzz and more box office than any other film, but are the writers really going to give an Oscar nomination to this cliche fest?

7 (7) – The Hangover by Jon Lucas & Scott Moore

This one snuck into the WGA after Basterds and Up were deemed ineligible, and the movie itself just one the Golden Globe. That may be enough to get it in, but probably not quite.

8 (8) – It’s Complicated by Nancy Meyers

It’s going to be 5 of the top 7, so this is kind of a consolation prize – received by Meyers based on her Golden Globe nomination.

9 (NR) – The White Ribbon by Michael Haneke

This is the foreign critics darling this year, a spot that often results in a screenplay nomination. This is a little too far outside the mainstream to get in, however.

10 (10) – Bright Star by Jane Campion

Because we need a tenth spot and the Academy loved Campion at one time.

Dropping Out: Away We Go by Dave Eggers & Vendela Vida

Best Adapted Screenplay

1 (1) – Up in the Air by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner

LOCK – This has won far more precursors than any other film. It doesn’t get any more locked in than this.

2 (2) – Precious by Geoffrey Fletcher

LOCK – The buzz fire has all but gone out on this movie, but it’s still bright enough to make its screenplay a surefire nominee.

3 (3) – An Education by Nick Hornby

LOCK – This would’ve been second if it were eligible for a WGA (which it certainly would have gotten). As it stands, it will have to settle for being the third lock.

4 (4) – District 9 by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell

The Golden Globe nomination is a good place for this screenplay to hang its campaign hat. It’s also been surging in buzz recently – this will probably be the spot most voters look to honor it.

5 (5) – Crazy Heart by Scott Cooper

The buzz on this movie slowly grows (as evidenced by its WGA nomination being the script’s first of the season) and that continued growth should see it holding on to a nomination.

6 (8) – Star Trek by Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci

This skated into a WGA nomination and the movie itself is getting strong Best Picture buzz. It has a good shot.

7 (7) – In The Loop by Armando Ianucci, et. al.

Its being WGA ineligible may have doomed it, as it was unable to capture any late buzz as the campaign started to wane. It’ll end up out of luck.

8 (10) – Julie & Julia by Nora Ephron

This got a WGA nomination which makes it something of a contender, but it was really just another of those fortunate recipients of other scripts’ being ineligible.

9 (6) – The Fantastic Mr. Fox by Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach

Got a Critics Choice nomination, and a few others thereafter, but was unable to ever really gain any traction.

10 (9) – Where The Wild Things Are by Dave Eggers and Spike Jonze

This looked like it might get some momentum at it release, but it was only ever able to capture some sporadic critics nominations.

Best Picture

1 (1) – The Hurt Locker

LOCK – DGA and PGA wins means this is the biggest cinch of the bunch.

2 (4) – Avatar

LOCK – Super box office, huge buzz and a Golden Globe have taken this from outside shot do dead solid lock.

3 (3) – Inglorious Basterds

LOCK – The SAG Ensemble win was huge for this movie (the actors are the biggest voting bloc), guaranteeing it a nomination.

4 (2) – Up in the Air

LOCK – While the buzz is waning for this movie, with ten slots to fill it’s still guaranteed a nomination.

5 (5) – Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire

LOCK – Pretty much the same case as Up In The Air with a little less buzz and a few fewer precursors.

6 (6) – An Education

Time to get scary. This is going to sit in the sixth slot because of its PGA and SAG ensemble nods, but it’s far from a sure thing. Just the most likely of the non-locks.

7 (7) – Up

The reviews are just too good and the precursor tally too big for this to be victimized by an animation bias. Right?

8 (8) – Star Trek

Buzz is approaching warp speed for this movie, but it might be too late. Still, a nomination looks like a good bet right now.

9 (12) – District 9

This is another red-hot buzz movie that looks like it’s done enough to get a nomination in the last few weeks. Another blockbuster beneficiary of the rule of ten.

10 ( 10) – A Serious Man

This has been in the tenth slot for a while, just because it’s hard to ignore its pile of precursor nominations. The Academy probably won’t overlook that pile either.

11 (9) – Invictus

All year I’ve been saying, “Clint Eastwood directed a movie about Nelson Mandela – it’s gotta get nominated!” Doesn’t look that way anymore.

12 (15) – The Hangover

The Golden Globe win was a good shot in the arm, but the comedy winners from there rarely go on to Oscar glory. Still, with ten slots it might sneak in. But probably not.

13 (14) – The Messenger

This one is the first real longshot. A small group of people really seem to like it, but that group is probably too small.

14 (11) – Nine

This started at number 2 on these rankings back in December and has since taken a major tumble. Still, it’s impossible to take a Weinstein-backed musical with this pedigree completely off the list. No matter how unlikely it seems.

15 (13) – (500) Days of Summer

Missing out on the Golden Globes pretty much sealed its fate – this won’t get nominated for Best Picture.