It’s come down to this.  Time to put my money where my mouth is.  Time to face the music.  Time to… write an introduction wrought with cliches. Yes, it’s prediction time again – and this the big one: Predicting the Oscar Winner. Yesterday we posted who SHOULD win, today it’s who WILL win.

While this isn’t nearly as fun as picking the nominees (with only five slots and all) it’s still a bit of a challenge.  Well, unless you count the acting races which have been pretty much closed since the nominees were first announced. But who cares about those?  This is the closest Best Picture race we’ve seen since 1991 when JFK and Silence of the Lambs were neck-and-neck.  Except this year, we’re neck-and-neck-and-neck.

Read below to see just what that means…

Best Actor

1 (Rank Last Time: 1) – Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart

He’s the fortunate recipient of the “it’s his time” love.  Nothing is going to get in his way at this point, he’s got the precursors and the lifetime achievement factor on his side.

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

Just like with Michael Clayton, Clooney has run into a mortal lock for Best Actor despite giving a performance that would have won a statuette in most years.  Sometimes it’s all about timing, and Clooney’s was off again this year.

3 (2) – Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker

He is bound to get some votes from people who simply love this film and go Hurt Locker across the board, but that won’t be nearly enough for him to overcome the Bridges juggernaut.

4 (5) – Colin Firth in A Single Man

Once again, Firth is simply this year’s “surefire nominee with no chance of winning”.  He was definitely going to be nominated from the middle of December, and even then we knew he wasn’t going to win.

5 (4) – Morgan Freeman in Invictus

I doubt anybody remembers this movie existed, let alone Freeman’s performance in it.  If the nominations came out today, he’d probably miss out, just because this movie is such an afterthought.

Best Actress

1 (1) – Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side

Every way I looked at this, Sandra’s going to win.  It seemed like maybe, just maybe, there could be a backlash against this movie – but you simply cannot ignore the fact that its Best Picture nomination means that people like the movie itself enough for their to be no ill will towards it.  That, and all those precursors on Bullock’s trophy shelf, means she is going to win.

2 (4) – Meryl Streep in Julie & Julia

Of all the acting categories, this is the only one that isn’t a stone cold certainty, and that’s because of Ms. Streep.  Everywhere you turn, it seems that people are still gushing about how wonderful Streep was in this film, and saying she most deserves to win.  Will it carry her to Oscar glory?  Probably not, but she’s got a real shot.

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

Unfortunately for Sibide, Monique’s is probably the only box voters will check with regards to film.  She’s generated some positive buzz all season, but her campaign never really took hold.

4 (3) – Carey Mulligan in An Education

She went from lock to win in December, to lock to get nominated in January, to highly possible nominee in February, to certain non-winner in March.  Ah, the vagaries of Oscar campaigning.

5 – Helen Mirren in The Last Station

Nobody saw this movie, and there may be some voters surprised to see her name on the ballot.  No chance.

Best Supporting Actor

1 (1) – Christoph Waltz in Inglorious Basterds

If it weren’t for Monique, he’d be the biggest lock this year.  As it stands, he just has to settle for being one of the biggest locks ever.

2 (2) – Christopher Plummer in The Last Station

If anybody’s going to topple Waltz it will be Plummer, who is enjoying his first Oscar nomination.  That will get him a few votes, but not nearly enough to overtake Waltz.

3 (3) – Woody Harrelson in The Messenger

Harrelson will pick up some votes among the lovers of indie movies, but there aren’t enough of those in the Academy to see his overtaking Waltz.

4 (4) – Stanley Tucci in The Lovely Bones

When you’re in a film as universally reviled as Bones it’s impossible to win.

5 (5) – Matt Damon in Invictus

When you’re in a film as universally forgotten as Invictus it’s impossible to win.

Best Supporting Actress

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

Monique has ascended from somebody who may ruin her chances by undermining her campaign to the biggest lock of the year.

2 (2) – Penelope Cruz in Nine

Once again, Monique is a dead on lock, so the ordering behind her is largely immaterial.  Saying that, a past winner with the Weinsteins in her corner will at least pick up a vote or two.

3 (4) – Maggie Gyllenhaal in Crazy Heart

With love for this movie intensifying every day, Gyllenhaal’s chances continue to improve.  Too bad she has not shot at Monique.

4 (3) – Anna Kendrick in Up in the Air

She’s going to split votes with her costar and unfortunately, is not Monique.

5 (5) – Vera Farmiga in Up in the Air

Ditto.

Best Original Screenplay

1 – Inglorious Basterds by Quentin Tarantino

Finally, a real race!  This is pretty close between the top two, but ultimately voters may find this is the only spot they’d like honor Basterds as a whole, and cast their vote for Tarantino.

2 – The Hurt Locker by Mark Boal

This is almost neck-and-neck with Basterds, but could actually suffer from its status as a Director and Picture front-runner.  After voters check Locker off in those categories, they’ll probably want to spread the love when they get here.  Having said that – if this screenplay does win, it’s a sure indicator that the movie will sweep the night.

3 – The Messenger by Alesandro Camon & Oren Moverman

There’s going to be a sizable niche that casts its vote for this indie flick, but that niche won’t be enough to overcome the two front-runners.

4 – Up by Pete Docter

There’s always a bias agains animation, so until that starts to fade, Pixar will have to continue to settle for nominations and nothing more in this category.

5 – A Serious Man by Joel & Ethan Coen

The Coens are victimized by their own success here.  They’re becoming a bit like Woody Allen in that every time they write a screenplay it has a good shot to get nominated and probably will.  Unfortunately for them, that also means they probably won’t win.

Best Adapted Screenplay

1 – Up in the Air by Jason Reitman

Going down the list of nominees, voters will find this the only place they really have to honor this well-liked film.  Its victory could be near-unanimous in this category.

2 (4) – Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire by Geoffrey Fletcher

Up In The Air is such a lock that the ordering after it really doesn’t matter.  This goes second simply because those who adored the film may find this is the only spot they can honor it as a whole.

3 (3) – An Eductation by Nick Hornby

Much like Precious, there are many who loved this indie darling, and this is the only logical spot to cast a vote for the film.

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

There’s going to be a small group that absolutely love this movie, but the mainstream in the Academy will just look at it and stare.  The fact that the screenplay didn’t really have any dialogue will hurt it.

5 (5) – In The Loop by Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, and Tony Roche

This is going to be too vulgar and too crazy for older members of the Academy.

Best Director

 

1 (2) – Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker

The buzz has swung her way mightily in the last few weeks, and she’s actually approaching lock status.  It’s a help that Cameron has endorsed her to win.

2 (1) – James Cameron for Avatar

There’s been a small bit of backlash against this film (and Cameron) and that should be enough to cost him the Oscar – this is looking like Bigelow’s category now.

3 (3) – Quentin Tarantino for Inglorious Basterds

It’s a race between the top two, so Tarantion’s looking like an also-ran.  Still, with the Weinsteins in his corner, this isn’t impossible.

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

Daniels doesn’t really have a chance here.  This is being seen as and actor’s showcase pretty much exclusively, and the top spots are way too solid.

5 (5) – Jason Reitman for Up in the Air

Directing a comedy a character-based comedy is pretty much death.  The nomination is his win.

Best Picture

Before we get to the Best Picture winner predictions, it’s best to review very quickly how the voting works this year, because it is markedly different than in years past.

The way it works, is kind of like a process of elimination.  Voters list their top ten movies in order, and from those ballots, the accountants will go over the lists and eliminate the film with the fewest first place votes.  Ballots with the eliminated film in first place will have their second place film listed in first.  This process continues until one movie has amassed 50% of the first-place votes.

In this process it may matter more which films Academy members list second more than which films the list first.

 

1 (1) – The Hurt Locker

There, now that we’ve got that straight, it still looks like The Hurt Locker‘s race to lose.  This is a film everyone will have in their top three so it will be helped by the elimination process greatly.  And don’t let the meager box office fool you – everyone in the industry has seen this movie.

2 (3) – Inglorious Basterds

I could be going out on a limb here, but if there’s one thing the Weinsteins do well, it’s run an Oscar campaign – and when they say they’re going to get Basterds a win, I believe them.  This film is not only going to top a lot of ballots, but will probably be second and third on the ballots of eliminated pictures as well.  It’s got a real shot at winning – this is very tight among the top three.

3 (2) – Avatar

You know it’s tight when the biggest film of all time is sitting third on these final power rankings.  Why so low?  Because while it may top a lot of ballots, there are going to be just as many casting a backlash vote, and putting far down their lists.  That means it probably won’t pick up as many votes as Basterds and Locker during the elimination process and will ultimately come up short, though not by much.

(Also – these predictions officially have me worried – I completely shut out Avatar in the big categories.  Is this really going to happen?  Looks that way.)

4 (7) – Up in the Air

Ah, down to the movies that aren’t going to win.  Air was well-liked enough to top a few ballots and will certainly be near the top of all of them, so it will pick up a few more votes along the way.  Not nearly enough to contend however.

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

This is very similar to the Up in the Air chances, except that it may pick up a few more first-place votes and far fewer votes from eliminations, since there is a substantial backlash against this film.

6 (9) – A Serious Man

There are going to be some quirky Coen lovers out there who list this movie as number one, and they’re so respected that they’ll probably end up near the top of every single ballot.  It’s not going to win, but it won’t get blown out either.

7 (8) – An Education

This movie may actually top a few ballots – it seemed very well-liked in the industry.  It’s not going to top nearly enough to win though.

8 (6) – District 9

This is the last movie that could get some first-place votes.  It was enough of a difference-maker for some to want to support it, but it’s not going to win.

9 (4) – The Blind Side

This movie probably isn’t going to get a single first-place vote.  It’s suffered some backlash, and everyone seems to consider this Bullock’s show by herself.

10 (10) – Up

Nobody is going to list this movie first on their ballot.  Why would they?  It can already win another Best Picture prize.

And Now, The Lightning Round. . .

Best Animated Feature: Up (90% Chance of Winning)

Best Foreign Language Film: Un Prophete (40%)

Best Documentary Feature: The Cove (55%)

Best Original Song: “The Weary Kind” from Crazy Heart (80%)

Best Cinematography: Avatar (30%)

Best Film Editing: The Hurt Locker (40%)

Best Art Direction: Avatar (40%)

Best Visual Effects: Avatar (100%)

Best Makeup: Star Trek (65%)

Best Costume Design: The Young Victoria (70%)

Best Original Score: Up (50%)

Best Sound Editing: Avatar (55%)

Best Sound Mixing: Avatar (70%)

Best Animated Short: A Matter of Loaf and Death (90%)

Best Live Action Short: The Door (35%)

Best Documentary Short: China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province (40%)

Who do you think is going to take home the Oscar?