This year the big question is, where the hell are they gonna find 10 worthy movies? You've got the Golden Globes' choices: "Avatar," "Hurt Locker," "Up in the Air," "Precious" and "Inglourious Basterds." They're all safe bets.
From there it's a scrum between "Star Trek," "District 9," "Invictus," "A Single Man," "An Education," "Crazy Heart," "Nine" (Oscar loves a musical - -even if you don't), "Where the Wild Things Are," "Fantastic Mr. Fox," "The Hangover," "(500) Days of Summer," "An Education"... maybe "Up." You can forget any foreign-language films getting into the mix, as it's only happened 11 times in 80+ years.
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But none of that matters, because this year Best Picture is all about "Avatar" vs. "Hurt Locker." The rest is noise. Same goes for Best Director. Adding to the drama is the fact that these two directors, James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow, used to be married. Their split was amicable, but after the awards are announced, who knows?
In the Best Actor field, look for Peter Sarsgaard to possibly get his due for his great work in "An Education" or Jeremy Renner from the "The Hurt Locker" in addition to obvious choices like George Clooney ("Up in the Air") Jeff Bridges ("Crazy Heart") and Colin Firth ("A Single Man").
The Best Actress category is as thin as you would fear when an industry that typically offers women few great roles has an offer year. There's no doubt the trophy will go to Meryl Streep ("Julie & Julia"), Marion Cotillard ("Nine"), Sandra Bullock ("The Blind Side"), Emily Blunt ("The Young Victoria"), Carey Mulligan ("An Education") or Gabourey Sidibe ("Precious").
To waste any ink -- even the fake cyberspace stuff -- on Best Supporting Actor is dumb. Christoph Waltz from "Inglourious Basterds" has this wrapped up. Moving on...
To another category already decided, Best Supporting Actress. Mo'nique's teary-eyed speech in accepting the same award at the Globes effectively ended this race.
The Best Original Screenplay race will come down to Quentin Tarantino ("Inglorious Basterds")vs. Mark Boal ("The Hurt Locker"), while Jason Reitman's "Up in the Air" script is the prohibitive favorite to win the "we love you, but can't give Best Picture so here's Best Adapted Screenplay" Award. But "Precious," "An Education," "A Single Man" and "Fantastic Mr. Fox" will likely round out the Adapted field.
Two weeks ago the Academy announced that it had whittled the Best Foreign Film field down to nine, but this race will be between "The White Ribbon" and "A Prophet," with "Ribbon" having the edge because of director Michael Haneke's popularity and the film's (slightly) wider release.
Twenty animated features were submitted for consideration, but if "Up" doesn't win they should discontinue the category. That said, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” "9" and “A Town Called Panic” all lurk in the shadows, ready to pounce.
Really, the biggest question looming over the Oscar nomination is, Why the hell don't they just turn this into a two-hour primetime special and let every get some decent sleep?