Wednesday, December 16, 2009

OSCARS 2010: AND THE NOMINEES WILL BE...

It's that time of year again. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which today announced its nominees for the 2010 Golden Globes has spoken. So have most of the major critics groups. Now, it's my turn.

Although I have a passing interest in Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Song and the writing categories, the acting races are the ones that drive my Oscar passion. This year, with 10 films competing for Best Picture, I'm even less interested than usual. But Best Director could get interesting. I suspect the Academy will finally give the award to a woman, Kathyrn Bigelow, for The Hurt Locker. She might be competing with her ex-husband, Avatar (and Titanic) director James Cameron, and she'll definitely be up against previous nominee (for Juno) Jason Reitman, son of successful and never-nominated director Ivan Reitman (Ghost Busters). At 32, would he be the youngest-ever two-time nominee?

Here is how I think things will turn out in the acting categories when the nominations are announced on February 2. (See more of my commentary here.)

BEST ACTOR
Colin Firth for A Single Man
George Clooney for Up In The Air
Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart
Jeremy Renner for The Hurt Locker
Morgan Freeman for Invictus

Colin Firth was the early frontrunner for his performance as a gay man mourning the death of his lover, but the critics have since annointed The Men Who Stare At Goats costars George Clooney and Jeff Bridges as the ones to beat. And as I noted previously, after recently honoring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Sean Penn for their respective biopic representations of homosexuals Truman Capote and Harvey Milk, the Academy might be ready to take a break from awarding straight men for playing gay.

Spoiler Alert! Tobey Maguire (above) is getting his best reviews ever for playing a prisoner of war readjusting to life back home in Brothers. That Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Drama over Jeremy Renner, star of the Best Picture frontrunner, doesn't hurt.

BEST ACTRESS
Carey Mulligan for An Education
Gabourey Sidibe for Precious
Helen Mirren for The Last Station
Meryl Streep for Julie & Julia
Sandra Bullock for The Blind Side

Carey Mulligan has had the edge all season, but now that she's splitting the critics awards with Meryl Streep, who's also collecting praise for It's Complicated, I'm predicting that the Academy will single out its most-nominated queen for the first time in 27 years.

Spoiler Alert! Meryl Vs. Meryl? Would the Academy cite Meryl in this category for It's Complicated instead. (Remember what happened last year with Kate Winselt for Revolutionary Road vs. Kate Winslet for The Reader?) Highly unlikely, but anything's possible with the Oscars.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Anthony Mackie for The Hurt Locker
Christoph Waltz for Inglorious Basterds
Christopher Plummer for The Last Station
Stanley Tucci for The Lovely Bones
Woody Harrelson for The Messenger

The critics have been unanimous in their support of Christoph Waltz, but I suspect a situation similar to 2005, when Sideways costar Thomas Haden Church took everything up until the Golden Globes (where Clive Owen won for Closer), with Million Dollar Baby's Morgan Freeman pulling a last-minute Oscar triumph. I think this year it will be one of two never-nominated-but-overdue actors: Stanley Tucci or Christopher Plummer.

Spoiler Alert! Despite consistently solid work, it's been 12 years since Matt Damon's last Oscar nod, for Good Will Hunting. Although Invictus is not the Oscar contender it was expected to be, Matt's excellent year -- his starring role in The Informant! was well-received -- makes him a possible nominee. If the Academy is more gung ho for The Hurt Locker as a film than because of its individual performances (as was the case last year with Best Picture Slumdog Millionaire), expect Matt -- or even, possibly, It's Complicated's Alec Baldwin, Oscars 2010 cohost, or An Education's Alfred Molina or Peter Sarsgaard -- to replace Anthony Mackie in the line up.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Anna Kendrick for Up In The Air
Julianna Moore for A Single Man
Mo'Nique for Precious
Penelope Cruz for Nine
Vera Farmiga for Up In The Air

Mo'Nique Mo'Nique Mo'Nique. Case closed.

Spoiler Alert! Maybe, just maybe, Marion Cottilard will sneak in here for Public Enemies (but who'd she replace?), because she had a pretty good 2009, and no way in hell is she getting a best actress nod for Nine, despite her Best Actress in a Comedy Or Musical Golden Globe nomination. Or maybe the Academy will demote her to supporting and drop Penelope. Either way, one of the Nine girls not named Fergie, Kate Hudson or Nicole Kidman is getting in.

Update The Broadcast Film Critics Association, which announced its nominees December 15, has thrown two new spanners in the works. (Its Critics' Choice Movie Awards will be handed out on January 15.) Emily Blunt is now a major best actress contender for The Young Victoria, having also scored a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Drama. Look for her to challenge Helen Mirren for that fifth spot.

And then there is Samantha Morton, cited for her supporting turn in The Messenger. She's already been nominated twice before, and I'm pretty certain that when all is said and done, she'll win an Oscar. Someday. She'll probably be duking it out with Penelope Cruz and Marion Cotillard.
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