Avatar, The Hurt Locker
Can Avatar's blue aliens win Oscar gold? Will either Kathryn Bigelow or James Cameron emerge victorious in their battle of the exes? We'll find out Sunday at the 82nd Academy Awards — but for now, let's make some predictions. So sharpen your pencils, make your picks and compare them to ours below while we count down to the big show.
Before you tune in to ABC for the Oscars (8 ET/5 PT), be sure to watch Live at the Academy Awards with Carrie Ann Inaba and Chris Harrison, Sunday, March 7, live at 6 ET/3 PT on TV Guide Network, and watch the live Fashion Cam video of all the red carpet arrivals at TVGuide.com/fashioncam starting at 6 ET/3 PT.
Oscar nominees: Who do you think will win?
Who will win: The Hurt Locker. With 10 nominees in this category for the first time in 66 years and the new preferential voting system, nothing is a complete lock. But it's hard to overlook Locker's momentum. Outside of the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild awards, it's pocketed a majority of the top precursors, including the BAFTA and the Producers Guild Award. It's also only the fourth film to sweep the American critics group prizes (New York, Los Angeles and National Society of Film Critics). The recent controversies around the Iraq War thriller shouldn't hurt it either since ballots were due Tuesday.
Watch out for: Inglourious Basterds. Avatar's the blockbuster and is impressive technically, but Basterds has received more praise from critics, which will help it under the new voting system, where all 10 films are ranked from favorite to least favorite.
Did you know?: The Hurt Locker and Avatar lead the pack this year with nine nominations each. Two films have gone 9-for-9 in awards: Gigi (1958) and The Last Emperor (1987).
Who will win: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker. The time has come. Bigelow, already the first female director to win the honor at the Directors Guild awards and at the BAFTAs, is poised to become the first woman to win the directing Oscar. She is the fourth woman to be nominated for best director, following Lina Wertmuller (Seven Beauties, 1976), Jane Campion (The Piano, 1993) and Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, 2003). Campion and Coppola each won screenwriting trophies, while Wertmuller never won an Oscar.
Watch out for: James Cameron, Avatar. Bigelow's ex-husband edged her at the Golden Globes, but his "I'm the king of the world!" declaration 12 years ago still leaves a bad taste in some people's mouths.
Did you know?: At 32, Up in the Air's Jason Reitman is the youngest person to have two directing nominations (he was also nominated for 2007's Juno). If he wins, he would tie Norman Taurog as the youngest best-director winner. Taurog won for Skippy way back in 1931.
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Who will win: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart. The film vet hit all the right notes as fading country crooner Bad Blake. On top of that, Bridges, on his fifth nomination, is overdue for a first win — and Hollywood knows it, judging from the standing Os he received at the Globes and SAGs.
Watch out for: George Clooney, Up in the Air. Clooney was the front-runner until Bridges picked up steam in the homestretch.
Did you know?: Bridges earned his third nomination for playing the titular alien in 1984's Starman. It remains the only non-human performance nominated for best actor.
Who will win: Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side. Bullock blindsided us all this season, racking up nominations and wins left and right for her tough-cookie mom Leigh Anne Tuohy. A best picture nod for the football drama means extra support, as does her SAG win since actors make up the largest Academy voting bloc. Also on her side: Only five times since the first SAG awards 15 years ago has the best-actress winner failed to win the Oscar.
Watch out for: Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia. The Academy's most nominated performer ever (16 nominations) still only has two wins under her belt. The last time Streep won (for 1982's Sophie's Choice), her fellow nominees Gabourey Sidibe (Precious) and Carey Mulligan (An Education) weren't even born.
Did you know?: If Sidibe wins, she would become the fifth actress to win in the category for her debut performance. The other four: Shirley Booth (Come Back, Little Sheba, 1952), Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins, 1964), Barbra Streisand (Funny Girl, 1968) and Marlee Matlin (Children of a Lesser God, 1986).
Check out the fashion standouts from last year's Oscars
Who will win: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds. No contest. Get ready for another rambling speech.
Watch out for: Woody Harrelson, The Messenger. The best of the rest.
Did you know?: The Last Station's Christopher Plummer earned his first Oscar nomination this year at 80. The oldest performer nominated for best actor or supporting actor, though, is Hal Holbrook, who was 82 when he earned a supporting nod two years ago for Into the Wild.
Who will win: Mo'Nique, Precious. Duh.
Watch out for: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart. Clooney's on-screen gals (Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick) could cancel each other out and Penelope Cruz (Nine) will not repeat for a universally bashed flop, leaving Gyllenhaal, the surprise nominee of the year, a chance to pull off a very big upset.
Did you know?: Gyllenhaal's turn in Crazy Heart is the 22nd performance to earn an Oscar nomination without a Golden Globe or SAG nomination. Marcia Gay Harden is the only person to receive two Oscar nominations (she won for Pollock) without getting Globe or SAG nods for either performance.