Movie News & Reviews

Other nominations bringing Oscar picture into focus

Your movie geekiness quotient can be measured by how much you follow awards season, leading up to that Super Bowl of Cinema: the Oscars.

I pretty much send the scale through the roof and follow awards season like a bookie follows horse races. I tend to think of myself not as pathetic but dedicated to my film beat. Yeah, that's it.

But awards season is now in full, feverish swing, with critics groups releasing their picks over the past month and the Golden Globes and Screen Actors' Guild Awards announcing their nominations this past week.

They are all precursors to what the Academy Award nominations will be, and some performers and films are becoming heavy favorites to make Oscar's short list. Here's a look:

Best picture: The race this year will be even bigger with 10 Oscar nominees instead of the usual five (because that's what they need to do is make the awards show even longer). Some movies that are becoming sure bets are "Up in the Air," "Inglourious Basterds," "The Hurt Locker," "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire," "An Education" and "Up." Others that could fill out the roster include "Nine," "Avatar" and "Invictus."

Lead actor: Jeff Bridges as a broken-down country singer in "Crazy Heart," George Clooney as a frequent-flier nut in "Up In The Air," Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela in "Invictus," and Colin Firth as a mourning English professor in "A Single Man" are looking like sure bets, with Jeremy Renner ("The Hurt Locker") or Viggo Mortensen ("The Road") taking the fifth slot.

Lead actress: It's now looking like a nomination is almost a sure thing for Sandra Bullock for her sassy turn in "The Blind Side," which is cool. I root for her — she's had a long, respectable career topped off by a stellar year.

Other odds-on favorites are Carey Mulligan, who shined as a love-struck teen in "An Education," the revelatory Gabourey Sidibe in "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' By Sapphire" and the perennial Meryl Streep for her take as Julia Child in "Julie & Julia." Helen Mirren ("The Last Station") will most likely take the last slot.

Supporting actor: Every list has been almost the same, so these should be the eventual Oscar nominees: Matt Damon ("Invictus"), Woody Harrelson, ("The Messenger"), Christopher Plummer, ("The Last Station,") Stanley Tucci, ("The Lovely Bones") and Christoph Waltz, ("Inglorious Basterds").

Supporting actress: Mo'Nique of "Precious" and "Up in the Air's" Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick seem to have locked-in nominations. "Nine's" Penelope Cruz and Marion Cotillard or "A Single Man's" Julianne Moore could duke it out for the last slots. Girl fight!

Director: The Directors Guild Award nominees won't be announced until Jan. 7, which is usually a spot-on indicator of Oscar nominees, but so far, Kathryn Bigelow ("The Hurt Locker") has been sweeping many critics' lists. Could she be the first woman to win a directing Oscar?

Her fellow nominees will probably be Clint Eastwood ("Invictus"), Jason Reitman ("Up in the Air") and Quentin Tarantino ("Inglourious Basterds"), with James Cameron perhaps getting the fifth slot with "Avatar" (coincidentally, he's Bigelow's ex-husband — only in Hollywood).

Oscar nominees will be announced Feb. 2, so we'll see how close I am. But there's still plenty of time for some late contenders.