Just as you'd expect with a fundamental change to the Best Picture race, this Oscar season has been full of surprises. Films that were expected to be major players such as "Amelia," "A Serious Man," "A Single Man," "Brothers" and, most notably, "Nine," have fallen by the wayside and surprise candidates such as "Avatar," "District 9," "Crazy Heart" and "The Messenger" are primed to make some noise when nominations are announced early Tuesday morning.
However, while the new ten nominee system has made it more difficult than ever to predict the process, but that doesn't mean there aren't any guarantees. In fact, this pundit is willing to guarantee seven of the 10 Best Picture contenders, but beyond that? It's - for lack of a better phrase - up in the air.
As for the remaining "major" categories -- acting, directing and screenwriting -- there is still room for some unexpected honorees, especially in the scripted realm. That being said, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress are pretty much set. The Supporting nods? Well, let's just predict the fifth member of each pool may lead to some feigns of surprise from the assembled press and publicity core at the Academy Theater for the announcements. Taking all of this into account, I've prepared my final nomination predictions with a few wildcards for each category thrown in for good measure. Any candiate that is starred is pretty much a stone cold lock. We'll find out for sure very early on Tuesday morning.
"The Hurt Locker"*
"Up in the Air"*
"The Blind Side"
"The Last Station"
Lowdown: How fast has "Invictus" fallen? How fast has "Crazy Heart," "The Messenger" or "The Hangover" risen? And will geeks scream from the rafters if "Star Trek" makes it? The mornings most dramatic announcement as always.
Jeff Bridges, "Crazy Heart"*
George Clooney, "Up in the Air"*
Colin Firth, "A Single Man"*
Morgan Freeman, "Invictus"
Jeremy Renner, "The Hurt Locker"
Sam Worthington, "Avatar"
Robert Downey, Jr., "Sherlock Holmes"
Lowdown: Is Freeman in or is he out? If he's out, could Worthington or Downey, Jr. sneak in?
Sandra Bullock, "The Blind Side"*
Meryl Streep, "Julie and Julia"*
Carey Mulligan, "An Education"*
Gabourey Sibide, "Precious"*
Helen Mirren, "The Last Station"*
Zoe Saldana, "Avatar"
Emily Blunt, "The Young Victoria"
Lowdown: It's hard to imagine any of the top five ladies getting shut out. It's been too weak a year.
Kathryn Bigelow, "The Hurt Locker"*
James Cameron, "Avatar"*
Quentin Tarantino, "Inglourious Basterds"*
Lee Daniels, "Precious"*
Jason Reitman, "Up in the Air"*
Neill Bloomkamp, "District 9"
Pete Doctor, "Up"
Clint Eastwood, "Invictus"
Lowdown: In theory, Daniels is vulernable here, but we don't buy it. Top five should be safe although the battle is still between Bigelow and Cameron.
Best Supporting Actor
Christoph Waltz, "Inglourious Basterds"*
Woody Harrelson, "The Messenger"*
Matt Damon, "Invictus"*
Stanley Tucci, "The Lovely Bones"
Christopher Plummer, "The Last Station"
Alfred Molina, "An Education"
Alec Baldwin, "It's Complicated"
Lowdown: Tucci and Plummer aren't locks because their films aren't as "loved" as "It's Complicated" (which just passed $100 million domestic) by the Academy's demo. Don't be surprised if Oscar host and recent Golden Globe winner Baldwin makes the cut.
Best Supporting Actress
Anna Kendrick, "Up in the Air"*
Julianne Moore, "A Single Man"*
Vera Farminga, "Up in the Air"*
Diane Kruger, "Inglourious Basterds"
Penelope Cruz, "Nine"
Samantha Morton, "The Messenger"
Lowdown: Cruz was in the five for the longest time, but the stink on "Nine" makes it hard to believe she'll still make it in. We're betting the love for "Basterds," which was shown at the SAG Awards, will get Kruger in with the Academy just as she landed a SAG nod.
Best Original Screenplay
"500 Days of Summer"*
"The Hurt Locker"*
"A Serious Man"
Lowdown: One of the toughest to guage because so many contenders were made ineligible for the WGA Awards which is usually a strong indicator of both writing categories. "Avatar" and "Hangover" could both sneak in, but are they really that deserving?
Best Adapted Screenplay
"Up in the Air"*
"In the Loop"
"Julie & Julia"
Lowdown: Lord we'd love for "Loop" to sneak in, but it seems as though it's been more of a critic's favorite than anything else. Overall this is a very weak category, so it wouldn't come as a shock of "Julie & Julia" snuck in over "Crazy Heart."
Look for complete coverage of the 82nd Academy Award Nominations beginning at 8:30 AM EST/5:30 AM PST on HitFix.
Who do you think will be nominated for Oscars this year? Share your thoughts below.