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If years of Oscar watching have taught us anything, it's that the Academy almost never varies from general precursor consensus when it comes to acting plaudits. If the Globes, SAG, and the BFCA narrow it down to one name, that's probably your winner.
Oscar winners actually receive their trophies blank. In past years they've had to return them to have their name affixed later. This year, the Academy is doing it a little differently and will be finishing up the statues during the after party. But why all the secrecy when the names are so predetermined? The Academy is actually making engravings for all 20 acting nominees this year… just in case. As if!!! I have more chance of winning Best Supporting Actress than Maggie Gyllenhaal does. They'd be safe engraving just five nameplates.
"Best Actor in a Leading Role: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart"
They have to do five because there's still a slim possibility that Meryl Streep could derail the Sandra Bullock bandwagon.
The Golden Globes and the Critics' Choice Awards and the Screen Actors Guild ceremonies should probably air with flashing "SPOILER WARNING" signs. This is why Oscar nomination morning is generally more suspenseful for the jaded Oscarologist than the big show at the Kodak Theater. Anything seems vaguely plausible before the names are read in each category. Afterwards, it's a countdown to the inevitable repeat crownings.
But for argument and analysis' sake, let's take a quick survey of each acting category.
Best Supporting Actor
WILL WIN: Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)
THE SPOILER: Christopher Plummer (The Last Station)
SORRY, YOU ALREADY WON: Given the lack of general enthusiasm for Invictus, Matt Damon will have to wait. He can always pretend his screenwriting Oscar (Good Will Hunting) is for his admirable acting skill.
WHAT HAPPENED? Early in the season, Woody Harrelson looked like the Waltz challenger for his by-the-book alcoholic soldier in The Messenger. But something didn't take, campaign-wise. The fact that a small outfit like Oscilloscope got two nods (for The Messenger and for Burma VJ) without the funds of a huge FYC campaign is pretty astounding, although not undeserved.
THE NOMINATION IS THE REWARD: Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones)
Best Supporting Actress
WILL WIN: Mo'Nique (Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire)
THE SPOILER: Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air)
SORRY, YOU ALREADY WON: Penélope Cruz is messy, sexy, and neurotically funny in Vicky Cristina Barcelona—excuse me—Nine.
WHAT HAPPENED? Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air) is spectacularly sexy, Clooney-compatible, confident, and best-in-her-show. So why is her co-star getting more awards traction? It's a mystery.
THE NOMINATION IS THE REWARD: Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart)
WILL WIN: Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart)
THE SPOILER: Before Bridges's film finally confirmed a 2009 release, Colin Firth (A Single Man) was looking like the one to beat for his grieving gay professor.
SORRY, YOU ALREADY WON: George Clooney (Up in the Air) and Morgan Freeman (Invictus)
THE NOMINATION IS THE REWARD: Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker)
WHO WILL WIN? I'm not ready to say Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side) with any certainty, though she has the current heat. If there's anyone as overdue as Jeff Bridges in this year's competitive pool, it's Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia). While it's true that she has two Oscars, she won them both in the first five years of her career. They threw gold at her for warming up and never for actually being the legend she became.
SORRY, YOU ALREADY WON: Helen Mirren (The Last Station)
THE NOMINATION IS THE REWARD: Carey Mulligan (An Education) will be back to the race rather quickly—just wait and see. Gabby Sidibe (Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire) won a dream role for her screen debut and did it justice.
So... Sandy or Streep? Or do you think there's more suspense here than previous awards shows have let on?
Nathaniel Rogers blogs on The Film Experience. He is also a bit of an Oscar savant.
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