Here's my scorecard, with analysis for every category. Capitalized movies were nominated and movies in parentheses are those that I predicted would be nominated and were not. And let me hear how you did in the comments section below!
NOTE: * indicates my early projection to win the Academy Award
BEST PICTURE (9/10)
The Blind Side
The Hurt Locker*
A SERIOUS MAN (Star Trek)
Up in the Air
I was humming along with 7 in a row, and I finished strong with the last 2, but it was #8 that proved to be an insurmountable obstacle. Hours before I made my FINAL predictions, I had A Serious Man locked in as a Best Picture nominee. Then I spoke with a girl I trust and she convinced me that The Blind Side would be nominated. Considering its impressive box office and late-season heat, it wasn't a bad gamble. Because Star Trek was one of the 2-3 standouts of the first half of 2009 and most people liked it, I thought it had a chance at beating out the Coens' love-it or hate-it A Serious Man, which had encountered its own backlash, facing accusations of anti-Semitism. But the Coens prevailed over Capt. Spock and the gang. I suppose it was wishful thinking on my part. The Academy going for 3 sci-fi movies would be unusual, even for them. This race is still Avatar vs. The Hurt Locker and it's looking like the little guy could actually pull off the "upset."
BEST DIRECTOR (5/5)
Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker*
James Cameron, Avatar
Lee Daniels, Precious
Jason Reitman, Up in the Air
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
What more is there to say, really? This is between Bigelow and her ex-husband, Mr. James "self-proclaimed 'King of the World'" Cameron.
BEST ACTOR (5/5)
Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart*
George Clooney, Up in the Air
Colin Firth, A Single Man
Morgan Freeman, Invictus
Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker
No surprises here. This is Bridges' Oscar to lose at this point.
BEST ACTRESS (5/5)
Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side*
Helen Mirren, The Last Station
Carey Mulligan, An Education
Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia
Again, nothing to bat an eyelash over. It's Bullock vs. Streep all over again, although I do think that Sidibe and Mulligan will get a higher percentage of the votes than they did at the Golden Globes. This is the one acting category to keep your eye on. Things could get interesting.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR (4/5)
MATT DAMON, INVICTUS (Anthony Mackie, The Hurt Locker)
Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
Christopher Plummer, The Last Station
Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds*
Simply an instance of wishful thinking on my part. I wrote from my heart, rather than my head. Mackie turned in the 2nd best supporting performance of the year but somehow got snubbed in favor of a completely forgettable Matt Damon performance that barely registered in a dull, uneven movie. This is a black eye for the Academy. Ridiculous! I understand why Freeman had to be nominated for playing Mandela, but Damon? C'mon, AMPAS! Over Molina and Sarsgaard too? Unacceptable! Waltz will waltz away with this one, no contest.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS (3/5)
PENELOPE CRUZ, NINE (Diane Kruger, Inglourious Basterds)
Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air
MAGGIE GYLLENHAAL, CRAZY HEART (Melanie Laurent, Inglourious Basterds)
Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
A couple of surprises here. Predicting both Inglourious actresses was obviously a long-shot on my part, but I wasn't expecting both of them to be snubbed, let alone by someone from Nine not named Marion Cotillard, who was easily the best thing about that movie. Still, I suppose Cruz was the next best and she's obviously beloved by the Academy, since this is her 3rd nomination in 4 years. Fox Searchlight did such a great job with the Crazy Heart campaign that up until the last minute, I thought it had a legit chance at a Best Picture nom. Gyllenhaal has been snubbed before, for Secretary and Sherrybaby, so maybe this was the Academy's way of making it up to her. I do think that she was better than Samantha Morton and Julianne Moore, so I'm fine with her recognition despite my disappointment that both Basterdesses were left out in the cold. Regardless, Mo'Nique takes this award without much of a fight.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY (4/5)
The Hurt Locker*
THE MESSENGER (500 Days of Summer)
A Serious Man
Along with Mackie, the exclusion of Summer writers Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber was the most heartbreaking for me. I loved their movie and I was very surprised to see them snubbed in a category that Fox Searclight has had success with young writers in before. See Little Miss Sunshine's Michael Arndt and Juno's Diablo Cody. I quite liked The Messenger and would've liked to have seen it nominated over A Serious Man or Up, but it knocked my second-favorite screenplay of the year out of contention, leaving that excellent film with no nominations, same as me. A shame, but congrats to Oren Moverman and Alessandro Camon. Shocked to see the Academy honor two war-themed movies (3 if you count Basterds) here but then again, they are very different depictions. Expect The Hurt Locker's Mark Boal to walk away with the gold statue.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY (4/5)
DISTRICT 9 (Crazy Heart)
In the Loop
Up in the Air*
Crazy Heart had the WGA and the Scripter on its side but in the end the movie with the Best Picture nomination won out. So happy to see In the Loop here. It looks like the Brit contingent stood up for themselves, and it's a well-deserved nomination. Sad for A Single Man's Tom Ford, who wrote a touching adapted screenplay with David Searce. There's been a lot of bad press swirling around Up in the Air's Jason Reitman but this award is his and Sheldon Turner's to lose.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE (4/5)
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Princess and the Frog
THE SECRET OF KELLS (Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs)
Find me someone who went 5/5 in this category. I dare you. This was the biggest surprise of the morning. I don't even know what The Secret of Kells is! I thought it was a filler submission so there could be 5 nominees this year. Congrats to Tomm Moore I suppose! Pixar's Up still has this in the bag, although Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox will give it a run for its money.
BEST DOCUMENTARY (2/5)
FOOD, INC. (The Beaches of Agnes)
THE MOST DANGEROUS MAN IN AMERICA: DANIEL ELLSBERG AND THE PENTAGON PAPERS (Every Little Step)
WHICH WAY HOME (Mugabe and the White African)
See what happens when you don't know the nominees? You get burned! I had a feeling that the Daniel Ellsberg documentary was going to get in. Should've gone with that over Mugabe and the White African. Really thought Every Little Step was going to make the cut here. Surprised to see Food, Inc. in the field. I did see that one and I had some problems with it. The Cove should swim away with Oscar gold on the big night.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM (4/5)
Ajami - Israel
THE MILK OF SORROW - PERU (Winter in Wartime - The Netherlands)
A Prophet - France
The Secret in Their Eyes - Argentina
The White Ribbon - Germany*
The three locks delivered and Israel found the support it needed for Ajami. Winter in Wartime just got picked up by SPC which made me think it'd be a bit more accessible, which is exactly what I've heard The Milk of Sorrow wasn't. In the end, the Netherlands' loss was Peru's gain. It's always a tough category to predict, and Haneke isn't for everyone, but barring an upset, his White Ribbon has the Oscar wrapped up.
BEST ART DIRECTION (2/5)
THE IMAGINARIUM OF DR. PARNASSUS (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince)
NINE (Inglourious Basterds)
THE YOUNG VICTORIA (Star Trek)
Not one of my best categories. Dr. Parnassus was a trendy pick here early in the season and I don't know why I forgot about it. Oh wait, yes I do. It was a horrible movie. But I'm happy to give credit where credit is due and yes, Terry Gillim's movie looked great and brought the funky weirdness. Surprised to see The Young Victoria here and not Basterds but what do I know. The blockbuster guesses did not pay off. Tsk tsk.
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY (4/5)
HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE (Nine)
The Hurt Locker*
The White Ribbon
I've never seen a Harry Potter movie and I don't care to start now. Hadn't really heard a single mention about the cinematography in the latest HP sequel. This one came completely out of left-field, but at least it bumped out Nine, which for all its bells and whistler, still looked visually drab and plastic. No clue who takes this award, other than I feel confident saying it won't be Harry Potter 6. A lot of different styles on display here. Good variety. A fun category that pits Avatar directly against The Hurt Locker.
BEST COSTUME DESIGN (3/5)
COCO BEFORE CHANEL (Inglourious Basterds)
THE IMAGINARIUM OF DR. PARNASSUS (Sherlock Holmes)
The Young Victoria
Not bad, although I'm puzzled as to why Inglourious Basterds isn't here. Then again, I've only seen Nine and Dr. Parnassus and neither one was a good movie, so perhaps that's where my bias stems from. Still, all of these nominees seem awfully alike with the exception of the wacky Dr. Parnassus. A total toss-up for me.
DISTRICT 9 (Star Trek)
The Hurt Locker*
PRECIOUS (Up in the Air)
Kinda shocked to see Up in the Air's Dana Glauberman missing here. Thought she was a can't miss lock. Not surprised District 9 got the nod over Star Trek. Thought some of those cuts in Precious were a little curious to say the least, but I guess the Academy went for its daring choices and artistic flourishes.
BEST MAKEUP (1/3)
IL DIVO (District 9)
THE YOUNG VICTORIA (The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus)
The Young Victoria's inclusion here came as a surprise, more so than Il Divo, which I still have to see. Apparently Toni Servillo's aging is remarkable. I'll pass and revisit this category at a later date...
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE (2/5)
FANTASTIC MR. FOX (The Informant!)
THE HURT LOCKER (A Single Man)
SHERLOCK HOLMES (Star Trek)
So Giacchino didn't pull off the rare double nomination but he's still the front-runner for his wonderful work on Up. The Hurt Locker is the big surprise in this category. I've been a fan of Marco Beltrami's since the Scream days, right up to 3:10 to Yuma. He's paid his dues and it was nice to see him rewarded with a second nomination. He really added to the tension of Bigelow's film. This category could provide a minor surprise on Oscar night. Keep an ear out!
BEST ORIGINAL SONG (2/5)
Crazy Heart - 'The Weary Kind' by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett*
NINE - TAKE IT ALL BY MAURY YESTON (Nine - 'Cinema Italiano' by Maury Yeston)
PARIS 36 - LOIN DE PANAME BY WAGNER/THOMAS (Avatar - 'I See You' by L. Lewis/J. Horner)
The Princess and the Frog - 'Almost There' by Randy Newman
THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG - 'DOWN IN NEW ORLEANS' BY RANDY NEWMAN (An Education - 'You've Got Me Wrapped Around Your Little Finger' by Beth Rowley)
I feign ignorance on Disney's The Princess and the Frog. Should've expected two nominations from that one. And I definitely haven't seen Paris 36, let alone listened to any original music from the movie. Picked the wrong song from Nine too. Tough category. Oh well. No U2 or Paul McCartney could leave the door open for a "crazy" win by Ryan Bingham and previous Oscar nominee T Bone Burnett.
BEST SOUND EDITING (3/5)
The Hurt Locker
INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (District 9)
UP (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen)
I thought Up would get one of these nods, which is why I had it as the alternate pick in both categories. No idea why Basterds got these nods over District 9 and to be honest, I don't really care. The only people who do are sound editors and mixers. Avatar takes both of these, right?
BEST SOUND MIXING (4/5)
The Hurt Locker
INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (District 9)
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS (3/3)
Avatar takes this in a cakewalk. It has a date with destiny in this category, I'm afraid.