Okay, folks — it’s time for my annual Oscar predictions. I say “annual” because I make them every year, but this will be the first one officially published anywhere. I might change my mind with some of these, but if I do I’ll post updates in the comments section as we get closer to the big event on Sunday. Also, I’m not going to constantly cite the full, long-ass title for Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire here. It’s Precious. Moving on …

Best Picture
(James Cameron, Jon Landau, producers); The Blind Side (Gil Netter, Andrew A. Kosove, Broderick Johnson); District 9 (Peter Jackson, Carolynne Cunningham); An Education (Finola Dwyer, Amanda Posey); The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal, Nicolas Chartier, Greg Shapiro); Inglourious Basterds (Lawrence Bender); Precious (Lee Daniels, Sarah Siegel-Magness, Gary Magness); A Serious Man (Joel Coen, Ethan Coen); Up (Jonas Rivera); Up in the Air (Daniel Dubiecki, Ivan Reitman, Jason Reitman)

Prediction: The Hurt Locker. In the past the Best Picture winner has generally corresponded to the winner of the Producers Guild of America and Directors Guild of America awards. This year The Hurt Locker won both the PGA and DGA honors, which would normally mean it’s a shoo-in for Best Picture. However, with ten Best Picture nominees this year instead of the usual five, some of the votes could end up being split, so no one should be surprised if Avatar squeaks by. There’s also the recent controversy about Hurt Locker producer Nicolas Chartier campaigning by e-mail, urging people to vote for his film so “we will win and not a $500M film,” undoubtedly a reference to Avatar and its huge budget. However, I’m sticking with tradition and making The Hurt Locker my official prediction for Best Picture. (If you ask me, District 9 should win … but no one’s asking.)

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Best Actor
Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart; George Clooney for Up in the Air; Colin Firth for A Single Man; Morgan Freeman for Invictus; Jeremy Renner for The Hurt Locker

Prediction: Jeff Bridges. Oh, how the Academy loves movies about troubled singers (think Robert Duvall in Tender Mercies or Sissy Spacek in Coal Miner’s Daughter). The Academy also loves rewarding beloved actors with distinguished careers who’ve never won before. On top of it all, Bridges is fantastic in Crazy Heart, as he is in pretty much everything he does. He’s won just about every acting award this season and will win here as well since that Oscar will really tie the room together.

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Best Actress
Sandra Bullock for The Blind Side; Helen Mirren for The Last Station; Carey Mulligan for An Education; Gabourey Sidibe for Precious; Meryl Streep for Julie & Julia

Prediction: Sandra Bullock. Bullock has won several acting awards this season, including the all-important Screen Actors Guild Award. Since many SAG members are also Academy members, this makes her the front runner to take home the Oscar.

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Best Supporting Actor
Matt Damon for Invictus; Woody Harrelson for The Messenger; Christopher Plummer for The Last Station; Stanley Tucci for The Lovely Bones; Christoph Waltz for Inglourious Basterds

Prediction: Christoph Waltz. There was already talk of Waltz winning this award back in August, when Basterds opened — not just being nominated, mind you, but winning. Take it from me, if you want to win your office Oscar pool, check the box marked “Christoph Waltz.”

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Best Supporting Actress
Penelope Cruz for Nine; Vera Farmiga for Up in the Air; Maggie Gyllenhaal for Crazy Heart; Anna Kendrick for Up in the Air; Mo’Nique for Precious

Prediction: Mo’Nique. I could pretty much say the same thing here as I did with my Supporting Actor prediction: Mo’Nique has been the front runner for this award ever since Precious came out.

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Best Director
Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker; James Cameron for Avatar; Lee Daniels for Precious; Jason Reitman for Up in the Air; Quentin Tarantino for Inglourious Basterds

Prediction: Kathryn Bigelow. With the DGA Award locked up, Bigelow will become the first woman to win an Oscar for directing. I know it might be tempting to go with James Cameron here, but if you do, you’ll get one wrong in your Oscar pool.

Best Original Screenplay
The Hurt Locker (Mark Boal); Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino); The Messenger (Alessandro Camon, Oren Moverman); A Serious Man (Joel Coen, Ethan Coen); Up (Bob Peterson, Pete Docter, Thomas McCarthy)

Prediction: The Hurt Locker. I’ll probably be wavering between Boal for The Hurt Locker and Tarantino for Inglourious Basterds up until Sunday. The Writers Guild Award went to Boal (Tarantino isn’t a member of the guild, so Basterds wasn’t nominated). While it’s true that many WGA members also vote for Oscars, the majority of Academy voters are from the acting branch. Inglourious Basterds has the kind of screenplay actors tend to love, with scenes of great tension comprised mostly of dialogue, and in my opinion it’s easily the best screenplay of the bunch. However, at this point all signs seem to point to Boal, so that’s my prediction.

Best Adapted Screenplay
District 9 (Neill Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell); An Education (Nick Hornby); In the Loop (Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche); Precious (Geoffrey Fletcher); Up in the Air (Jason Reitman, Sheldon Turner)

Prediction: Up in the Air. This category is a little easier to call: Up in the Air has swept many of the writing awards this season, making Reitman and Turner the front runners.

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Best Cinematography
Avatar (Mauro Fiore); Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Bruno Delbonnel); The Hurt Locker (Barry Ackroyd); Inglourious Basterds (Robert Richardson); The White Ribbon (Christian Berger)

Prediction: The Hurt Locker. The American Society of Cinematographers Award went to The White Ribbon, but I’m picking The Hurt Locker and Barry Ackroyd because I don’t think enough Academy voters have seen The White Ribbon or, more importantly, know that Christian Berger’s black-and-white cinematography is supposed to be amazing. Also, there’s often a “sweep factor” effect at the Oscars, wherein the eventual Best Picture winner scoops up some additional technical awards along the way. Besides, the cinematography in The Hurt Locker is quite memorable, so I’m going with Ackroyd here.

Best Editing
Avatar (Stephen E. Rivkin, John Refoua, James Cameron); District 9 (Julian Clarke); The Hurt Locker (Bob Murawski, Chris Innis); Inglourious Basterds (Sally Menke); Precious (Joe Klotz)

Prediction: The Hurt Locker. The American Cinema Editors Award went to The Hurt Locker, which can’t hurt its Oscar chances. Murawski and Innis’s editing is quite striking, plus there’s that “sweep factor.”

Best Art Direction
Avatar (Rick Carter, Robert Stromberg, Kim Sinclair); The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (David Warren, Anastasia Masaro, Caroline Smith); Nine (John Myhre, Gordon Sim); Sherlock Holmes (Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer); The Young Victoria (Patrice Vermette, Maggie Gray)

Prediction: Avatar. It’s hard to imagine a Terry Gilliam film not winning for art direction, but Avatar looks poised to take this particular prize.

Best Costume Design
Bright Star (Janet Patterson); Coco Avant Chanel (Catherine Leterrier); The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (Monique Prudhomme); Nine (Colleen Atwood); The Young Victoria (Sandy Powell)

Prediction: The Young Victoria. The “Victoria” in the title refers to Queen Victoria, which means the film’s set in the Victorian era, which means it’s likely to win. Sandy Powell won the Costume Designers Guild Award for “Excellence in Period Film,” though Imaginarium won in the fantasy-film category.

Best Makeup
Il Divo (Aldo Signoretti, Vittorio Sodano); Star Trek (Barney Burman, Mindy Hall, Joel Harlow); The Young Victoria (John Henry Gordon, Jenny Shircore)

Prediction: The Young Victoria. I’m a little stumped on this one, but for the moment it seems Victoria has the slight edge. Star Trek should probably win for Spock Prime’s old-age makeup, but I wonder how many people left the theater appreciating the makeup or thinking, “Wow, Nimoy’s really not looking well these days.”

Best Original Score
Avatar (James Horner); Fantastic Mr. Fox (Alexandre Desplat); The Hurt Locker (Marco Beltrami, Buck Sanders); Sherlock Holmes (Hans Zimmer); Up (Michael Giacchino)

Prediction: Up. Of all the young “up-and-coming” film composers right now, Giacchino is my favorite, and it looks like he’ll be taking home an Oscar for his adventurous — and very poignant — score for Up.

Best Original Song
“The Weary Kind,” from Crazy Heart (T-Bone Burnett, Ryan Bingham); “Loin de Paname,” from Paris 36 (Reinhardt Wagner, Frank Thomas); “Take It All,” from Nine (Maury Yeston); “Almost There,” from The Princess and the Frog (Randy Newman); “Down in New Orleans,” from The Princess and the Frog (Randy Newman)

Prediction: “The Weary Kind.” I’ve only heard one of the nominated songs, but it looks like it’s the one that’s poised to win.

Best Sound Mixing
Avatar (Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers, Andy Nelson, Tony Johnson); The Hurt Locker (Paul N.J. Ottosson, Ray Beckett); Inglourious Basterds (Michael Minkler, Tony Lamberti, Mark Ulano); Star Trek (Anna Behlmer, Andy Nelson, Peter J. Devlin); Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Geoffrey Patterson)

Prediction: The Hurt Locker. One might be tempted to go with Avatar in the sound categories, but I think the Academy will ultimately vote for the subtle realism of The Hurt Locker‘s sound design.

Best Sound Editing
Avatar (Christopher Boyes, Gwendolyn Yates Whittle); The Hurt Locker (Paul N.J. Ottosson); Inglourious Basterds (Wylie Stateman); Star Trek (Mark P. Stoeckinger, Alan Rankin); Up (Michael Silvers, Tom Myers)

Prediction: The Hurt Locker.

Best Visual Effects
Avatar (Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham, Andy Jones); District 9 (Dan Kaufman, Peter Muyzers, Robert Habros, Matt Aitken); Star Trek (Roger Guyett, Russell Earl, Paul Kavanagh, Burt Dalton)

Prediction: Avatar. The Hurt Locker isn’t nominated, so Avatar‘s got this one locked up. The only movie to give chase is District 9, whose effects team created outstanding visuals on a much smaller budget.

Best Animated Feature
Coraline (Henry Selick); Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson); The Princess and the Frog (John Musker, Ron Clements); The Secret of Kells (Tomm Moore); Up (Pete Docter)

Prediction: Up. Seeing as it’s the only one of the bunch also nominated for Best Picture, it looks like Pixar will win another well-deserved golden statue.

Best Foreign-Language Film
Ajami (Israel); El Secreto de Sus Ojos (Argentina); The Prophet (France); The Milk of Sorrow (Peru); The White Ribbon (Germany)

Prediction: The White Ribbon. This category’s a toss-up between The White Ribbon and The Prophet, but I think the former has an ever-so-slight edge.

Best Documentary Feature
Burma VJ (Anders Á˜stergaard, Lise Lense-MÁ¸ller); The Cove (Louie Psihoyos, Fisher Stevens); Food, Inc. (Robert Kenner, Elise Pearlstein); The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers (Judith Ehrlich, Rick Goldsmith); Which Way Home (Rebecca Cammisa)

Prediction: The Cove.

Best Documentary Short
China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province (Jon Alpert, Matthew O’Neill); The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner (Daniel Junge, Henry Ansbacher); The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant (Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert); Music by Prudence (Roger Ross Williams, Elinor Burkett); Rabbit Á  la Berlin (Bartosz Konopka, Anna Wydra)

Prediction: Rabbit Á  la Berlin.

Best Animated Short
French Roast (Fabrice Joubert); Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty (Nicky Phelan, Darragh O’Connell); The Lady and the Reaper (Javier Recio Gracia); Logorama (Nicolas Schmerkin); A Matter of Loaf and Death (Nick Park)

Prediction: A Matter of Loaf and Death. While The Lady and the Reaper is supposed to be quite good, I’ve gotta go with the Wallace and Gromit ‘toon here.

Best Live-Action Short
The Door (Juanita Wilson, James Flynn); Instead of Abracadabra (Patrik Eklund, Mathias FjÁ¤llstrÁ¶m); Kavi (Gregg Helvey); Miracle Fish (Luke Doolan, Drew Bailey); The New Tenants (Joachim Back, Tivi Magnusson)

Prediction: Miracle Fish.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section, and good luck in your Oscar pool!

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About the Author

Jeff Johnson

Jeff Johnson is the head hamster at Intrada movie soundtracks and is the co-host of the Filmed, Not Stirred podcast. Follow @jeffyjohnson on Twitter.

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