Jeremy Renner in The Hurt LockerOkay, yes, we've been trying this for years. But this time, I think I've finally figured out how you can score 24 out of 24 in your office's annual Academy Awards pool.

Since I predicted correctly in 16 of the 24 categories last year, I've decided that, this year, I'd asterisk the eight categories I'm pretty ambivalent about. Assuming that my two-out-of-three average continues with the 2010 Oscar ceremony - being telecast on WQAD-TV, beginning at 7 p.m., on Sunday, March 7 - simply go with my un-asterisked guesses, make your own choices for the eight categories in which I'm hedging my bets, and presto! The pool prize is yours!

And we're all agreed to forget about the year before last, when I only predicted 11 out of 24 correctly, right?




The Blind Side

District 9

An Education

The Hurt Locker

Inglourious Basterds

Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire

A Serious Man


Up in the Air


Forget Avatar - did you register the room's collective grimaces when the film won Best Picture and Director at the Golden Globes? Give passing consideration to Inglourious Basterds, especially in light of its Screen Actors Guild (SAG) award for Best Ensemble and its tireless/shameless promotion by co-executive producer Harvey Weinstein. Then mark a confident "X" on your ballot next to this already-invaluable Iraq War thriller - it'll be the right prize, at the right time, for the right movie.



Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker

James Cameron, Avatar

Lee Daniels, Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire

Jason Reitman, Up in the Air

Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds


Even if The Hurt Locker somehow loses Best Picture, this category's a gimme. Prepare to watch history being made, folks.



Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart

George Clooney, Up in the Air

Colin Firth, A Single Man

Morgan Freeman, Invictus

Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker


An Oscar on the mantlepiece will really tie Bridges' room together.



Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side

Helen Mirren, The Last Station

Carey Mulligan, An Education

Gabourey Sidibe, Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire

Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia


This prediction pains me a little, because while numerous performers could've pulled off Leigh Anne Tuohy, I'm not sure that any other actress on earth could've delivered such a believable, endearing, joyous Julia Child. But Streep was absent for half of her film, and the half she wasn't in was routinely dismissed. And besides, Bullock's speeches have been pretty damned charming at the Critics' Choice Awards ... and the Golden Globe Awards ... and the SAG Awards ... .


Christoph Waltz in Inglourious BasterdsBEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Matt Damon, Invictus

Woody Harrelson, The Messenger

Christopher Plummer, The Last Station

Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones

Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds


"That's a BING-GO-O-O-O-O!!!"



Penélope Cruz, Nine

Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air

Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart

Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air

Mo'Nique, Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire


A win even more certain than Bigelow's. If that's possible.



Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker

Alessandro Camon, Oren Moverman, The Messenger

Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, A Serious Man

Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Thomas McCarthy, Up

Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds


Over the 10 years prior to Inglourious Basterds' SAG victory, nine winners for Best Ensemble were casts from films that went on to receive Academy Awards for screenplay. (Comparatively, only seven of the last 10 Best Picture recipients won a screenplay Oscar.) I should be going with the odds here, but Boal's recent victory over Tarantino at the British Academy Awards makes me think the tide might be turning in Hurt Locker's favor.



Jesse Armstrong, Jesse Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche, In the Loop

Neill Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell, District 9

Geoffrey Fletcher, Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire

Nick Hornby, An Education

Jason Reitman, Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air


It's really Up in the Air's only serious chance for an Oscar. Thankfully for the movie, though, that chance is, like, 99.9 percent favorable.




Fantastic Mr. Fox

The Princess & the Frog

The Secret of Kells



If the award was for Best Opening 10 Minutes in an Animated Feature, I'd be totally on board with this inevitable winner. Still, Pixar's inclusion among the Best Picture nominees makes it a tough choice to deny.


Ricardo Darin in El Secreto de Sus Ojos* BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM

Ajami, Israel

The Milk of Sorrow, Peru

Un Prophète, France

El Secreto de Sus Ojos, Argentina

The White Ribbon, Germany


Because even though The White Ribbon is also up for Best Cinematography, which indicates wide(r) support,'s Kristopher Tapley told us to go with this one. And since he correctly predicted last year's Departures as the winner in this category - a huge surprise to the rest of us - I now do almost everything Tapley tells me to.



Burma VJ

The Cove

Food, Inc.

The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg & the Pentagon Papers

Which Way Home


This investigative doc about dolphin killing is likely to make you sick to your stomach. But in a good, proactive way.



"Almost There," The Princess & the Frog

"Down in New Orleans," The Princess & the Frog

"Loin de Paname," Paris 36

"Take It All," Nine

"The Weary Kind," Crazy Heart


Academy Awards telecast co-producer Adam Shankman recently announced that the Best Original Song nominees would not be performed during 2010's ceremony. I'll kind of miss hearing Crazy Heart's inevitable (and quite good) winner, but I can't really argue with the logic of dumping this annually time-killing, frequently embarrassing escapade from the broadcast. Of course, I'm now wondering how I'll know when it's time to take a restroom break ... .




Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince

The Hurt Locker

Inglourious Basterds

The White Ribbon


Sure, Avatar looked amazing, but only about a quarter of the movie wasn't computer-generated. And besides, there's Guy Pearce's slow-motion run from the opening explosion to consider. And Jeremy Renner's unveiling of a half-dozen bombs at really close proximity. And the sunset image of Renner calling wife Evangeline Lilly. And Renner staring at the aisle of cereal boxes. And ... .




District 9

The Hurt Locker

Inglourious Basterds

Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire


Almost as done a deal as Best Director. Hell, almost as much a done deal as Mo'Nique.




Fantastic Mr. Fox

The Hurt Locker

Sherlock Holmes



An Up Oscar win I won't have any problem with. I could keep my eyes closed during the opening reel and still cry like a baby.




The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus


Sherlock Holmes

The Young Victoria


It'll be made official: Pixelated art is still art.



Bright Star

Coco Before Chanel

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus


The Young Victoria


Here's something unexpected: Even with a field of 10 contenders, not one of the Best Picture nominees is up for Best Costume Design. (The last time this happened was ... . Oh ... . 2006. So maybe it shouldn't have been all that unexpected ... .) But the winners over the past three years were Marie Antoinette, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, and The Duchess; is there any reason to expect this female-royal-monarch trend not to continue?




The Hurt Locker

Inglourious Basterds

Star Trek





The Hurt Locker

Inglourious Basterds

Star Trek

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen


I'm guessing that one of two things with happen: Either Avatar or The Hurt Locker wins both Oscars, or voters will award one to one of 'em and another to the other. Going with the second scenario, I'm predicting that Avatar wins Best Sound Editing, which is traditionally presented to loud, high-grossing movies (The Dark Knight, The Bourne Ultimatum, King Kong), and The Hurt Locker wins Best Sound Mixing, which is traditionally presented to loud, high-grossing movies, musicals, or eventual Best Picture winners, i.e. last year's Slumdog Millionaire. Hey, Bigelow's film has at least one of those qualifications, right ... ?




District 9

Star Trek


In lieu of samplings from the Best Original Song nominees, here's your bathroom break.



Il Divo

Star Trek

The Young Victoria


And it'll only have taken 11 tries for a Star Trek movie to win an Oscar.



The Door

Instead of Abracadabra


Miracle Fish

The New Tenants


See my rationale for the Best Foreign-Language Film victor.



China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province

The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner

The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant

Music by Prudence

Rabbit à la Berlin


Consider it a two-decades-late acknowledgment of Roger & Me.


A Matter of Loaf and DeathBEST ANIMATED SHORT

French Roast

Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty

The Lady & the Reaper (La Dama y la Muerte)


A Matter of Loaf & Death


God bless YouTube, because for the first time ever, I've actually seen the five nominated animated shorts prior to the Oscar telecast. And while I enjoyed all of them - French Roast and Logorama are especially good - it'd be foolish to bet against Nick Park's Wallace & Gromit entry, because (a) it's flippin' hysterical, and (b) only one nominated Wallace & Gromit short has failed to win the Oscar in this category ... and the film it lost to was another Wallace & Gromit short.

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