Here's my early take on the Oscar nominations.
The Blind Side
The Hurt Locker
Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
A Serious Man
Up in the Air
Who was robbed: I would've loved to have seen the haunting and emotionally lucid The Messenger among the nominees. Also, 500 Days of Summer or The Hangover would've been a kick.
Whose nomination was a stretch: I shudder at these five words: The Blind Side, Oscar nominee.
Who should win: Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire.
Who will win: The Hurt Locker, which would be just fine by me (it was my second favorite film of the year).
Actor in a Leading Role
Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart
George Clooney in Up in the Air
Colin Firth in A Single Man
Morgan Freeman in Invictus
Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker
Who was robbed: Ben Foster, for his raw and resonant work in The Messenger; Matt Damon, hilariously frantic and delusional in The Informant!
Whose nomination was a stretch Morgan Freeman in Invictus. Freeman did a pretty uncanny Nelson Mandela impression, but the film didn't give him much to work with. He just stood around being virtuous.
Who should win: Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart. He wore the character of boozy, washed up country singer like an old pair Wranglers.
Who will win: Bridges.
Actress in a Leading Role
Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side
Helen Mirren in The Last Station
Carey Mulligan in An Education
Gabourey Sidibe in Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push' by Sapphire
Meryl Streep in Julie & Julia
Who was robbed: A luminous Abbie Cornish in Jane Campion's overlooked Bright Star.
Whose nomination was a stretch Sandra Bullock. She may have the distinction of being the only actress to win a Razzie, for worst actress (for her role in All About Steve), and an Oscar in the same year.
Who should win: Meryl Streep in Julie & Julia. I think we sometimes take Streep's greatness for granted.
Who will win: Believe it or not, Bullock.
Actor in a Supporting Role
Matt Damon in Invictus
Woody Harrelson in The Messenger
Christopher Plummer in The Last Station
Stanley Tucci in The Lovely Bones
Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds
Who was robbed: I thoroughly enjoyed Brad Pitt's cracked platoon leader in Inglourious Basterds.
Whose nomination was a stretch Matt Damon in Invictus. The part was square and earnest and little else.
Who should win: Christoph Waltz, both chilling and funny as a puffed-up Nazi.
Who will win: Waltz.
Who might upset: Tucci in The Lovely Bones. He's great in this film, plus he's a likeable journeyman whose solid supporting work has often helped other actors win awards.
Actress in a Supporting Role
Penélope Cruz in Nine
Vera Farmiga in Up in the Air
Maggie Gyllenhaal in Crazy Heart
Anna Kendrick in Up in the Air
Mo'Nique in Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push' by Sapphire
Who was robbed: Julianne Moore, for her scene-stealing work in A Single Man.
Whose nomination was a stretch Penelope Cruz. Nobody from Nine should be nominated. Ever.
Who should win: Duh. Mo'Nique.
Who will win: Go'Nique! Go'Nique!
Who might upset: Frankly, I can't imagine a world where Mo'Nique doesn't win this much-deserved Oscar.
Animated Feature Film
Coraline Henry Selick
Fantastic Mr. Fox Wes Anderson
The Princess and the Frog John Musker and Ron Clements
The Secret of Kells Tomm Moore
Up Pete Docter
Who was robbed: While Ponyo was not exactly Miyazaki's best work, it was easily one of the five best animated films of the year!
Whose nomination was a stretch The Secret of Kells? Never heard of it. (And it's my job to have heard of it.)
Who should win: The droll and charming Fantastic Mr. Fox. Wes Anderson managed to make a children's film without losing any of his essential Wes-ness.
Who will win: Up. (In case you were wondering, I adore the poignant first half an hour of this film. The rest is solid Pixar fare in my mind, nothing spectacular.)
Who might upset: Up was the only animated film to also be nominated for Best Picture. There's no upset coming.
Avatar James Cameron
The Hurt Locker Kathryn Bigelow
Inglourious Basterds Quentin Tarantino
Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push' by Sapphire Lee Daniels
Up in the Air Jason Reitman
Who was robbed: Jane Campion. It would've been so nice to see two women nominated for Best Director.
Whose nomination was a stretch: None. They all deserve it.
Who should win: Lee Daniels. His unexpectedly light touch with the dark material of Precious was nothing short of miraculous.
Who will win: Kathryn Bigelow. (And how thrilling that would be—not only the first woman to win Best Director, but for an action film! You get yours, girl!)
Who might upset: Domestic drama alert! Bigelow's ex-husband James Cameron is the only one who could unseat her.
To read more of my take on Oscar, including upset picks for the Best Picture, Actor, and Actress, check out the March issue of Baltimore.