Pop Rocks: Your 2010 Oscar Predictions

The 82nd Annual Academy Awards will be presented this Sunday, and like most of America, I'll be watching Tinseltown's yearly wank-fest with drink in hand and corneal clamps in place to prevent dangerous eye-rolling every time a winner thanks their high school drama teacher and reminds us all to pray for the citizens of Haiti Chile.

If, like me, you're incapable of enjoying any contest without putting a little money on it, here are my picks for Sunday's Oscar winners. And in case any of you feel like questioning my handicapping acumen, I'll have you know there's still enough money in my childrens' savings accounts to send 2/3 of them to the finest community colleges.

Supporting Actress

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

"Mo" has already won the Golden Globe and the Screen Actors Guild award in this category, meaning the only way she loses on Oscar night is if it's revealed she took steroids for the role. And even then....

Gyllenhaal does deserve mention, however, for trying to get us believe an alt-weekly writer could afford that frigging house.

Supporting Actor

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

This is traditionally the Lifetime Achievement category, which would appear to give an edge to Christopher Plummer, except that a career mostly spent playing weird secondary characters doesn't really pump the Academy's nads. I almost want Damon to get it, because I'm pissed he wasn't nominated for The Informant!, but Waltz will win, because Hollywood is tolerant of Nazi characters so long as they don't get away with it.

Animated Film

Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Princess and the Frog
The Secret of Kells

They should really just rename this the "Pixar Award." Disney's Princess and the Frog -- its first movie to feature an Africa-American princess character -- can't escape the horror of its Randy Newman soundtrack, Coraline was too adult, Fantastic Mr. Fox too boring and creepy-looking, and nobody saw The Secret of Kells. Plus, Up just happened to be really, really good.

Best Actress

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

Streep gets a lot of love for her Julia Child impersonation, but she's also been nominated 16 times (winning twice), and there's an unspoken expectation that she'll probably win again some time in the next 10-15 years. Five years down the road, Bullock's win will be one of those embarrassments nobody can believe happened, but The Blind Side is just the kind of cheesy, racial harmony garbage Academy voters love (see also Driving Miss Daisy).

Best Actor

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

Bridges is the next closest thing to a mortal lock this year after Mo'Nique. Clooney might have given him a run if Up in the Air carried any dramatic heft, and nobody else has a chance. Not even Freeman, because Invictus was possibly the most predictable, by-the-numbers movie Clint Eastwood has ever directed.

And that includes The Bridges of Madison County.

Best Director
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

If Cameron hadn't already won (for Titanic), he'd probably be the favorite. But forget the whole "ex-husband vs. ex-wife" (he and Bigelow were briefly married ten years ago and have been friends since) and "first female Best Director" angles: yes, Bigelow's going to win partly because the Academy can finally give the award to a woman, but mostly because they can finally make up for their horrible oversight in not giving it to her for Point Break.

Best Picture

The Hurt Locker

...eight other movies that don't have a shot in hell

This may allegedly be a ten-film race, but these are only two that anybody care about. I go back and forth on which has a better chance, and I have to side with Hurt Locker. It's topical enough that the Academy can continue to feel relevant for another year, and enough of a downer to make them seem like they still take movies seriously. And at the end of the day, for all Avatar's mind-bogglingly awesome effects, the story had reviewers everywhere reaching for their thesaurus to come up with the best synonym for "clichéd."

The Oscars air on ABC this Sunday starting at 7 p.m. (and ending anywhere between 10:30 and 11:45). The Houston Press is not responsible for financial losses incurred by taking the advice of a writer who's in the habit of doubling down when the dealer shows 10.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar