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Oscar Futures: Can Kate Beat Meryl?

"Keep 'em closed ... the clown doesn't like it when you open your eyes."

Every week between now and February 2, when the nominations are announced, movies and stars will help themselves — or, sometimes, hurt themselves — in the Oscar race. Vulture's Oscar Futures will listen to insider gossip, comb the Oscar blogs, and out-and-out guess when necessary to track who's up, who's down, and who's currently leading the race for a coveted nomination.

Best Picture UP: Slumdog Millionaire. Rave reviews, great (per-screen) box office, and passionate supporters make this once-underdog seem like the only sure-bet nominee so far. DOWN: Australia. Well, it's finally finished, and reviews are in: It's just okay.
CURRENT PREDIX: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Milk, Revolutionary Road, Slumdog Millionaire, Wall-E
Best Director UP: Jonathan Demme, Rachel Getting Married. Roger Ebert seems to think he's "a lock." Plus, voters got screeners of his movie this week. DOWN: Sam Mendes, Revolutionary Road. Is Road too much like American Beauty? Is he just repeating himself? The Hollywood Reporter thinks so.
CURRENT PREDIX: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire; David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Sam Mendes, Revolutionary Road; Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight; Gus Van Sant, Milk
Best Actor UP: Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler. Following his apology for using a homophobic slur in an interview last Monday, he's impressively managed to avoid saying anything egregiously stupid for an entire week. DOWN: Hugh Jackman, Australia. Will anyone be able to look past his sexiness? Variety's Todd McCarthy sure can't: "Women and not a few men will marvel at a stripped-down Jackman's sculpted torso as he rinses himself off in the campfire light."
CURRENT PREDIX: Leonardo DiCaprio, Revolutionary Road; Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon; Sean Penn, Milk; Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
Best Actress UP: Kate Winslet, Revolutionary Road. With Meryl Streep getting mixed reviews for Doubt, is this Winslet's award to lose? Apparently she's "a revelation." DOWN: Angelina Jolie, The Changeling. Promoting her movie in the U.K. this week, she talked more about breast-feeding, her parents, and her imminent plans to quit acting. Her celebrity cost her a nomination last year — will it happen again?
CURRENT PREDIX: Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married; Angelina Jolie, Changeling; Kristin Scott Thomas, I've Loved You So Long; Meryl Streep, Doubt; Kate Winslet, Revolutionary Road
Best Supporting Actor UP: Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road. "When Shannon is onscreen," says Variety, "it's impossible to watch anyone else"… DOWN: Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road. …Too bad he will definitely lose to Heath Ledger, who Roger Ebert's top-secret Oscar source claims will win, "period. For the other contenders, the nomination itself will be their reward."
CURRENT PREDIX: James Franco, Milk; Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt; Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight; Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionaire; Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road
Best Supporting Actress UP: Viola Davis, Doubt. Is she Doubt's best hope for an acting statue? After screenings last weekend, that's what some are saying. DOWN: Kathy Bates, Revolutionary Road. Did you know she was in this? Early reviews barely mention her.
CURRENT PREDIX: Penélope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona; Viola Davis, Doubt; Rosemarie DeWitt, Rachel Getting Married; Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Kate Winslet, The Reader
Photo: Courtesy of AMPAS