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Oscar Futures: The Guilds Turn On the Bat Signal

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: The Dark Knight. Important recognition this week from the WGA, PGA, and DGA (plus unimportant recognition from the People's Choice Awards) makes Knight the most likely contender for that fifth previously undecided slot. (It will still lose to Slumdog.) DOWN: Wall-E. Shafted by all four major guilds — maybe Pixar's masterpiece is just too far ahead of its time? (We are not ruling out a comeback!)
CURRENT PREDIX: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, Slumdog Millionaire, The Dark Knight, Wall-E
Best Director UP: Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight. His movie's strong showing this week (especially his Directors Guild nod yesterday) makes him seem like a pretty safe bet here. DOWN: David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It's like he's not even trying!
CURRENT PREDIX: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire; David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon; Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight; Gus Van Sant, Milk
Best Actor UP: Sean Penn, Milk. With wins from LAFCA, NSFC, and NYFCC, is he a lock for an Oscar? Maybe! DOWN: Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler. Penn seems to have the momentum — will voters think Rourke's impending Iron Man 2 paycheck is reward enough?
CURRENT PREDIX: Clint Eastwood Gran Torino; Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon; Sean Penn, Milk; Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
Best Actress UP: Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married. The Times certainly likes her chances, and not even crappy reviews for this weekend's Bride Wars could prevent the Golden Globes from giving her an award four days early. DOWN: Meryl Streep, Doubt. Hathaway's coming up strong and Kate Winslet really, really wants this one. If Streep does too, she'll have to work for it.
CURRENT PREDIX: Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married; Melissa Leo, Frozen River; Kristin Scott Thomas, I've Loved You So Long; Meryl Streep, Doubt; Kate Winslet, Revolutionary Road
Best Supporting Actor UP: Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionaire. Best Picture winners usually pick up an acting award too, and Patel is Slumdog's only featured star. He probably can't beat Heath Ledger, but who knows! DOWN: James Franco, Milk. When was the last time you heard somebody mention him as a plausible contender? It's been a while.
CURRENT PREDIX: Josh Brolin, Milk; 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. Penélope's the front-runner now — but wait till people see Davis's clip at the Golden Globes this weekend. DOWN: Kate Winslet, The Reader. Will more buzz about nominating her in the lead category just divide her supporters?
CURRENT PREDIX: Penélope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona; Viola Davis, Doubt; Rosemarie DeWitt, Rachel Getting Married; Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler; Kate Winslet, The Reader
Photo: Courtesy of AMPAS