As August draws to a close and Hollywood runs out of blockbusters, we look ahead with great anticipation to the coming onslaught of small-budget, tear-jerking dramas about families destroyed by abuse, tuberculosis, and the apocalypse — awards season is almost upon us! So which movies and actors will compete for statues at next March's Oscars? Because it's early and we've seen almost none of the probable contenders yet, we have absolutely no idea — but there's no law that says we can't speculate anyway! With this year's expansion of the Best Picture category to ten slots, at least a couple of our predictions have to come true, right? After the jump, our premature picks for nominations in the five major categories, based on films' trailers and pedigree, things we read on Twitter, and our own infallible intuition.
Predicted nominees: Jane Campion's poetry-tuberculosis drama Bright Star; Sundance-acclaimed coming-of-age story An Education; Kathryn Bigelow's IED thriller The Hurt Locker; Clint Eastwood's Nelson Mandela biopic Invictus; Peter Jackson's Heaven-set murder-avenging weeper The Lovely Bones; glitzy Rob Marshall musical Nine; the Oprah-endorsed inner-city incest drama Precious: Based on the Novel by Sapphire; John Hillcoat's Cormac McCarthy-adapting The Road; Pixar's Up; and Jason Reitman's George Clooney–starring Up in the Air.
Other strong contenders: The Coens' A Serious Man, Mira Nair's Amelia, Terrence Malick's Tree of Life, Armando Iannucci's In the Loop, and Spike Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are.
Predicted nominees: Jane Campion (Bright Star); Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker); Clint Eastwood (Invictus); Rob Marshall (Nine); Peter Jackson (The Lovely Bones).
Other strong contenders: Practically anyone who directed any of the above picks for Best Picture.
Predicted nominees: George Clooney (Up in the Air); Daniel Day-Lewis (Nine); Morgan Freeman (Invictus); Viggo Mortensen (The Road); Sean Penn (Tree of Life).
Other strong contenders: Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker); Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man).
Predicted nominees: Abbie Cornish (Bright Star); Carey Mulligan (An Education); Saoirse Ronan (The Lovely Bones); Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia); Hilary Swank (Amelia).
Other strong contenders: Emily Blunt (The Young Victoria); Penélope Cruz (Broken Embraces); Michelle Monaghan (Trucker); Charlize Theron (The Burning Plain).
Predicted nominees: Matt Damon (Invictus); Richard Kind (A Serious Man); Alfred Molina (An Education); Kodi Scott-McPhee (The Road); Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds).
Predicted nominees: Marion Cotillard (Nine); Penélope Cruz (Nine); Judi Dench (Nine); Mo'nique (Precious: Based on the Novel by Sapphire); Rachel Weisz (The Lovely Bones).
Did we leave something out? Feel like making a case for a movie you haven't seen yet either? Let us know in the comments.