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Oscar Futures: Precious Arrives — With a Backlash?

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 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: Precious. You've been hearing about it since January and it's finally here! Mostly great reviews affirm its strong hand this season. But ... DOWN: Precious. ... are these first sounds of the long-anticipated backlash? New York's David Edelstein didn't love it and Armond White's over-the-top pan got more attention than the raves (and some even agree with him, a little).
CURRENT PREDIX: Bright Star, An Education, The Hurt Locker, Invictus, Nine, Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, A Serious Man, A Single Man, Up, Up in the Air
Best Director UP: Jason Reitman Up in the Air. The Oscar-prognosticating Gurus of Gold returned this week and have his Air in the lead for Best Pic. DOWN: Peter Jackson, The Lovely Bones. Is he suited for the material? asks the Times: "[Alice Sebold's] book is soothing and rather solemn — two words that rarely have been applied to Peter Jackson."
CURRENT PREDIX: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker; Lee Daniels, Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire; Clint Eastwood, Invictus; Rob Marshall, Nine; Jason Reitman, Up in the Air.
Best Actor UP: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart. Fox Searchlight screened Heart (being described as a country-music Wrestler) for LA-based bloggers this week who all seem to think he could be a front runner. DOWN: George Clooney, Up in the Air. Movieline notes that his role is essentially the same as Bridges' — and Bridges has never won.
CURRENT PREDIX: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart; George Clooney, Up in the Air; Colin Firth, A Single Man; Morgan Freeman, Invictus.
Best Actress UP: Gabourey Sidibe, Precious. Critics who loved the movie are just as effusive about her performance: "Heartbreaking!" "The glue that holds it together!" "An astounding debut!" She's a lock for a nomination, at least.DOWN: Marion Cotillard, Nine. Will she really compete in lead? She's great, say those who've seen it, but her role doesn't sound as big or flashy as Penélope Cruz's.
CURRENT PREDIX: Abbie Cornish, Bright Star; Helen Mirren, The Last Station; Carey Mulligan, An Education; Gabourey Sidibe, Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire; Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia.
Best Supporting Actor UP: Kodi Smit-Mcphee, The Road. There's not much movement in the category this week, but his movie's new and improved trailer, plus some appreciation from the Times, certainly doesn't hurt him. DOWN: Lenny Kravitz, Precious. Practically the only actor in the film without any awards buzz or notable shout-outs from critics.
CURRENT PREDIX: Matt Damon, Invictus; Alfred Molina, An Education; Christopher Plummer, The Last Station; Stanley Tucci The Lovely Bones; Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds.
Best Supporting Actress UP: Mo'Nique, Precious. Critics are predictably impressed: "She burns a hole in the screen!" "If Oscar has a sure thing this year, Mo'Nique is it." Plus she's actually promoting the film now. DOWN: Judi Dench, Nine. Not much buzz from this week's test screenings. If anyone from Nine beats Mo'Nique, it'll probably be Cruz.
CURRENT PREDIX: Penélope Cruz, Nine; Judi Dench, Nine; Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air; Mo'nique, Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire; Julianne Moore, A Single Man.


Related: View the Party Lines slideshow from the Precious premiere.

Photo: Courtesy of Lionsgate Films