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Oscar Futures: Air, Locker Ride the Wave

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 for 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: Up in the Air. Hurt Locker took the major critics' prizes and Nine got more SAG and BFCA nods than expected, but Air scored the most Golden Globe nods, did big business at the box office, and got a love letter from Frank Rich. It still feels like the front-runner. DOWN: Invictus. Did the Globes snub it for Best Drama because they'd already nominated Eastwood, Freeman, and Damon, thus guaranteeing their attendance at the ceremony anyway — or because it's not that great? It's certainly no Gran Torino at the box office.
CURRENT PREDIX: Avatar, An Education, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Invictus, Nine, Precious, A Serious Man, Up, Up in the Air
Best Director UP: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker. Her movie swept the major critics' prizes. Also, she was pretty much the world's only person Manohla Dargis didn't tell to fuck off this week. DOWN: Lee Daniels, Precious. Was his Globes snub because they wanted to nominate someone more famous — or because of Precious's clumsy fantasy sequences?
CURRENT PREDIX: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker; Lee Daniels, Precious; Clint Eastwood, Invictus; Rob Marshall, Nine; Jason Reitman, Up in the Air; Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds.
Best Actor UP: George Clooney, Up in the Air. He and Bridges are splitting the critics' awards, but so far Clooney's won more. Seems like this could be a two-horse race. DOWN: Tobey Maguire, Brothers. Not only did his surprise Globe nomination come with charges of bribery, but now he has fifteen returned Blu-Ray players to get rid of.
CURRENT PREDIX: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart; George Clooney, Up in the Air; Colin Firth, A Single Man; Morgan Freeman, Invictus; Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker.
Best Actress UP: Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side. She scored a SAG and two Globe nods. She's definitely in ...DOWN: Abbie Cornish, Bright Star. ... Which means — since Streep, Mulligan, Sidibe, and Mirren are all locks for nods — Cornish could be out.
CURRENT PREDIX: Abbie Cornish, Bright Star; Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side; Helen Mirren, The Last Station; Carey Mulligan, An Education; Gabourey Sidibe, Precious; Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia.
Best Supporting Actor UP: Woody Harrelson, The Messenger. Globe and SAG nods (plus his earlier NBR win) mean he'll probably be among the four lucky actors to lose to Christoph Waltz on Oscar night. DOWN: Alfred Molina, An Education. Shafted by SAG and the Globes. Damon, Plummer, Tucci, and Waltz kinda seem like locks and that fifth slot is beginning to look like it's Harrelson's.
CURRENT PREDIX: Matt Damon, Invictus; Woody Harrelson, The Messenger; 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. Her bad attitude was no problem for critics circles in New York, L.A., San Francisco, D.C., or Boston. DOWN: Judi Dench, Nine. Even in a movie in which Kate Hudson sings, Judi's big number is "horrible" and "pointless," say critics.
CURRENT PREDIX: Penélope Cruz, Nine; Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air; Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air; Mo'nique, Precious; Julianne Moore, A Single Man.
Photo: Courtesy of Paramount