Oscar Futures: Up in the Air Touches Down

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Photo: Courtesy of Paramount

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. The season's 500-pound gorilla finally arrives with solid reviews and the top prize from the National Board of Review. DOWN: The Lovely Bones. We'd love to be proven wrong here, but all indications are that Peter Jackson made us a stinker.
CURRENT PREDIX: Bright Star, An Education, The Hurt Locker, Invictus, Nine, Precious, A Serious Man, A Single Man, Up, Up in the Air
Best Director UP: Clint Eastwood, Invictus. Some nice embargo-breaking reviews and a Best Director award from the NBR make Invictus sound like something the Academy will like way better than Gran Torino. DOWN: Jason Reitman, Up in the Air. If one were to make a pie chart of how he comes off in this Times profile of Tom Ford, the biggest slice would be labeled "pretty bad!"
CURRENT PREDIX: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker; Lee Daniels, Precious; Clint Eastwood, Invictus; Rob Marshall, Nine; Jason Reitman, Up in the Air.
Best Actor UP: Morgan Freeman, Invictus. Bill Keller says his performance is "less an impersonation than an incarnation." DOWN: Daniel Day-Lewis, Nine. The movie's out in three weeks and we still haven't heard him sing. Why not?
CURRENT PREDIX: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart; George Clooney, Up in the Air; Colin Firth, A Single Man; Morgan Freeman, Invictus.
Best Actress UP: Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side. Giant box office makes her part of the conversation; a nomination could totally happen. Who the hell saw that coming?DOWN: Abbie Cornish, Bright Star. With Mirren, Mulligan, Sidibe, and Streep all locks, and Bullock and Cotillard coming up fast, she won't have an easy fight.
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: Matt Damon, Invictus. "If he weren't a recognizable film star," raves Variety, "you'd never think he were anything other than a South African rugby player." This year, that should be good enough for a nomination. DOWN: Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones. Crappy reviews for the movie don't bode well for his chances here. Good thing he's great in Julie & Julia!
CURRENT PREDIX: Matt Damon, Invictus; Alfred Molina, An Education; Christopher Plummer, The Last Station; Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones Julie & Julia; Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds.
Best Supporting Actress UP: Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air. Big praise in all the reviews, plus an award from the Precious-hating NBR. DOWN: Judi Dench, Nine. We're sure she's fine, but reviews for Air make it sound like Vera Farmiga will take her spot.
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.