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Vulture’s Guide to the Ten Still-Competitive Oscar Categories

Anything can happen — technically, at least — but in light of all the awards-giving that's transpired so far this season, the poor actors and directors nominated in categories with Jeff Bridges, Christoph Waltz, Mo'Nique, and Kathryn Bigelow might as well scalp their Oscar tickets. And with apologies to Harvey Weinstein's fortune teller, after the weekend The Hurt Locker had, adding top WGA and BAFTA trophies to the Slumdog-size stack the film's already accumulated, it seems increasingly unlikely that Inglourious Basterds can pull off an upset for Best Picture. Hey, at least we can all go to bed early on March 7. After the jump, Vulture counts down this year's ten still-exciting Oscar races.

Best Actress
Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Helen Mirren, The Last Station
Carey Mulligan, An Education
Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia

Most seem to think Quentin Tarantino will take this one — but just how much does the Academy love Hurt Locker? And at least Mark Boal's screenplay was spell-checked.

From the Palme d'Or to the Golden Globe, Michael Haneke's White Ribbon has cut an imposing swath through this awards season. But the Academy's Foreign Language committee is full of surprises (remember last year when Departures beat freakin' Waltz With Bashir?), plus they actually require voters to see all five nominated films (tough luck, Mickey Rooney), so there's really no telling who'll win this one. Making this an even tougher call is that none of this year's contenders are explicitly about the Holocaust.

Most seem to think Quentin Tarantino will take this one — but just how much does the Academy love Hurt Locker? And at least Mark Boal's screenplay was spell-checked.


Best Foreign Film
Ajami
El Secreto de Sus Ojos
The Milk of Sorrow
A Prophet
The White Ribbon

From the Palme d'Or to the Golden Globe, Michael Haneke's White Ribbon has cut an imposing swath through this awards season. But the Academy's Foreign Language committee is full of surprises (remember last year when Departures beat freakin' Waltz With Bashir?), plus they actually require voters to see all five nominated films (tough luck, Mickey Rooney), so there's really no telling who'll win this one. Making this an even tougher call is that none of this year's contenders are explicitly about the Holocaust.

Best Sound Mixing
Avatar
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Star Trek
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Best Sound Editing
Avatar
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Star Trek
Up

Yes, voters will probably just check off boxes next to Avatar in all the technical categories. And to be fair, those helicopters and screeching dragons did sound terrific (plus they helped drown out James Cameron's dialogue). But The Hurt Locker's inventive use of audio to put audiences inside Jeremy Renner's bomb-defusing helmet (appreciated by Virginia Heffernan in Sunday's Times Magazine) has its fans, too (some of them British — Locker won for Best Sound at the BAFTA awards over the weekend).

Best Animated Short Film
French Roast
Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty
The Lady and the Reaper (La Dama y la Muerte)
Logorama
Wallace & Gromit in A Matter of Loaf and Death

Yes, voters will probably just check off boxes next to Avatar in all the technical categories. And to be fair, those helicopters and screeching dragons did sound terrific (plus they helped drown out James Cameron's dialogue). But The Hurt Locker's inventive use of audio to put audiences inside Jeremy Renner's bomb-defusing helmet (appreciated by Virginia Heffernan in Sunday's Times Magazine) has its fans, too (some of them British — Locker won for Best Sound at the BAFTA awards over the weekend).

Best Live-Action Short Film
The Door
Instead of Abracadabra
Kavi
Miracle Fish
The New Tenants

The competition here is between The Cove, whose success seems to have ended the annual slaughter of dolphins in a Japanese lagoon, and Food, Inc., which hasn't yet saved family farms but was also pretty good.

Best Costume Design
Bright Star
Coco Before Chanel
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Nine
The Young Victoria

If you get excited about this sort of thing, this year's Best Costume Design category is totally awesome: You've got historical dramas The Young Victoria and Bright Star, Coco Before Chanel, whose costumes were a plot-driving force, and Nine, for which Colleen Atwood designed enough lingerie to (barely) clothe a small army.

Best Documentary Feature
Burma VJ
The Cove
Food, Inc.
The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers
Which Way Home

The competition here is between The Cove, whose success seems to have ended the annual slaughter of dolphins in a Japanese lagoon, and Food, Inc., which hasn't yet saved family farms but was also pretty good.

Best Documentary Short
China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province
The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner
The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant
Music by Prudence
Rabbit a la Berlin

We've not seen any of these and know nothing about them, but we're excited to see if any of China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province's competition can overcome their less-dramatic titles.

And since you're probably wondering, below are the categories that most Oscarologists seem to think are locked up, with the names of presumed winners highlighted. (Legal notice: Vulture is not liable for money lost gambling on these.)

Best Picture
Avatar
The Blind Side
District 9
An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Precious
A Serious Man
Up
Up in the Air

Best Director
Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
James Cameron, Avatar
Lee Daniels, Precious
Jason Reitman, Up in the Air
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds

Best Actor
Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
George Clooney, Up in the Air
Colin Firth, A Single Man
Morgan Freeman, Invictus
Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker

Best Supporting Actor
Matt Damon, Invictus
Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
Christopher Plummer, The Last Station
Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds

Best Supporting Actress
Penélope Cruz, Nine
Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air
Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart
Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
Mo'Nique, Precious

Best Adapted Screenplay
Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell, District 9
Nick Hornby, An Education
Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell and Armando Iannucci, In the Loop
Geoffrey Fletcher, Precious
Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air

Best Animated Film
Coraline
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Princess and the Frog
The Secret of Kells
Up

Best Film Editing
Avatar
District 9
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Precious

Best Art Direction
Avatar
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Nine
Sherlock Holmes
The Young Victoria

Best Cinematography
Avatar
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
The White Ribbon

Best Original Score
Avatar, James Horner
Fantastic Mr. Fox, Alexandre Desplat
The Hurt Locker, Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders
Sherlock Holmes, Hans Zimmer
Up, Michael Giacchino

Best Original Song
"Almost There" from The Princess and the Frog, Randy Newman
"Down in New Orleans" from The Princess and the Frog, Randy Newman
"Loin de Paname" from Paris 36, Reinhardt Wagner and Frank Thomas
"Take It All" from Nine, Maury Yeston
"The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)" from Crazy Heart, Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett

Best Makeup
Il Divo
Star Trek
The Young Victoria

Best Visual Effects
Avatar
District 9
Star Trek

Photo: Getty Images