Oscar Futures: Precious Cleans Up

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. A record-busting per-screen opening-weekend box office means its bleakness might not be as big a problem as we thought. We suppose it's officially the front-runner now. DOWN: Avatar. Will it really cost $500 million, like the Times says? We are skeptical! Still, this thing will have its work cut out for it at the box office.
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: James Cameron, Avatar. Two honorary awards on the same day! Presumably there will be more on the way (at least until people see his movie). DOWN: Lee Daniels, Precious. His film seems to be doing everything right, but at an Academy screening last weekend he reportedly "didn't prompt as much enthusiasm" as either Mo'Nique or Gabourey Sidibe.
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: George Clooney, Up in the Air. Sure, he's mostly just playing George Clooney in Air's great new trailer — but George Clooney is pretty charming, isn't he? DOWN: Colin Firth, A Single Man. Will the Weinsteins course-correct or will Man's confusing, de-gayed marketing hurt its best shot at an award?
CURRENT PREDIX: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart; George Clooney, Up in the Air; Colin Firth, A Single Man; Morgan Freeman, Invictus.
Best Actress UP: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart. Not many have seen her performance yet, but the decision to push her in the less-competitive lead category (instead of in supporting and against Mo'Nique) can only help her.DOWN: Abbie Cornish, Bright Star. Buzz is cooling off here. Was she really as good as we thought a couple months ago? And does it matter, if nobody's seeing the movie?
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: Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones. Never nominated and with two purportedly awards-y performances in the mix, his chances are good. Bones' sounds like it was the trickier role to pull off, but if he's nominated for one movie, voters might feel like rewarding him for both. DOWN: Paul Schneider, Bright Star. He was singled out in reviews, but excitement for the movie is falling off. He was funny on last night's Parks and Recreation, though!
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: Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air. Mo'Nique is still the front-runner, but the Gurus of Gold have Kendrick in second place. Also, her visibility should skyrocket with the release of next week's New Moon, in which she plays a role. DOWN: Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air. Her role in the new trailer is smaller than Kendrick's. Plus she's not in even in New Moon.
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.
Oscar Futures: Precious Cleans Up