Best supporting actor→Gene says: Matt Damon ("Invictus”), Woody Harrelson ("The Messenger”), Christopher Plummer ("The Last Station”) and Stanley Tucci ("The Lovely Bones”), superb as they all may be (especially Tucci, profoundly loathsome as a child-molesting serial killer), might as well phone in sick. Christoph Waltz is perfectly chilling and wickedly funny in four different languages as the Jew-hunting Nazi colonel in Tarantino’s "Inglourious Basterds.” His was the most effectively contemptible villain since Heath Ledger’s Joker.
Should and will win: Waltz. →George says: As extraordinary as the other contenders are, this is not even a contest. For Waltz, that’s a bingo! Should and will win: Waltz. →Brandy says: Poor Plummer. After more than half a century of acting, he finally gets his first Oscar nod, and he hasn’t a prayer of winning. In fact, pity all the runners-up because this hasn’t really been a contest since Waltz’s well-mannered but menacing Nazi used pipe-smoking and genteel conversation to berate a poor French farmer into confessing all in the opening scene of "Inglourious Basterds.” "Wait for the creme,” Waltz’s Col. Hans Landa later instructs over an intimidating snack of strudel. The wait is over: Waltz is the creme. Should and will win: Waltz.
Best supporting actress→Gene says: As in the supporting actor category, Penelope Cruz ("Nine”), Maggie Gyllenhaal ("Crazy Heart”), Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick might as well send their regrets and stay home, although the last two gave incandescent turns as the women who teach Clooney’s carefree character some life lessons in "Up in the Air.” Mo’Nique has it running away for her soul-scorching performance as the abusive, bile-spewing mother in "Precious.” She was heat lightning personified.
Should and will win: Mo’Nique. →George says: Watch Kendrick in "Up in the Air” and know that she likely will be one of the greatest actresses of her generation, but Farmiga was just as formidable and will formidably cancel out Kendrick. Gyllenhaal and Cruz were solid but should cower in the shadow of Mo’Nique. Her vicious, primal performance as Mary in "Precious” means this comedian’s days of "Phat Girlz” and "Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins” are over. Should and will win: Mo’Nique. →Brandy says: Cruz, Gyllenhaal and especially the "Up in the Air” tag-team of Farmiga and Kendrick deserve kudos for their pivotal performances. But again, Oscar voters cannot resist a career-altering performance. And rarely has one been as memorably scorched onto movie screens and cinephiles’ brains as comedienne Mo’Nique’s deadly-serious, stomach-curdling turn as the brutally abusive mother in "Precious.” Should and will win: Mo’Nique.
Best director→Gene says: Reitman ("Up in the Air”), Tarantino ("Inglourious Basterds”) and Lee Daniels ("Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”) helmed great movies all, but all eyes are on the contest between the amicably divorced Cameron ("Avatar”) and Bigelow ("The Hurt Locker”). Many voters are impressed with gargantuan box office returns, which bodes well for Cameron, and if revolutionary technical advances and rich imagination are still qualifiers, he deserves to be crowned "king of the world” again. However, Bigelow’s taut and powerful take on war as a drug (the script of which was recommended to her by Cameron) was a nerve-shattering knockout. Never mind the low attendance it drew. There are also a lot of people who’d like to see Bigelow become the first woman director to take home the statuette.
Should and will win: Bigelow. →George says: In his three-film career, Reitman has made three great films, Tarantino has richly deserved awards throughout his career, and Daniels is similarly on to great things such as 2011’s civil rights docu-drama, "Selma.” But this comes down to Bigelow and Cameron. One offered new definition to the modern war movie; the other possibly redefined movies in general. Should win: Bigelow. Will win: Cameron. →Brandy says: As with the best picture contest, this category essentially amounts to a two-person race between Bigelow with her volatile Iraq War thriller and Cameron with his pioneering sci-fi epic. Cameron has made movie history, with "Avatar” becoming the first film to cross the $700 million domestic box-office mark. Now, it’s Bigelow’s turn. Known for making movies that defy the dreaded "woman’s film” or "chick flick” classifications, Bigelow already has become the first female filmmaker to win the directing prizes from the BAFTA Awards and Directors Guild of America. On Sunday, she will become the first woman to capture the Oscar for best director. Should and will win: Bigelow.
Original screenplayGene, George and Brandy say: Tarantino for "Inglourious Basterds.
Adapted screenplayGene and Brandy say: Reitman, Sheldon Turner for "Up in the Air.” George says: Nick Hornby, "An Education.”
Animated featureGene and Brandy say: "Up.” George says: "Coraline.”
Documentary featureGene, George and Brandy say: "The Cove.”