Las Vegas Review-Journal movie critic Carol Cling handicaps the early favorites for the 82nd annual Academy Awards, to be awarded March 7:
Best Picture: In an expanded field of 10 nominees, "Avatar" (the people’s choice) and "The Hurt Locker" (the critics’ choice) lead the field with nine nominations each — and should duke it out for the Oscar’s top prize.
Best Actor: Jeff Bridges’ fifth nomination, as "Crazy Heart’s" on-the-skids country singer, should finally put him in the winners’ circle, with "A Single Man’s" Colin Firth as a possible, but unlikely, dark horse.
Best Actress: This competition’s between "Julie & Julia’s" Meryl Streep and "The Blind Side’s" Sandra Bullock. Streep already has two Oscars, but hasn’t won since 1982’s "Sophie’s Choice." Yet the well-liked Bullock’s in a best picture nominee — and voters might figure she’s unlikely to get another shot, unlike the automatic-nomination Streep.
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, "Inglourious Basterds ‘ " smilingly nasty Nazi, has won every award out there and shows no signs of losing his momentum. "The Messenger’s" Woody Harrelson is the only nominee with a shot at stopping him — and it’s a long shot.
Best Supporting Actress: Mo’Nique looks unstoppable for her powerhouse "Precious" portrayal of an abusive mother.
Best Director: It’s "Avatar" vs. "Hurt Locker" yet again — but this time it’s personal, because "Hurt Locker’s" Kathryn Bigelow (who just won the Directors Guild Award, always an Oscar bellwether) used to be married to "Avatar" director James Cameron.
Contact movie critic Carol Cling at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0272.Complete list of Oscar nominees