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Our critic's picks for the Oscars

For the first time in a while, those final few envelopes near the end of Sunday's Oscar broadcast might actually provide some nail-biting moments. "Avatar" seems a shoo-in for best picture, while Kathryn Bigelow seems destined for best director, but there's always room for an upset. No matter what happens, though, it's always fun to root for your favorites and play armchair quarterback, so here are our picks for the evening. 

BEST PICTURE

"Avatar"

"The Blind Side"

"District 9"

"An Education"

"The Hurt Locker"

"Inglourious Basterds"

"Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire"

"A Serious Man"

"Up"

"Up in the Air"

SHOULD WIN "Avatar." For its ambition, scope and sheer wow-ness, this one is tough to beat.

WILL WIN "Avatar"

VOTE: Which movie should win an Oscar for best picture?

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MORE: Complete guide to the Academy Awards

 

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"

SHOULD WIN Firth. His portrayal of a gay college professor living in 1962 was astoundingly subtle and complex.

WILL WIN Bridges. He's eminently lovable as a washed-up country singer, and the academy owes this veteran an Oscar.

PHOTOS: Best actor nominees

VOTE: Who should win an Oscar for best actor?

  

SUPPORTING ACTOR

Matt Damon, "Invictus"

Woody Harrelson, "The Messenger"

Christopher Plummer, "The Last Station"

Stanley Tucci, "The Lovely Bones"

Christoph Waltz, "Inglourious Basterds"

SHOULD WIN Waltz. Without his happy-go-lucky Nazi Col. Landa, "Basterds" wouldn't have been half as much fun.

WILL WIN Waltz

PHOTOS: Best supporting actor nominees

VOTE: Who should win an Oscar for best supporting actor?

  

BEST ACTRESS

Sandra Bullock, "The Blind Side"

Helen Mirren, "The Last Station"

Carey Mulligan, "An Education"

Gabourey Sidibe, "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire"

Meryl Streep, "Julie & Julia"

SHOULD WIN Mulligan. As a British schoolgirl seduced by an older man, she's convincing, charming and ultimately heartbreaking.

WILL WIN Bullock. Her role as a heartland mom earned grudging respect from critics and struck a chord with audiences.

PHOTOS: Best actress nominees

VOTE: Who should win an Oscar for best actress?

 

 

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Penélope Cruz, "Nine"

Vera Farmiga, "Up in the Air"

Maggie Gyllenhaal, "Crazy Heart"

Anna Kendrick, "Up in the Air"

Mo'Nique, "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire"

SHOULD WIN Mo'Nique. In a movie full of harrowing moments, she provided most of them as a monstrously abusive mother.

WILL WIN Mo'Nique

PHOTOS: Best supporting actress nominees

VOTE: Who should win an Oscar for best supporting actress?

 

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

"Coraline"

"Fantastic Mr. Fox"

"The Princess and the Frog"

"The Secret of Kells"

"Up"

SHOULD WIN "Fantastic Mr. Fox." Wes Anderson's stop-motion feature is visually and verbally hilarious, with a sly undercurrent of serious philosophy.

WILL WIN "Up." This was a bona fide crowd-pleaser, and its simultaneous nod for best picture shows how highly it's regarded.

  

BEST DIRECTOR

James Cameron, "Avatar"

Kathryn Bigelow, "The Hurt Locker"

Quentin Tarantino, "Inglourious Basterds"

Lee Daniels, "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire"

Jason Reitman, "Up in the Air"

SHOULD WIN Bigelow, who deserves to become the first female director ever to win this award.

WILL WIN Bigelow

PHOTOS: Best director nominees

VOTE: Who should win an Oscar for best director?

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