Will these people and films win Oscars this year?
The Oscar season has its share of controversies. Last year, there were all sorts of allegations against the producers of Slumdog Millionaire, none of which impacted the film's eight Oscar win.
This year The Hurt Locker -- by some accounts a front runner for the Best Picture race -- has been hit by controversies.
Earlier this week, the Academy punished the film's producer Nicolas Chartier by withdrawing his invitation to attend the ceremony. Chartier, as has been reported, made the mistake of sending e-mails to some Academy members asking them to support his film and not vote for Avatar, the highest grossing film of all time.
All studios campaign during the Oscar season. Harvey Weinstein of Miramax was notorious for campaigning hard for films produced by his studio. But this time, Cartier got caught, perhaps because he sent out e-mails. The Chartier controversy broke out late during the Oscar voting period and it is unclear how it played out with the Academy members.
The final ballots were supposed to be mailed out on Tuesday, so any other last minute controversies -- including a law suit by a former soldier in Iraq who claims that The Hurt Locker script is based on his own story -- should have no bearing on which picture wins the top award on Sunday.
Here's a look at the people and films, who are most likely to win at the 82nd Annual Academy Awards this weekend.
Image: Clockwise: MoNique, Sandra Bullock, The Hurt Locker and Jeff Bridges
Best Picture: The Hurt Locker
The two films battling for the top Oscar are Avatar and The Hurt Locker.
Avatar is a stunning film -- an involving story told with the best technology available to filmmakers. The only problem here is that the technology overshadows the story and script.
The Hurt Locker has an advantage, winning quite a few recent awards, including those by the Producers Guild and the Directors Guild. It has the heart of a small indie film and has a very gripping story.
The Hurt Locker ought to win, thereby proving that big is not always the best.
Image: A scene from The Hurt Locker
Best Actor: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
His performance in Crazy Heart is heart-wrenching, but the Academy is also known to vote for actors based on their career and not just on the basis of the film they have been nominated for.
George Clooney, Colin Firth, Jeremy Renner and Morgan Freeman are all strong contenders, but right now it is Bridges' time. He is sure to take the golden statuette home this year.
Image: Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart
Best Actress: Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Bullock's close rival in this race is Meryl Streep, who was delightful in the role of Julia Child in Julie & Julia. Bullock seems to have an advantage since she won the Screen Actors Guild award. But Streep's popularity may just upset this race. This is Streep's 15th nomination. Her last Oscar win was for Sophie's Choice in 1983.
Image: Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Inglorious Basterds
Waltz has had a lock on this race ever since Inglorious Basterds was released last summer -- long before anyone saw the nominated performances by Matt Damon, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Plummer and Stanley Tuccci. They are all fine and well-liked actors, but like Bridges, Waltz is certain to take home his statuette.
Image: Christoph Waltz in Inglorious Basterds
Best Supporting Actress: MoNique, Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire
Towards the end of Precious, Mo'Nique breaks into a monologue, sitting in a cubicle facing Mariah Carey. That sequence should be shown in all acting schools as a benchmark for a heartbreaking and realistic performance.
None of the other nominated players in the supporting actress category come near Mo'Nique's show. Her acceptance speech may also be award-worthy!
Image: MoNique in Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire
Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Cameron won the trophy 12 years ago for Titanic. But this time he should be satisfied with the giant salary he is expected to earn from Avatar!
Image: Kathryn Bigelow
Best Original Screenplay: Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker
But Mark Boal's sharp, hard hitting script is the soul of The Hurt Locker. So Boal seems to have an edge over Tarantino.
Image: A scene from The Hurt Locker
Best Adapted Screenplay: Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air
This will perhaps be the only award that Up in the Air will be recognised for. So Reitman with his collaborator Sheldon Turner are bound to win in this category.
Image: Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner
Photographs: Lucy Nicholson/ Reuters