original screenplay: Good for The Messenger getting in there. Other than that, it's all pretty expected. Tarantino is back to being the critical darling he was with Pulp Fiction, but I have issues with the Inglorious Basterds script.
adapted screenplay: Interesting that the British comedy In the Loop was recognized, a film that many have never heard of. I need to pick up the DVD and check it out.
visual effects: no real surprises here. Star Trek gets the franchise's first effects nod since The Voyage Home, and District 9 was very well done. But it's clear that those nominations are honor enough because Avatar will win.
sound mixing: sad to think that Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen should be nominated in any category. I think the sound mix was too loud and distracting.
sound editing: All pretty obvious. Again, nice seeing Star Trek up in all these categories. I don't think that the film was all that different in these regards from previous ones, so why does it have so many more Oscar nominations? And Up because you have to put up animated films in this category since they depend on sound effects. After Wall-e shamefully lost this category last year, I don't expect or want Up to win it.
short film: don't know any of them. Pixar didn't get into the animated category again.
original song: good to see Disney staying strong in this category with two good songs from Princess and the Frog. Neither of them will win, however. All the impetus will probably go to the song from Crazy Heart especially if that's one of the few awards the film gets. Nice to know that Nine was not forgotten in this category. For all everyone's praise of "Cinema Italiano", which I found passable, the Academy passed it over and nominated "Take it All" instead. I find that a brave choice since I really liked "Take it All", and thought it worked much better dramatically. This is not the place to argue whether it's better than "Be On Your Own"; it's still a good song in its own right. I hope Marion Cotillard performs it on Oscar night (striptease and all?). I have no idea what the other song is since I haven't seen Paris 36. Though with the Academy's weird recent history in this category, this one could even win. Remember the spanish-language song from Motorcycle Diaries (and that year half the nominated songs were non-english) and "Jai Ho"?
original score: I'm sorry, Coraline was totally robbed. This is one of the best things about Coraline and it was ignored. It was easily one of the most interesting scores I've heard all year. Just listen to this lovely piece:
And juxtapose that with the otherworldy creepiness of the main theme
And that's not even including the really creepy end credits. The Academy should be ashamed. Up was okay, but Michael Giacchino has done much better work, such as his Incredibles score. Glad Mr. Fox got in for it's bluegrassy sound, but did these others have better score than Coraline? And The Hurt Locker?? Excuse me, that movie barely even HAD a musical score! That's one of the things I liked about it, but don't give them an award for THAT! At least the sting of Coraline's absence is tempered by the nomination of Hans Zimmer's great Sherlock Holmes score.
makeup: same dichotomy there always is in this category -- period piece making people look old/pretty and fantasy piece making people look alien. Will Star Trek finally win in this category, a category it lost back in 1996?
foreign language film: I haven't seen any of these and am unfamiliar with most. The White Ribbon is getting a lot of attention these days, so it's a good guess, but in this category that doesn't mean anything. Remember when Pan's Labyrinth lost? And Amelie lost?
film editing: all good choices here. This will be a tough category to predict, but might it be Tarantino's year?
documentary: as usual, I know nothing of the short category. The one about GM looks interesting. It will be hard to call in the feature category. I am surprised that all of the public display of affection didn't get Michael Jackson's This is It in this category.
directing: How nice for Jason Reitman to be back up in this category! But really this will be a contest between Bigelow and Cameron and I can't wait to see who emerges victorious.
costume design: period pieces/costume dramas are ho hum in this category. Nine had pretty good costumes, but erred too much on the side of standard "this is sexy" costuming (garters and boots). My hopes are behind Doctor Parnassus. It was good to see this get some recognition, and there are so many differing looks to this movie. The costumer really deserves an award.
cinematography: Ooh, Harry Potter's here! I really did enjoy the cinematography in Half-Blood Prince more than in the past few Potter films. This category may be tough to call. And The White Ribbon, being black and white, has the advantage of being different, but may also ostracize it. It makes me miss the days when there were enough films that they could have separate black and white and color categories. Personally I find Avatar too digitally enhanced and The Hurt Locker a little too down and gritty, so it woudn't surprise me if Inglorious Basterds took this category.
art direction: All pretty good choices. Nine seems a bit out of place here, sadly. Hooray for Sherlock Holmes!
animated feature: All the buzz this year has been towards Up, but I'm really hoping for Coraline to take a surprise win. Given Up's other nominations that doesn't seem likely though. Even Mr. Fox would please me. They've surprised me before (Happy Feet? Really?). And what is this Secret of Kells movie? It hasn't even gotten a wide US release yet, but the snuck it into LA to qualify it here. I wish they had waited a year so that slot could go to Miyazki's beautiful but forgotten Ponyo. While Kells does look interesting, it also bothers me because it seems to be yet another movie done in Flash on a computer, and I hate that. To me, it cheapens the artistry. Every other animated TV show is done in Flash now; must our features be as well?
supporting actress: Penelope Cruz made it in. She was all right, but I wasn't entirely blown away by her performance. The others are pretty expected. It will probably go to Mo'nique, but I'd like to see it go to Anna Kendrick. And in this category, surprises are possible.
supporting actor: Congrats to Matt Damon (and to Eastwood for getting something for Invictus) and to Woody Harrelson. All the nominations are a formality since Christoph Waltz will be waltzing away with an Oscar.
actress: I don't get all the Sandra Bullock love. Helen Mirren again? Meryl Streep again? Is anyone else tired of Meryl Streep? How nice for Gaboure Sidibe from Precious to be nominated, and Carey Mulligan as well. Still, if anyone was going to get a Nine nomination, and as long as it's just a who's who of past winners, WHY did Marion Cotillard get skipped over??
actor: This category will be much tougher to call. Clooney's won before so he's out. Freeman's a legend but the movie didn't have enough attention. It's really a contest between Jeff Bridges, without whom there is no Crazy Heart, and Jeremy Renner who gives a great performance in The Hurt Locker.
picture: It's great to see District 9 in this category. For some reason people though Up would end up in either this category or the animated one. I never could see why it couldn't be both. Up is now the second film in Oscar history to have a best picture nomination. Many of these were expected, and while expanding the category back to ten did allow a pleasant surprise like An Education to get in, I have to ask The Blind Side? Really? Was it THAT good, or was it just nominated because the unwashed masses all went to see it? I'm very happy to see that A Serious Man was not forgotten. If Hurt Locker loses, I hope it wins.