Get ready for the Oscar broadcast March 7 on ABC hosted by Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin. Be sure to download the official ballot here for following along.

I am a little nervous about this years Oscars. While I like Alec Baldwin, he’s clearly the best thing on 30 Rock by a mile, I wouldn’t call him and Steve Martin exactly “hip and happening!” I guess they are geriatric wild and crazy guys! 

Until they can bring Johnny Carson back from the dead, Oscar will continue to audition hosts on Oscar night. Most aren’t asked back. One wonders why Hugh Jackman, who did a much better than average job last year, couldn’t take a break from his Broadway run in Steady Rain to host. For now we just need to hope that Martin leaves his banjo at home.

In the key nominations I think the choices are simple to handicap with the exception of the two asterisks.

Best Picture : Avatar

Director : James Cameron – Avatar

Leading  Actor : Jeff Bridges – Crazy Heart

Leading Actress : Sandra Bullock – The Blind Side

Supporting Actor : Christoph Waltz – Inglorious Basterds

Supporting Actress : Mo’Nique – Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire

Animated Feature : Up

Original Screenplay : * Quentin Tarantino –Inglorious Basterds

Adapted Screenplay : * Terry Tatchell & Neill Blomkamp – District 9

Avatar has to win best picture. Voters have to respect what that film means to the movie business and what an accomplishment it is for it’s visionary and director James Cameron. Sure Hurt Locker was suspenseful, well edited, and poignant in a most subtle way – great direction all around that led to a terrific lead performance by Oscar nominated Jeremy Renner. But taking the Swiss cheese screenplay Cameron wrote and turning it into the phenomenon that is Avatar – that is best direction.

Jeff Bridges overlooked for too long, easy win. The dude will abide. Without Sandra Bullock in Blind Side it’s a Lifetime movie – she elevates it and everyone around her into the great movie it is. If you haven’t, see this movie right away.

Sorry Gabourey, you were better than Mo’Nique but you have stiffer competition in your category. Not a fan of Precious, or it’s ridiculously long title. That’s not a fun night at the movies.

Waltz win was predicted by many in the first viewing of Basterds (including myself). That was a star turn of the highest order – unexpected twist of character in every scene.

Pixar continues raising the bar on itself with Up – it is the only animated feature also nominated for best picture.

The screenplays are tougher to call. Hurt Locker, written by embedded journalist Mark Boal, is maybe the best work. It’s loaded with insight and nuance about a situation that is complex and unclear and still going on. Tarantino however, is a force of nature, and his movie is a bit of screenwriter porn, rewriting history while taking pot shots at Hitler and Goebbels. It’s a piece that could only come from Tarantino – and that indelible stamp of individuality deserves some credit.

District 9 is by far the most creative and original movie out there this year. It’s wild, digusting, and hard to watch, yet you can’t turn away. Without any star power to carry it, unlike Up in the Air which would be nowhere with Clooney in the lead role, this is the one that should get the award. 

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