Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Colin Firth for A Single Man (2009)
Basically playing a character from Mad Men set in a British University. Nothing too special, then again for some reason everyone loves Mad Men, so who knows what will happen. I know, that's who.
Chances of Winning: 1/5
Morgan Freeman for Invictus (2009)
Historical figures are pretty well-received by the Academy, and well-played ones are even more well-received. This isn't Morg's year, though, maybe if this film had come out in 2004 (when Eastwood was THE directorial dick to suck) or 2005 (when Phil won for Capotes) he'd have a chance. Not this year, though, especially because he already has a statue. More on that later.
George Clooney for Up in the Air (2009/I)
Clooney's gotten the most nominations and awards for this role that he's had since Mike Clayton (2007), and since he was ignored then, he may get a redemption here with a much more positive character. He did get an award for Syriana (2005) recently (apparently he only makes good films in odd-numbered years) which may hurt or help his chances. Based on my Morgan logic, he's boned. Up in the Air is his best performance in a while though, arguably better than Clayton, so I'm giving him more cred than the grizzled black guy.
Jeremy Renner for The Hurt Locker (2008)
As you can tell by now, the Academy Awards really aren't about performances at all. It's about poltics, when films come out and how they're distributed, interesting stories about actors or situations during filming, and finally, most importantly, lobbying by studios and producers showing the film to the right people. All that said, Jeremy Renner should win this based on performance. His is the most interesting character on this list and he does a better job than anyone else at showcasing a gruff, hard-to-like exterior at the forefront, then being beaten and melting down later. It's awesome. THAT said, because he's the best performer and the Academy IS all politics, he won't win.
Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart (2009)Here's what I was getting at earlier. This will be like John Wayne's win for True Grit (1969). Not really his best performance, but it's more of a reward for a lifetime of underrecognised yet extremely influential roles. I'm not beyond the irony that next year the Coen Bros are remaking True Grit with Jeff in John's role, don't worry, Jeff will get his statue here, despite not being the best among the nominees. That Clooney and Morg already have statues will prevent the Academy from giving them another while Jeff has none. Then again, this role is very like Mick Rooney's Wrestler (2008) last year, and the statue ended up going to Over-honoured Sean Penn for Milk (2008). So who knows, my logic is probably shitty, but I've got a feeling of all the categories (except Best Animated, which by the way, since Up  is also the only animated film to be nominated for Best Picture, doesn't that kind of already imply that it's already the best animated film? Retarded), this one is the greatest lock.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Helen Mirren for The Last Station (2009)
I've never fucking heard of this movie, nor do I know anything about it. Instead of researching and making a good judgment, I'm using that basis as proof it has no chance. You need some kind of sizable buzz to make a run at things, and I'm content saying my awareness is in that buzz radius. Fucked.
Carey Mulligan for An Education (2009)In this post I gave her the "should win," although that's probably wrong. She does a bang-up job but in the end is only average compared to the powerhouse top three following her.
Gabourey Sidibe for Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire (2009)
This is where it starts getting tough. Despite the completely impronounceable name and awful, awful title, Gab's performance is very strong in a field that usually awards skinny white women. Thus while she'd for sure be an upset to beat Streep and Sandy, her win would be pretty monumental. Since Mo'nique's got Supporting Actress about locked up (hehe, probably more than Jeff has Actor), it might be a stretch to give the film with the worst title of the year both Female Acting awards. Then again, who knows.
Meryl Streep for Julie & Julia (2009)
This is basically the obligatory Streep nomination that comes around just about every year. It's practically taken for granted that she's going to be the best, iconic role in any shitty movie she does. Voters may be jaded to her presence by now, but on the other hand, her history with the Academy is ridiculously strong and despite her nominations, she hasn't actually won all that many (she's batting around .125) Is Julia Childs the one to help her slugging percentage? Fuck no.
Sandra Bullock for The Blind Side (2009)Before I get into this, I need to admit how ridiculous this win will be. Sandy sucks, really, I haven't liked her in a film since The Bus that Couldn't Slow Down (1994). She was so sweet then! After that, clearly declining hotness, uninteresting roles (including this one) and not much else going on. Until 2009 suddenly became her biggest year ever. Completely off the radar for young, straight men, Sandy has so much momentum coming of one of her lifetime biggest years in every way, there's no way she doesn't walk home with Oscar. The Blind Side has emotionally manipulated enough people (almost as much as AVABAR) to get the votes and this contest should be over.