Last Sunday Slumdog Millionaire swept the Academy Awards concluding the culmination of 2008 cinema. 2009 film is now upon us. It’s been a bit of a mix with the horrendous Paul Blart: Mall Cop kicking off the year, but so far, it’s left us with a couple gems (Taken and Coraline 3-D). It’s not too early to take a look at the films that we will be seeing in next year’s Academy Awards. If you are looking for a more mainstream/blockbuster films, check out my 50 Must-See Movies of 2009. If you want a list of higher caliber films, here are my predictions for the major 2010 Oscars categories:

Best Picture/Director

I’ve decided to lump these two categories together since it’s too early to separate them out. Here are 10 films that I can see being in the running with some other contenders after:

Martin Scorsese – Shutter Island (a.k.a. Ashecliffe

Plot: Drama is set in 1954, U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels is investigating the disappearance of a murderess who escaped from a hospital for the criminally insane and is presumed to be hiding on the remote Shutter Island. Leo DiCaprio leads an all-star cast, including Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams and Max von Sydow

Rob Marshall – Nine

Plot: Famous film director Guido Contini (played by Daniel Day-Lewis) struggles to find harmony in his professional and personal lives, as he engages in dramatic relationships with his wife, his mistress, his muse, his agent and his mother. Co-starring Kate Hudson, Sophia Loren and Penelope Cruz. Inspired by Federico Fellini’s masterpiece 8 1/2.

Clint Eastwood – Untitled Nelson Mandela Project (The Human Factor)

Plot: A look at life for Nelson Mandela, focused on his time after the fall of apartheid in South Africa during his first term as president when he campaigned to host the 1995 Rugby World Cup event as an opportunity to unite his countrymen. Morgan Freeman is set to play Mandela, with Matt Damon starring alongside as South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar.

Peter Jackson – The Lovely Bones

Plot: Centers on a young girl (Atonement‘s Saoirse Ronan) who has been murdered and watches over her family – and her killer – from heaven. She must weigh her desire for vengeance against her desire for her family to heal. Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz play the girl’s griefstricken parents.

Terrence Malik – The Tree of Life

Plot: The story centers around a family with three boys in the 1950s. The eldest son witnesses the loss of innocence. Starring Brad Pitt and recent Oscar-winner Sean Penn.

John Hillcoat – The Road

Plot: A post-apocalyptic tale of a man and his son trying to survive by any means possible. Starring Viggo Mortenson and Charlize Theron.

James Cameron – Avatar

Plot: A band of humans are pitted in a battle against a distant planet’s indigenous population. Sigourney Weaver and Sam Worthington star.

Paul Greengrass – Green Zone

Plot: A political thriller about a couple of CIA agents after WMDs. Starring Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear.

Ang Lee – Taking Woodstock

Plot: A man (comedian Demetri Martin) working at his parents’ motel in the Catskills inadvertently sets in motion the generation-defining concert in the summer of 1969.

Michael Mann – Public Enemies

Plot: Federal agent Melvin Purvis (played by Christian Bale) works to take down infamous gangster John Dillinger (played by Johnny Depp) and his crew.

Long Shots:

Alejandro González Iñárritu – Biutiful

The Coen Brothers – A Serious Man

Woody Allen – Whatever Works

Terry Gilliam – The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Kathryn Bigelow – The Hurt Locker

Martin Campbell – Edge of Darkness

Longest Shot:

Quentin Tarantino – Inglourious Basterds

Best Actor

Morgan Freeman – Untitled Nelson Mandela Project (The Human Factor)

Daniel Day-Lewis – Nine

Javier Bardem – Biutiful

Matt Damon – The Informant/Green Zone

Leonardo DiCaprio – Shutter Island (a.k.a. Ashecliffe)

Long Shots:

Sam Rockwell – Moon

Jake Gyllenhaal – Brothers

Tobey Maguire – Brothers

Viggo Mortenson – The Road

Longest Shot:

George Clooney – Up in the Air

Best Actress

Penelope Cruz – Broken Embraces/Nine

Hilary Swank – Amelia

Cary Mulligan – An Education

Rachel Wiesz – Agora

Meryl Streep – Julie & Julia

Long Shots:

Michelle Pfeiffer – Chéri

Natalie Portman – Brothers

Helen Mirren – The Tempest

Saoirse Ronan – The Lovely Bones

Longest Shot:

Zooey Deschanel – 500 Days of Summer

What do you think of these predictions? Would you add or take away any?

– Jordan Raup

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