So here we are in the days before the Oscar nominations for calendar year 2009. We've been breaking down everyone's chances from the first stage of the critics' awards through the Guild nominations and onto the eventual winners of the two groups whose taste tends to be in line with Academy voters - the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and the Broadcast "Film Critics" Association. How sad. We can ignore their populist vibes, but must embrace the statistics that tell us that nominations are almost inevitable if not always a golden victory. Piece by piece we will look at the Top Eight categories until eventually having predictions in all of them (right down to the technical ones) of what will be on the list of contenders come the morning of Feb. 2. We begin with ten slots for Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress

THE LOCKS
That would be Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds) and Mo'Nique (Precious). Now hold on, I'm not making my full-on Oscar predictions yet. These are just the nominations. Wouldn't that be a shock though? Either one of the two performances dominating nearly every possible voting group award NOT getting a nomination? Someone would definitely be throwing a television down the stairs on that one.

If you read up on the breakdown of the leads, then you know there are five voting bodies we are considering - the Broadcast Film Critics Association, the Golden Globes, the Chicago Film Critics Association, the Screen Actors Guild and the BAFTAs. In the Lead categories, there were 33 performances since 2001 that got nominations from all five groups. In the Supporting categories, there have been 15. 17 if you count the fact that Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind) and Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener) was nominated as the lead by the SAGs and BAFTAs, respectively. All 50 performances were nominated for an Oscar. Based on that stat alone, we can fill five of the ten Supporting slots with Waltz and Mo'Nique as well as Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones), Vera Farmiga (Up In The Air) and Anna Kendrick (Up In The Air).

THE LIKELY
Getting snubbed by the BAFTAs isn't such a bad thing. As long as the other four groups nominated you and your name isn't Cameron Diaz. Her work in Gangs Of New York was the only one in this time period to get nods from the Globes, BFCA, Chicago and SAG, only to lose out from the British and then American Academies. 14 other performances from 2001-08 did get the Oscar nomination and it would be a surprise if the 15th isn't Woody Harrelson (The Messenger).

LOOKING GOOD
With four slots still open, there is a trio of performances that have figured in three nominations from the five groups. Each has a different combination, but when you have seen 15 of the last 19 performances to go 3-for-5 in this respect and get an Oscar nomination, you have to feel reasonably good about your chances. The strongest of the three has to be Matt Damon (Invictus). It is sad that this respectable performance will be the reward for a year in which he is more deserving for The Informant in the Lead category (even moreso than his co-star Morgan Freeman). Both are loaded categories, but only Chicago and the Globes showed him love for the Soderbergh while the Globes were joined by the BFCA and SAG for the Eastwood. The two instances (out of that 19) when that trifecta came through without support from BAFTA or Chicago was in 2004 (when the CFCA had a single round of voting) when both Laura Linney (Kinsey) and Morgan Freeman got nominated for an Oscar. Mr. Freeman just also happened to be nominated for a Clint Eastwood film (Million Dollar Baby) an you might remember how that all turned out.

A second trifecta made up of Chicago, the BFCA and the Golden Globes have helped put Julianne Moore (A Single Man) in the running. Those three groups also did the same for Jon Voight (Ali) and Marisa Tomei (In The Bedroom) in 2001 and it worked out pretty well. Not so much for Ben Affleck (Hollywoodland) and Maria Bello (A History of Violence), the latter put up for the Lead by the Globes. Still, a 50/50 shot is not so terrible as Col. Landa might say. Moore is more than just a piece of strudel with creme though and I would put her more at 75/25.

THE FINAL TWO
And now it gets tricky. Two more spots. Ten more performances. One for each category. The actor with the most support so far is Christian McKay (Me and Orson Welles), nominated by the BFCA, Chicago and BAFTA. Only one performance since 2001 has managed that particular trifecta and that was Meryl Streep's in Adaptation. Boom - nominated! She was. Not McKay. Not yet anyway. He has some stiff competition including Alfred Molina (An Education) and Christopher Plummer (The Last Station). Molina was nominated by the BFCA and BAFTA. Believe it or not, these two organizations have never agreed on a Supporting nomination without the Globes, Chicago or SAG joining in. Maybe we have to go the other way and try the process of elimination. Plummer was up for the Globes and SAG. Maria Bello (The Cooler) and Hayden Christensen (Life As A House) both shared this duet and came up empty. Plummer shares it along with Penelope Cruz (Nine) this year. Does the 0-for-2 mean anything?

They are not the only 0-fors either. Marion Cotillard (Nine) and Samantha Morton (The Messenger) have only found support from the Broadcast "Film Critics" Association. Now, Cotillard was nominated as the Lead by the Globes as well. And that is precisely where the Weinstein Co. was pushing her. If anyone has a shot here it would be Cruz. Morton on the other hand I figured was looking pretty good with the way Nine has belly-flopped with critics and at the box office. But the BFCA is 0-for-8 in the Supporting categories when none of the other four voting bodies agrees with them. Could this be the year?

Also with a slim chance is Alec Baldwin (It's Complicated) who was just nominated by BAFTA. Since '01 they are 1-for-22 when going solo, only pushing Baldwin's Aviator co-star, Alan Alda, to an Oscar nod. Chicago went solo with both Peter Capaldi (In The Loop) and Natalie Portman (Brothers). They are just 1-for-15, but could make it two years in a row as Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road) was nominated for '08. Finally, there is the Screen Actors Guild. They are 4-for-11 in this respect with Ethan Hawke (Training Day), Sophie Okonedo (Hotel Rwanda) and Ruby Dee (American Gangster) to their credit. They nominated Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider) for Supporting and she ended up with a Lead nod. They are also 40 for their last 50 overall with their Supporting Actress nominations. Their 2009 nods include the locks of Mo'Nique, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick. That is 3 of their usual 4. Hold on though. Julianne Moore wasn't on their list. That would give us the outsider. If the pattern follows that means the fallen will either be Penelope Cruz or Diane Kruger (Inglourious Basterds). One of them just won an Oscar. I think I have my lists. And I'm taking a shot.

SUPPORTING ACTOR - FINAL PREDICTIONS
Matt Damon - Invictus
Woody Harrelson - The Messenger
Christian McKay -
Me and Orson Welles
Stanley Tucci - The Lovely Bones
Christoph Waltz - Inglourious Basterds

SUPPORTING ACTRESS - FINAL PREDICTIONS
Vera Farmiga - Up In The Air
Anna Kendrick - Up In The Air
Diane Kruger -
Inglourious Basterds
Mo'Nique - Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
Julianne Moore - A Single Man


Up next - Breaking down the Lead categories.