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Oscars 2010: Best supporting actor/actress will go to...

Christoph Waltz and Mo’Nique have the odds in their favor

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Best Supporting Actor
The odds
Christoph Waltz
Inglourious Basterds

Matt Damon

Woody Harrelson
The Messenger

Christopher Plummer
The Last Station

Stanley Tucci
The Lovely Bones

As soon as he was named Best Actor at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, for his equal parts charming and frightening turn as an SS colonel in Inglourious Basterds, Christoph Waltz was tipped as a front-runner for an Academy Award as well. And more than two dozen prizes later, the Austrian-born actor is still perched atop the heap. Can anyone upset him? It would take something of a miracle. The most promising of the other nominees is Woody Harrelson, who earned his second career nomination for playing a ticking time bomb of an Army Casualty Notification officer in The Messenger. Matt Damon, a past Original Screenplay winner for Good Will Hunting, also scored his second acting nod for Invictus, but the Academy seems to have cooled on the film. The last two nominees — The Lovely Bones‘ serial killer Stanley Tucci and The Last Station‘s literary hero Christopher Plummer — finally made Oscar’s short list after decades of strong work. But with competition like Waltz, they’ve got a long shot at reaching the stage.

Best Supporting Actress
The odds

Penélope Cruz

Maggie Gyllenhaal
Crazy Heart

Anna Kendrick
Up in the Air

Vera Farmiga
Up in the Air

Here we have a fascinatingly tight race between…oh, who are we kidding? Mo’Nique, the stand-up comedian and cable-TV host who delivered an astounding performance as a violently abusive parent in Precious, has dominated this category since the film’s debut at Sundance more than a year ago. She’s won a SAG award, a Golden Globe, and 25 critics prizes for her work. And she’s the definition of a sure thing at the Oscars. Which isn’t to say her competitors aren’t deserving: Up in the Air castmates Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick were both recognized for holding their own (and then some) opposite George Clooney, while Maggie Gyllenhaal, the emotional center of Crazy Heart, was this year’s biggest surprise nominee after being overlooked by every pre-Oscar voting body. And although her film fell short of its initial Academy promise, Nine’s Penélope Cruz has the distinction of being the only reigning Oscar winner to repeat with a nomination this year.