Our expert says Jeff Bridges and Sandra Bullock will walk away victorious

By Dave Karger
Updated February 26, 2010 at 05:00 AM EST

Best Actor
The odds
Jeff Bridges
Crazy Heart

George Clooney
Up in the Air

Colin Firth
A Single Man

Morgan Freeman

Jeremy Renner
The Hurt Locker

He may have been a last-minute addition to this year’s Oscar race, but Jeff Bridges didn’t take long to make a mighty big impression. His career-capping turn as a wayward country singer in Crazy Heart (which Fox Searchlight decided to release last December instead of this spring) not only won him best-actor awards from the Screen Actors Guild and at the Golden Globes but also earned him standing ovations from the industry-heavy crowds when he reached the podium each time. With his fifth career nomination, he should finally win his first Oscar. The Hurt Locker talent Jeremy Renner may come closest to approaching Bridges’ vote totals thanks to the film’s overall momentum, while George Clooney would be a bigger threat if his Up in the Air performance didn’t seem so darn effortless. First-time nominee Colin Firth ended up being the only actor recognized from A Single Man, making the respected Brit more of a long shot. Likewise, Invictus‘ Morgan Freeman saw his film go from onetime Oscar fave to Best Picture also-ran in no time flat.

Best Actress
The odds
Sandra Bullock
The Blind Side

Gabourey Sidibe

Carey Mulligan
An Education

Helen Mirren
The Last Station

Meryl Streep
Julie & Julia

The closest race of the acting categories, this one pits the most nominated actor (male or female) of all time against a beloved star who’s earned her first career nod after more than two decades as an actress. Meryl Streep and Sandra Bullock both won Golden Globes and tied at the Broadcast Film Critics Awards, but Bullock topped Streep at the SAG Awards. That The Blind Side also scored a Best Picture nod while Julie & Julia managed no other nominations means that Bullock, who has repeatedly said that she doesn’t think she’s going to win, is poised to repeat at the Oscars, leaving Streep 0 for 12 since her last triumph, for Sophie’s Choice, in 1983. The category’s other past winner, The Last Station‘s Helen Mirren, suffers from her film’s under-the-radar status (not to mention her recent victory for The Queen). And for the two biggest female breakouts of the year — An Education‘s Carey Mulligan and Precious‘ Gabourey Sidibe — their victory will be in knowing they earned Academy Award nominations for their first-ever leading film roles.