No matter what some people say, it’s never too early to start looking ahead. Last year, Oscar Frenzy correctly predicted two of the five Best Picture nominees a year in advance. Based on a variety of factors, we selected “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “The Reader.” We’re especially proud of “The Reader,” as that was a film that wasn’t on a lot of people’s radars. Also, in the acting categories, we accurately predicted Kate Winslet, although we thought she would be nominated for “Revolutionary Road (which she should have),” as opposed to “The Reader.”

So now we begin anew. 2008 was an excellent year in film, one of the best years in decades. It will be a hard act to follow. But led by several very accomplished directors, it should be extremely interesting. Let’s unveil our 2010 Oscar Predictions.

Best Picture

There are many films that immediately stand out here. First would be the yet “Untitled Nelson Mandela Project,” directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Morgan Freeman. Eastwood is indeed the best director working today, but he’s also more adept at darker, more personal stories like “Million Dollar Baby” and “Gran Torino” as opposed to historical epics like “Flags of Our Fathers.” Something tells us this Mandela story may be a bit underwhelming. Peter Jackson returns with the adaptation of the bestseller “The Lovely Bones,” about a little girl who is murdered and then watches the aftermath from above. Again, we’re not sure it’ll be that easy for Jackson to make the transition from fantasy to drama. On an added note, it’s extremely rare for a Best Picture winning director to have his next film also nominated for Best Picture. Look it up.

Martin Scorsese follows up “The Departed” with “Shutter Island,” a psychological thriller/drama based on a book from Dennis Lehane (Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone). We can’t wait to see this film, starring DiCaprio, Michelle Williams, and an all-star cast. But it doesn’t quite seem like an Oscar movie. Hilary Swank shoots for Oscar number three playing Amelia Earhart in “Amelia,” directed by Mira Nair. We just have a bad feeling about this one. Nair isn’t exactly a top-tier director and this just might be too big an undertaking for her. Ang Lee continues to amaze audiences with his incredible range. This time, he’s making a movie called “Taking Woodstock,” about, you guessed it, Woodstock. There should be little doubt he’ll pull it off, but it doesn’t feel like Oscar material either. More like a crowd-pleaser. “The Green Zone” is a war movie starring Matt Damon and directed by rising star Paul Greengrass. We are hotly anticipating this film, but war movies haven’t been popular in these difficult times. We don’t expect that to change anytime soon.

Finally, there is James Cameron’s long, long awaited “Avatar.” Considering it will have been almost 12 years since his blockbuster “Titanic,” one hopes it will be great. But the early word is that it’s more of a visual treat than a moving drama. Which brings us to the five films we think WILL be nominated for Best Picture.

Public Enemies
The Tree of Life

BIUTIFUL – This is Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s follow-up to 2006 Best Picture nominee “Babel.” It stars Javier Bardem and is about a criminal who is confronted by a childhood friend, who also happens to be a police officer. Inarritu’s talent was apparent in “Babel” and his insight into the human condition should only improve with each film.

BROTHERS – Directed by Jim Sheridan (In America, In the Name of the Father), this film is about a man who comforts the wife of his brother who leaves for war in Afghanistan. Yes, on the surface, it reminds us of Pearl Harbor, which is not good. But the film stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman, and Tobey McGuire, three of the finest young talents in Hollywood. Love stories have been somewhat disfavored with the Academy recently, but this could be an exception.

NINE – Just take one look at this cast and tell us if you can believe it. Daniel Day-Lewis, Nicole Kidman, Sophia Loren, Judi Dench, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz. Wow! It’s a musical directed by Rob Marshall and we all know how well his last one did (Chicago). Now that Marshall has got Memoirs of a Geisha out of his system, he should be back to having fun and entertaining audiences with his exquisite showmanship. This film could easily lead the nominations.

PUBLIC ENEMIES Michael Mann directs Johnny Depp as legendary gangster John Dillinger and Christian Bale plays the federal agent obsessed with tracking him down. Sounds like a winner to us. Nobody does crime better than Michael Mann, who helmed the incredibly underrated 90s crime epic “Heat” starring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. This one could rival it. With a summer release, a solid box office will only boost its Oscar chances.

THE TREE OF LIFE – Nobody really knows what this is about and that should come as little surprise since it’s directed by Terence Malick. We do know that it stars Best Actor winner Sean Penn and Brad Pitt and that intrigues us. As does the fact that it’s supposed to be about innocence lost, which although vague, seems promising in an odd sort of way. We’re thinking this film will be more “The Thin Red Line” than “The New World.”

And now, the other categories…

Best Director

It will probably be a director from one of the Best Picture nominated films. Michael Mann is long overdue, as is Jim Sheridan. Rob Marshall didn’t win for Chicago, so he might have a shot. In the end, it should come down to Mann and Marshall.

Best Actor

Many people will favor Morgan Freeman from Eastwood’s Mandela project and he’s certainly capable of giving a performance similar to Ben Kingsley in “Gandhi.” Javier Bardem is proving to be one sensational actor and he’s sure to shine in “Biutiful,” but he also just won Supporting Actor two years ago. DiCaprio, of course, is overdue, but Shutter Island may not be the right vehicle. “Theodore Roosevelt” is right around the corner. And then of course, there is the amazing Johnny Depp, with the perfect role as John Dillinger. This should be an exciting two horse race between Freeman and Depp.

Best Actress

As much as we adore Hilary Swank, three awards in ten years is just a little much. Saoirse Ronan, who wowed audiences as little Briony in “Atonement” has a very meaty role in “The Lovely Bones,” but the Academy usually rewards older actresses. Natalie Portman may get a nomination for “Brothers,” but given her vast talent, she may have to wait a little longer for a more perfect part. That means the race may boil down to Michelle Pfieffer, who plays a older woman seducing a young guy in Stephen Frears’ period romance “Cheri” and Audrey Tatou who portrays a famous French designer in “Coco avant Chanel.”

Best Supporting Actor

Jonathan Groff is said to be amazing in “Taking Woodstock,” but he may lack the clout to take home the prize on his first try. Best Actor nominee Frank Langella is back to work in the detective drama “All Good Things” and the well respected Paul Giamatti plays an aristocrat in the Leo Tolstoy drama “The Last Station.” Finally, underrated actor Mark Ruffalo should get notice for playing Leo’s partner in the creepy “Shutter Island.”

Best Supporting Actress

Mo’Nique attracted lavish praise at Sundance for her performance in “Precious,” but it’s a little hard to imagine her as an Academy Award winner. That being said, a couple of ladies from “Shutter Island,” Emily Mortimer and Michelle Williams could duke it out for the statuette.

And the winners are:

Best Picture: Public Enemies

Best Director: Michael Mann, Public Enemies

Best Actor: Johnny Depp, Public Enemies

Best Actress: Audrey Tatou, Coco avant Chanel

Best Supporting Actor: Paul Giamatti, The Last Station

Best Supporting Actress: Michelle Williams, Shutter Island