This could be a very interesting year indeed at the Oscars. If things shake up the way we forsee, there could be three extremely competitive acting races. This would be a welcome change from years past, when the winners were easily predictable. We’re not ready to make official predictions yet, but now’s a good enough time as any to get the discussion started.

Best Actress:

Wow! Gabourney Sidibe is getting amazing buzz for Precious, but is the Academy really ready to bestow such an honor on a virtual unknown? The history of this category shows that older actresses fare well, but then you also have past winners such as Hilary Swank and Marion Cotillard. Is Sidibe the next Hiary Swank? Or maybe it is Carey Mulligan, whose brave performance in An Education has captured hearts everywhere. Finally, there is the elephant in the room that nobody can ignore. That, of course, is the legendary Meryl Streep. Even though Julie and Julia is not her best work, could she still triumph over the newcomers by virtue of the fact that she is MERYL STREEP? Voters will remember how great she was last year in Doubt. This race will come down to the wire.

Best Supporting Actress:

At first glance, Mo’Nique seems to have this one in the bag for Precious. But since she’s such a heavy frontrunner right now, there’s always the possibility of a backlash. Now the question would be who would be the beneficiary of the backlash? Insert the extremely respected and admired Julianne Moore. Can you believe she’s never won anything before? Moore has a front and center role in A Single Man and it just might be enough to earn her her first statuette. Finally, don’t forget newcomer Anna Kendrick from Up in the Air. Academy voters love to reward a young talent in this category and Kendrick might just fit the bill.

Best Actor:

For the first time in many, many years, this category appears wide open in mid-November. Seriously, who IS the frontrunner? Is it George Clooney, who delivers what is supposed to be a brilliant performance in Up in the Air? But Clooney has won recently and his role is not so showy. In fact, it appears a little reminiscent of Michael Clayton. Colin Firth gets an emotional role in A Single Man, and he might very well ride away with early critics’ awards. But it’s very rare for a Best Actor winner to come from a film not nominated for Best Picture. So far, there’s been little talk of A Single Man in that regard. Last but not least is Morgan Freeman. Six months ago, Freeman would have been your clear frontrunner. After all, he’s playing Nelson Mandela in a Clint Eastwood film. But there’s been surprisingly little buzz for his performance, and the film as a whole. We’re fairly confident at this point in saying that Freeman may not be the force that people expected.

So there you have it. Three remarkably intriguing acting races. Who will come out on top? Hopefully, we’ll have a clearer picture in a month or so. Your thoughts?