The time has come, after several months of campaigning and voting, we're finally set for the big day. No, not the inauguration. Please. We're talking about Oscar morning.

Those fifteen minutes at the crack of dawn where overly-caffeinated celebs awkwardly read the names of the top five in each category. Always gripping. Also, this is prime time for predictions. All the returns are in, the precursor season is over, so there's not excuses left. Without delay, here are my final Oscar Predictions.

Okay, one delay. I should note that I hate being right. I hate getting predictions correct. There's nothing fun about having the presenter read off a list I already have written down in front of me. Conversely, there's nothing more exhilarating than when a Keisha Castile-Hughes (the only person I've missed in the Best Actress category in 10 years of predicting the Oscars before last year) sneaks in or when "Dreamgirls" is shockingly shut out of Best Picture.

Now, without any further delay, here are my final predictions (in bold below). Let's just hope they are wrong.

Best Picture

This has been, without a doubt, the dullest Best Picture race of the decade. So dull, in fact, that my predictions haven't changed since early December. There's just no way around it: "Slumdog Millionaire", "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button", "The Dark Knight", "Frost/Nixon", and "Milk" are going to get nominated. There's simply no logical way anybody could determine otherwise. Each swept the PGA, DGA and WGA triple with only "The Dark Knight" missing out on a SAG ensemble nomination. If these are not the five nominees, it will be stunning.

If it's not going to be these five the most likely shocker is "The Wrestler" which has been gaining buzz all month. "Wall-E" could sneak in if The Academy ditches its animation bias, and "Doubt" has a shot after its five SAG nominations.

None of those are very likely; however, as the top five seems ironclad. Ho-hum.

Best Director

Just as Best Picture is boring, so is Best Director. Danny Boyle, David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, Ron Howard and Gus Van Sant will be nominated for their respective films listed above. There's no logical argument to be made to the contrary, not after they were the five nominees from the Directors Guild of America.

Those with a chance of playing spoiler include Darren Aronofsky, who's been gathering buzz but missed out on the DGAs. Mike Leigh has a shot for directing "Happy-Go-Lucky" with a few critics awards to his name, but nothing anywhere near what the top five has garnered. Finally, Andrew Stanton of "Wall-E" fame has a shot, although it's never happened for a director of an animated film before.

Again, these are not likely as the five nominees are pretty apparent. Snore.

Best Actor

Finally, a category with a little sizzle. While this does have three locks, two spots are very much up for grabs.

The locks are Mickey Rourke who recently won a Golden Globe for "The Wrestler" to go alongside his massive haul of precursor awards. Rourke's haul was matched by Sean Penn who won dozens of awards himself for playing the title role in "Milk". The third lock is Frank Langella who, despite barely winning anything, racked up a ton of precursor love and other praise for his portrayal of Richard Nixon in "Frost/Nixon".

Now the fun begins. There are two more SAG nominees to sort through. The first is Brad Pitt who despite his film's big box office and surefire Best Picture nomination, doesn't seem like much of a sure thing. This is due to the waning buzz surrounding "Button" and the opinion that his performance was more the work of special effects than actual acting.

It's more likely that his fellow SAG nominee, Richard Jenkins, will get nominated for his role in "The Visitor". Jenkins has gotten buzz all year for the role and his SAG nominee cemented his status as a frontrunner - he's in.

So to whom does the last spot go. Leonardo DiCaprio did good work this year in "Revolutionary Road", earning a Golden Globe nomination for his efforts. Unfortunately for him, that was about all he got - doesn't seem like it's gonna happen. There's Colin Farrell who actually won a Golden Globe for "In Bruges", but his reputation and the fact that his film is a comedy makes him even less likely.

So who does that leave us with? Do we go back to Pitt? Of course not. Why? Because Clint Eastwood just opened a well-reviewed film at number one in what he's saying is final acting role. There's no way the Academy can resist that right? Not when Eastwood's never won an acting award. Not when he won the National Board of Review Award for Best Actor. He's in.

Best Actress

I mentioned above that I've only missed a clean sweep in the Best Actress category twice in the last ten years - and both times were only by one (I committed the mortal sin of not picking Cate Blanchett last year). Why is that? It's simple. Due to the blatant sexism with regards to behind-the-scenes (writing, producing, directing) jobs that permeates Hollywood, it's very hard for the industry to produce five good roles for women in any given year. This year it's different, as there are more than five viable candidates for Oscar. Several of which, not coincidentally, come from films either written or directed by women.

Still, this category is not without locks, and there three of them.

Meryl Streep gave an excellent performance in a well-reviewed movie this year. I think the first amendment to the Academy Constitution is that when all that happens, Meryl Streep must be nominated.

Kate Winslet just won two Golden Globes in one night. She was a near-lock before that and her big evening pushed her over the top. In case you were wondering, this Golden Globe double is not unprecedented. Sigourney Weaver pulled off the feat in 1989 with wins for "Gorillas in the Mist" and "Working Girl". Her Oscar night result? Two losses: to Jodie Foster in "The Accused" for Best Actress and Geena Davis in "The Accidental Tourist" for Best Supporting Actress.

Anyway, back in prediction-land we've found another lock. Why, it's Anne Hathaway for "Rachel Getting Married"! Buzz has been waning for her a bit, but not nearly enough to derail her Oscar hopes.

Now comes the tough part: Sorting through rest of the contenders. Sally Hawkins seems like a lock for "Happy-Go-Lucky" after winning a Golden Globe and about a dozen additional awards, but not so fast. She didn't get nominated for a SAG award. This diminishes her chances greatly, but not quite enough to force her out - she claims the fourth slot.

So who else?

Well, there's Cate Blanchett. She was in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button". A movie that made a lot of money and got positive reviews - enough to make it a cinch for Best Picture. Regardless, I'm about to write a sentence that should probably never be written. Here goes. Cate Blanchett has absolutely no chance of being nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress in a film that made a lot of money and is going to get nominated for Best Picture and many other Oscars. There. I did it. Pray for me.

There's also the case of Angelina Jolie to consider. She's gotten a lot of good reviews for her work in "The Changeling", along with a Golden Globe nomination, SAG nomination, and several precursor awards. This seems like a formula for a nomination right? Not so fast, this is exactly the resume she compiled last year for "A Mighty Heart" and she did not receive her invite to the Kodak. Looks like the same thing will happen this year.

That leaves two leading ladies from tiny films. Michelle Williams recently won three precursor awards in a row and several sources have named "Wendy & Lucy" the best-reviewed film of the year. Melissa Leo got a SAG nomination to go along with a bevy of precursor awards for her work in "Frozen River". So who to choose? Leo is the obvious choice as Williams' campaign may have started a bit too late. If the nominations came out a few weeks later, this might be reversed, but as it stands Leo is in.

Best Supporting Actor

I know this may come as a surprise to most readers, so I'll just break the news all at once. Heath Ledger played a character called The Joker in some film called "The Dark Knight". This performance netted him endless acclaim and awards. So I'll go out on a limb and say he's a lock, even if I'm the only one predicting that.

There are actually four locks here. Robert Downey, Jr.'s comeback is about to reach its apex as he notches his second career Oscar nomination with his role in "Tropic Thunder". Phillip Seymour Hoffman's work in "Doubt" is certain to net him his second nomination in this category in-a-row and Josh Brolin looks poised for his first nod with his work in "Milk".

So that leaves only one spot and various possibilities to fill it. Michael Shannon and James Franco each seemed like they had good shots for "Revolutionary Road" and "Milk" respectively, but their campaigns died before they got any momentum. Bill Irwin was at one point gaining steam for his role in "Rachel Getting Married", but the buzz on that film started to wane as he missed every precursor. Tom Cruise had something of a campaign after his surprise Golden Globe nomination, but that was all he got, and the Academy's bias against comedy doesn't make him very likely.

Then there's Eddie Marsan. He recently won the National Society of Film Critics Award to go along with a substantial list of precursors. The film is small, however, and it's also a comedy - not a recipe for success. This means he'll have to cede the fifth slot to fellow Brit Dev Patel whose work in "Slumdog Millionaire" earned him a SAG nomination. That was the only precursor Patel received, but it's a big one and combined with the effusive love for "Slumdog", it seems like enough to earn him an Oscar nomination.

Best Supporting Actress

This category is just about set. Kate Winslet will certainly get in for "The Reader" following her double Golden Globe win. Viola Davis and Penelope Cruz have been trading awards all season for their work in "Doubt" and "Vicky Cristina Barcelona", respectively, so they're in.

Marisa Tomei feels like a lock as she's been piling up the awards in recent weeks for her performance as a stripper in "The Wrestler", but she didn't get a SAG nomination. Amy Adams feels like a lock following her SAG nomination for "Doubt", but she hasn't won anything and all the buzz for her film is going to Viola Davis in this category. The cases to be made against these two ladies do not compare to the cases to be made for them, however. They should both get in.

Still, this category is not without spoilers. Taraji P. Henson earned the fifth SAG nomination for her role as Benjamin Button's adoptive mother, but buzz on that movie has been trending downward, and she didn't get much in the way of precursors to go along with her SAG nomination.

For "Rachel Getting Married", Rosemarie DeWitt was winning awards at a nice clip in early December. That ended quickly though, and the stream of awards has run dry.

Despite virtually zero precursor love, we can't entirely count out Evan Rachel Wood as buzz for "The Wrestler" continues to grow. She could get swept up, but probably not.

Either of these three ladies could sneak in, but the top five look pretty strong.

Best Adapted Screenplay

This is very simple. Maybe the easiest category in the history of the Oscars to predict. The screenplays for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button", "Slumdog Millionaire", "Frost/Nixon", "Doubt", and "The Dark Knight" all received nominations from the WGA, and, aside from out-of-nowhere Golden Globe nods for "The Reader" and "Revolutionary Road", are the only screenplays to get any qualified precursor love whatsoever.

There's no way to logically mount an argument against any of the five WGA nominees - they should match up with Oscar.

Best Original Screenplay

Adapted Screenplay might have been the easiest, but Original Screenplay is, without a doubt, the hardest category to predict at this year's Oscars.

There are two locks; however, so we can delay panic for a bit. "Milk" is doubtlessly the front-runner in this category with a WGA nomination and virtually every precursor nomination in this category. Joining it with a WGA and significant precursor love is "The Wrestler" whose growing buzz will lead to a nomination in this category.

Now the fun begins.

The rest of the WGA nominees were: "Burn After Reading", "Vicky Cristina Barcelona", and "The Visitor". The former two earned absolutely zero precursor nominations outside of the WGA while "The Visitor" did manage to claim awards from the tiny Golden Satellites and San Diego Film Critics.

The WGA usually matches between 3 and 4 nominees, and with such a wide open race this year, it seems four is more likely. That makes "The Visitor" a cinch due to its other precursor awards and "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" a likely nominee due to the fact that it was written by Academy darling Woody Allen. That leaves one more spot.

"Gran Torino" is likely to get residual buzz from Clint Eastwood and has a National Board of Review mention to its credit, plus it has the recent number one box office opening. Still, it seems all the love is going to go Clint's way.

"Happy-Go-Lucky" has a pair of wins to its credit, but that's about it. Buzz is heating up since Hawkins' Golden Globe win, but it may be too little too late.

"In Bruges" has similar buzz going for it from Colin Farrell's win and actually has a handful of precursor wins and nominations to its credit. It's a bit of a small film, but still has a chance.

"Rachel Getting Married" seemed certain to be a cinch and then it missed out on a WGA nomination. Could the buzz be over for this movie? Seems that way.

Charlie Kaufman has been nominated for three of his last four screenplays. With a few precursors to its credit, "Synecdoche New York" could make it four of five. The movie kind of tanked, however, and it's probably too weird for the Academy.

Then there's "Wall-E". This film got a few precursor nominations for its screenplay, and some of the best reviews of the year. Outside of the Best Animated Feature category, this seems like the only place where the Academy can honor this film. So why not? It seems like the best choice and the Academy has given three previous ("Ratatouille", "Finding Nemo", and "The Incredibles") Pixar Films for this award.

Story by Andrew Payne

Starpulse contributing writer