Let me preface these by saying that I want to be wrong when it comes to the categories of Picture and Actor. With any luck this is just me being overly pessimistic, hoping for the best but planning for the worst. Hopefully I fall to the floor in shock when Tom Hanks or Jack Nicholson or whoever it is this year opens the envelope announcing The Social Network as Best Picture while Fincher, Sorkin, Eisenberg and company storm the stage to collect what's theirs. But as I've previously stated, it's fine if that doesn't occur and for all my complaints about The Academy Awards at least they'll never be The Grammys. Even when the Academy's actual selections are questionable, it's always an intelligent (if sometimes boring) adult-oriented show that at least attempts to nominate and reward quality work. I'd rather they go in this direction and come off as stuffy, pretentious snobs than sell-out and nominate the latest Twilight movie or Justin Beiber's concert film. And consider it a relief the show's producers sensibly reach for ratings with their choices of hosts and presenters, figuring out ways to freshen up the telecast each year, while at least trying to fix what doesn't work. With that in mind...
"The Kids Are All Right"
"The King's Speech"
"The Social Network"
"Toy Story 3"
Analysis: The Social Network is inspiring also. When it ended I couldn't wait to overcome the odds and start my own web site, screw my friends out of millions (no, BILLIONS) of dollars, train to compete in rowing races and awkwardly offend every female I come in contact with. In all seriousness, that's exactly what most voters were thinking when they marked their ballots...for The King's Speech. Of course, the big joke there is that The Social Network was never meant to be inspiring, at least in the way that more conventional drama is. And for the record, I didn't think The King's Speech was really that inspiring at all and I was more moved (not superficially inspired) by The Social Network. But hey, that's just me. Should something crazy happen The Fighter and Black Swan would be next in line, and in that order. Outside of that, no other film stands a chance, especially not The Kids Are All Right and Winter's Bone, and not even Inception or True Grit. It's a two-horse race, with a Social Network victory still very possible, though unlikely. Expect The King's Speech to be joining Dances With Wolves, Crash, Slumdog Millionaire and The Hurt Locker in the $5 DVD bin shortly. None are bad films, only undeserving of going down in the annals of film history as one of the best. The Social Network is. Plus, it's actually fun to watch. What more could you ask for?
Will Win: How Green Was My Valle...I mean, The King's Speech
Should Win: Give me a break.
Could Win: Please!
Snubbed: Nothing really. Everyone will always have a different list of what they felt the ten best films of the year were. All things considered, they did a respectable job not leaving anything out.
Darren Aronofsky, "Black Swan"
David Fincher, "The Social Network"
Tom Hooper, "The King's Speech"
David O. Russell, "The Fighter"
Joel and Ethan Coen, "True Grit"
Tom Hooper seems like a nice enough guy, which is why it would be a shame if he had to bare the burden of possibly being one of the most undeserving Best Director Oscar recipients in history. It's bad enough he could beat Fincher, but throw in Aronofsky, Russell and the Coens and it almost makes you glad Chistopher Nolan wasn't nominated just so he doesn't have to experience the embarrassment. But I'm cautiously hopeful that won't happen. The King's Speech was well directed for sure but anyone claiming it couldn't have been directed as well (or much better) by Hooper's competitors, or more than a dozen other random filmmakers, need their head examined and I think the Academy will see that. Fincher has a better chance at winning this than his movie does of winning Best Picture, but unfortunately not by much. I think he'll pull it out though. More than any other recent year, this one presents the greatest chance of there being a split between Picture and Director. If that happens I'll take it since anything would be better than The King's Speech dominating every category all night long. One request: If Fincher loses just please let it be to Aronofsky, the only filmmaker close to being in his league and deserving on the grounds of being able to squeeze such a high quality performance out of Portman.
Will Win: FINCHER
Should Win: FINCHER
Could Win: Tom Hopper
Snubbed: Christopher Nolan (Inception)
Javier Bardem, "Biutiful"
Jeff Bridges, "True Grit"
Jesse Eisenberg, "The Social Network"
Colin Firth, "The King's Speech"
James Franco, "127 Hours"
Analysis: I'm not exactly sure what planet we're on where Colin Firth is being trumpeted as being long "overdue" for an Oscar. Firth could probably get in line with about 50 award-less actors and wouldn't be at the front. He's a superb actor, but it's difficult to envision anyone thinking him not possessing a gold statue is a horrifying injustice that needs to be corrected immediately. But this is the Academy and sometimes there's just no rhyme or reason to what they do. You could say his win is really a make-up for an even better performance he gave last year that was snubbed in A Single Man, which not enough people saw for him to be rewarded. So, Eisenberg never really had a chance here as it was decided in voters' minds Firth would win before his film was even released or they saw his performance. The controversy surrounding how "true-to-life" his unlikable Mark Zuckerberg is won't help either. Plus, Firth brilliantly plays a character with a handicap who overcomes the odds. So go ahead and just hand him the Oscar right now. It's a great performance, but Eisenberg's is better, if not so much for what he does chooses to do, but what he doesn't. He'll lose due entirely to politics, as is often the case with these races. Bardem, Bridges and Franco-- thanks for coming. And given how busy Franco's been lately an Oscar would probably just be an unneeded distraction.
Will Win: Colin Firth
Should Win: Jesse Eisenberg
Could win: Jesse Eisenberg
Snubbed: I don't know. DiCaprio maybe? Clooney? Gosling? Not exactly a banner year in this category.
Annette Bening, "The Kids Are All Right"
Nicole Kidman, "Rabbit Hole"
Jennifer Lawrence, "Winter's Bone"
Natalie Portman, "Black Swan"
Michelle Williams, "Blue Valentine"
So, let's talk about Portman. In my review of Black Swan I was really hard on her. Probably too hard, especially considering I loved the film and her performance, which lived up to all the hype and then some. My criticism of her as actress does actually come from a positive place. I just feel she never fully delivered on the promise she showed as a child in films like The Professional and Beautiful Girls in the early '90s. I expected a great career that never really materialized and its place came Star Wars prequels and other suspect choices with middle-of-the-road performances, so that's probably much of the basis for my disappointment. That said, me basically saying the movie is about her being a bad actress (she isn't) or comparing this to Sandra Bullock's victory last year (which I actually didn't have a huge problem with anyway) was a bit unfair. This work is clearly more substantial and her career trajectory far less embarrassing. And, believe it or not, no complaints from me that she's starring in movies like No Strings Attached and Thor because I always thought her biggest problem was that she needed to loosen up and try different roles like that. There's no question she deserves this, which is really saying something considering her competitors in this category, especially Lawrence who was incredible. Haven't seen Kidman or Williams yet but just knowing their previous work as actresses it wouldn't surprise me if either (or both) gave a better performance than Natalie. But they have no shot. This should be a lock, but prepare yourself just in case. No matter how ridiculous the character she played was, Bening is the only one here capable of matching Portman in a popularity contest, plus she's "overdue" (there's that word again).
Will Win: Natalie Portman
Should Win: Natalie Portman
Could Win: Annette Bening
Snubbed: Emma Stone (Easy A)
Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale, "The Fighter"
John Hawkes,"Winter's Bone"
Jeremy Renner, "The Town"
Mark Ruffalo, "The Kids Are All Right"
Geoffrey Rush, "The King's Speech"
Analysis: In a category sometimes prone to upsets we have two frontrunners battling it out. The result of this will likely tell the tale of just how much momentum The King's Speech has because if longtime Academy favorite Geoffrey Rush can upset Bale here it could mean very bad news for The Social Network. It would signal early that the film will sweep clean across the board, possibly even adding Supporting Actress to its awards haul for the night. Just the fact that Rush even got in here with a nod and Andrew Garfield didn't is revealing (and alarming) enough in itself so that endorsement has to be factored in when trying to call a winner. But at least Rush is in the right category this time as opposed to 1996 when he won a Lead Actor Oscar for what was arguably a supporting performance in Shine. Now is probably a good time to mention that I haven't seen The Fighter, but we all know anyway the smart money's on Bale who underwent another astonishing physical transformation, this time dropping an alarming amount of weight to play crack addict/former boxer Dicky Eklund. Having won the Globe and the SAG already it's unlikely (though not impossible) that he'd lose. As great as it would be for Dustin from Eastbound and Down and Lennon from Lost to win an Oscar, I don't see it happening (this year at least) for the awesome John Hawkes, who would probably split my vote with Renner, whose performance is actually better than it's been getting credit for. But their nominations are reward enough, especially considering all the deserving actors left out. Someone who is actually overdue, Mark Ruffalo, finally gets nominated for something, but the role's just too lightweight to make an impact in this race.
Will Win: Christian Bale
Should Win: Having not yet seen Bale's performance, and based on what I've seen, I'd probably say Hawkes.
Could Win: Geoffrey Rush (and it wouldn't be much of an upset either)
Snubbed: ANDREW GARFIELD- How is he not nominated? (The Social Network), Armie Hammer (The Social Network), Justin Timberlake (The Social Network), Vincent Cassel (Black Swan)
Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, "The Fighter"
Helena Bonham Carter, "The King's Speech"
Melissa Leo, "The Fighter"
Hailee Steinfeld, "True Grit"
Jacki Weaver, "Animal Kingdom"
The only category where literally ANYONE can win. It's like this every year, or at least since Marisa Tomei's 1991 win for My Cousin Vinny. For whatever reason this race always seems to be full of drama and excitement, usually commencing in gasps of shock and awe in the auditorium when the winning name is read. This year is no exception as Melissa Leo was thought to have this thing all wrapped up until she went rogue, taking out some controversial Oscar campaign ads for herself. Yes they're kind of silly and the timing wasn't the best but if voters actually hold this against her they need a reality check because their job is to judge the performance on screen. Plus, what choice is she left with when the studio refuses to promote her? There aren't exactly lots of golden opportunities out there for character actresses pushing fifty so if anything she should at least be commended for putting herself out there. If this stunt ends up costing her (and it could), Hailee Steinfeld will be the spoiler, but confusion over why a lead performance is being placed in a supporting category could kill her chances outright. Of the nominees, Leo's co-star Amy Adams is an underdog but many still feel she gave the better performance. That the undeserving Bonham-Carter even made it in (and sadly has a great chance of winning) is a credit to only how ridiculously overpraised The King's Speech is. Jacki Weaver was tremendous as a motherly sociopath in the gripping, underseen Australian crime thriller Animal Kingdom, if only enough voters knew about the performance and the film. But even she still has a very good shot here. This one's wide open.
Will Win: Melissa Leo
Should Win: Pass...until I see all the nominees
Could Win: Hailee Steinfeld
Snubbed: Rooney Mara (The Social Network), Marion Cotillard (Inception), Mila Kunis (Black Swan) Greta Gerwig (Greenberg), Olivia Williams (The Ghost Writer), Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass)
OTHER CATEGORIES (WINNERS IN BOLD)
Best Animated Feature
"How to Train Your Dragon"
"Toy Story 3"
Best Foreign-Language Film
"In a Better World" (Denmark)
"Outside the Law" (Algeria)
Best Original Screenplay
"Another Year," written by Mike Leigh
"The Fighter," written by Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson. Story by Keith Dorrington, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson
"Inception," written by Christopher Nolan
"The Kids Are All Right," written by Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg
"The King's Speech," screenplay by David Seidler
Best Adapted Screenplay
"127 Hours," screenplay by Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy
"The Social Network," screenplay by Aaron Sorkin
"Toy Story 3," screenplay by Michael Arndt. Story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich
"True Grit," written for the screen by Joel and Ethan Coen
"Winter's Bone," adapted for the screen by Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini
Best Original Score
"How to Train Your Dragon," John Powell
"Inception," Hans Zimmer
"The King's Speech," Alexandre Desplat
"127 Hours," A.R. Rahman
"The Social Network," Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
Best Original Song
"Coming Home" from "Country Strong," music and lyrics by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey
"I See the Light" from "Tangled," music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Glenn Slater
"If I Rise" from "127 Hours," music by A.R. Rahman and lyrics by Dido and Rollo Armstrong
"We Belong Together" from "Toy Story 3," music and lyrics by Randy Newman
"Alice in Wonderland," production design: Robert Stromberg; set decoration: Karen O'Hara
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 1," production design: Stuart Craig; set decoration: Stephenie McMillan
"Inception" production design: Guy Hendrix Dyas; set decoration: Larry Dias and Doug Mowat
"The King's Speech" production design: Eve Stewart; set decoration: Judy Farr
"True Grit" production design: Jess Gonchor; set decoration: Nancy Haigh
"Black Swan," Matthew Libatique
"Inception," Wally Pfister
"The King's Speech," Danny Cohen
"The Social Network," Jeff Cronenweth
"True Grit," Roger Deakins
"Alice in Wonderland," Colleen Atwood
"I Am Love," Antonella Cannarozzi
"The King's Speech," Jenny Beavan
"The Tempest," Sandy Powell
"True Grit" Mary Zophres
Best Documentary (feature)
"Exit Through the Gift Shop," Banksy and Jaimie D'Cruz
"Gasland," Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic
"Inside Job," Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
"Restrepo," Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger
"Waste Land," Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley
Best Documentary (short subject)
"Killing in the Name," nominees to be determined
"Poster Girl," nominees to be determined
"Strangers No More," Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon
"Sun Come Up," Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger
"The Warriors of Qiugang," Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon
"Black Swan," Andrew Weisblum
"The Fighter," Pamela Martin
"The King's Speech," Tariq Anwar
"127 Hours," Jon Harris
"The Social Network," Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter
"Barney's Version," Adrien Morot
"The Way Back," Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng
"The Wolfman," Rick Baker and Dave Elsey
Best short film (animated)
"Day and Night," Teddy Newton
"The Gruffalo," Jakob Schuh and Max Lang
"Let's Pollute," Geefwee Boedoe
"The Lost Thing," Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann
"Madagascar, carnet de voyage," Bastien Dubois
Best short film (live action)
"The Confession," Tanel Toom
"The Crush," Michael Creagh
"God of Love," Luke Matheny
"Na We We," Ivan Goldschmidt
"Wish 143," Ian Barnes and Samantha Waite
"Inception," Richard King
"Toy Story 3," Tom Myers and Michael Silvers
"Tron: Legacy," Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague
"True Grit," Skip Lievsay and Craig Berkey
"Unstoppable," Mark P. Stoeckinger
"Inception," Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick
"The King's Speech," Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen and John Midgley
"Salt," Jeffrey J. Haboush, Greg P. Russell, Scott Millan and William Sarokin
"The Social Network," Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weingarten
"True Grit," Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland
"Alice in Wonderland," Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean Phillips
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 1," Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz and Nicolas Aithadi
"Hereafter," Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojanski and Joe Farrell
"Inception," Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb
"Iron Man 2," Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick