- Colin Firth and Helen Bonham Carter
Usually I spend a large portion of my annual Oscars story railing about deserving films and artists that appear likely to be shot down by Academy members more concerned with making a statement than voting for the best nominee. This year I'm in agreement with the probable winners in 4 of the 6 major categories. Oh my. Here's this year's run down for this year's event, Sunday, Feb. 20. For local Oscar parties, see nuvo.net.
The Kids Are All Right
The King's Speech
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
Not a bad film in the list, although I never got why so many people went gaga over The Kids Are All Right. Doesn't matter in this context, because every prognosticator in the country agrees that the race is between The Social Network and The King's Speech. The hip, edgy now-a-go-go "Social Network" vs. the inspirational we-can-overcome-handicaps-if-we-work-together The King's Speech.The Social Network is a critics' darling that won most of the early awards, but then boredom with trophy-predictability jump-started a backlash The King's Speech - so dignified, so refined, so British – started looking more and more like the film that would best represent the Oscars. It isn't – while The King's Speech is a fine film, The Social Network is more challenging, nuanced and satisfying. But remember, we're dealing with the Academy Awards, where Dances With Wolves beat Good Fellas, Shakespeare in Love beat Saving Private Ryan and Crash beat Brokeback Mountain.
Will win: The King's Speech
Should win: The Social Network
- Jesse Eisenberg
Jeff Bridges: True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg: The Social Network
Colin Firth: The King's Speech
James Franco: 127 Hours
There's no contest here. Colin Firth will win for The King's Speech. His performance is rich and moving – Firth always does great work. He's not my choice, though. I really liked what James Franco did in 127 Hours, but even more impressive was how Jesse Eisenberg dealt with the challenges of his role in The Social Network. He was handed a sullen character with limited social skills and he took us inside the guy's head, making him relatable while remaining true to the screenplay.
Will win: Colin Firth
Should win: Jesse Eisenberg
- Natalie Portman
Nicole Kidman: Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence: Winter's Bone
Natalie Portman: Black Swan
Michelle Williams: Blue Valentine
Annette Bening is supposed to be the dark horse here. She was excellent in The Kids Are All Right, she is widely respected and liked within the acting community, and people are tired of voting for Natalie Portman over and over this year. But here's the thing: Darren Aronofsky handed Portman a big, juicy over-the-top role in his crazy-ass mix of art and schlock and Portman knocked it out of the park. How can anyone – even people who hate Black Swan - watch Portman be so sensitive, vulnerable and whacked-out and not want to give her a trophy?
Will win: Natalie Portman
Should win: Natalie Portman
- David Fincher
David O.Russell: The Fighter
Tom Hooper: The King's Speech
David Fincher: The Social Network
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen: True Grit
It is obligatory that I start by noting that Christopher Nolan was robbed of a nomination for Inception. Robbed, I tell you! But then, I'm still steamed that Exit Through the Gift Shop wasn't nominated for Best Picture in addition to Best Documentary, so let's move on. There are a number of deserving directors here, but The Social Network's David Fincher managed to take a story full of young men typing and sniping and make it pop and crackle with energy and an intense sense that we were witnessing something very, very new. Of course, that's not why he will win. Fincher will win because Academy members planning to vote for The King's Speech for Best Picture will give their votes in this category to The Social Network as a consolation prize.
Will win: David Fincher
Should win: David Fincher
- Christian Bale
John Hawkes: Winter's Bone
Jeremy Renner: The Town
Mark Ruffalo: The Kid's Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush: The King's Speech
Christian Bale is as sure a winner in this category as Colin Firth is in Best Actor. All five nominees were excellent, with John Hawkes giving a standout performance in Winter's Bone. But not many people know Hawkes, while most movie fans are familiar with Bale and what a stretch the role of Dicky Eklund was for him. And any question of whether Bale may have overacted was removed when the real Dicky made an appearance at the end of the movie.
Will win: Christian Bale
Should win: Christian Bale
- Melissa Leo
Helena Bonham Carter: The King's Speech
Melissa Leo: The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld: True Grit
Jacki Weaver: Animal Kingdom
Bless her heart, Melissa Leo made this category interesting. She was considered the front runner for her bold work in The Fighter, until she took out her own For Your Consideration ads in some trade publications. Now the studios take out ads like that all the time, but for Leo to do so independently has stirred up controversy, with some calling her decision "vulgar." Oh the humanity! So will Leo's "vulgarity" cost her the prize? If so, it will likely go to young Hailee Steinfeld, who was so good in True Grit? I'm rooting for Leo.
Will win: Melissa Leo, but a Steinfeld win wouldn't be a surprise.
Should win: Melissa Leo
FUN FACT: After five terrific seasons on the TV series Homicide, Leo got sacked because the powers-that-be ran out of ideas for her gritty, working-class character and decided to replace her with Michelle Forbes, who was sexy in a more traditional Hollywood way. Now Leo's in hot water for looking old-school glamorous in print. Isn't show business wonderful?