by Sara Michelle Fetters -
SGN Contributing Writer
Is it just me, or does it feel like the 83rd annual Academy Awards are already finished? The nominations aren't announced until Tuesday, and the official awards ceremony itself doesn't happen until February 27. But as of this writing, it seems as if groupthink has taken over, and with over a month before the actual winners are announced, I think I can predict the majority of the outcomes with something around 99.9% confidence.
In other words, it looks like this is the year of The Social Network, of David Fincher, of Colin Firth, and of Natalie Portman. It is the year Melissa Leo gets recognized by her peers for decades of excellence and Christian Bale is forgiven for his bad-boy ways. It is a year when all the major categories feel like they've already been decided, and the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences loses their thunder long before Oscar's lightning strikes.
All the same, it's still fun to try and guess the nominees, and while there won't be any shocks in the Best Picture category, some of the other major ones still have the opportunity to offer up a surprise or two. And so I present my predictions as to which filmmakers, actors, actresses, and films have the best shot at a nomination on Tuesday, and we won't know until 5:30 that morning if I'm right or not. I can hardly wait.
As I've already said, David Fincher's drama about the birth of Facebook, The Social Network, is the frontrunner to not just score a nomination, but walk away with the win. It has won just about every conceivable award given up to now, and to most observers the race appears to be over.
But appearances can be deceiving. With the BAFTA showering The King's Speech with love, the talk has begun that it might have a shot at an upset, while the Broadcast Film Critics going with The Fighter for Best Ensemble - an award it is also expected to pick up from the Screen Actor's Guild - has given it a breath of life, as well. Then there are the two wildcards: Darren Aronofsky's psychological ballet opus Black Swan and the Coen brothers' remake of True Grit. Both have earned rave reviews and both have torn up the box office, making each a lock for a nomination and maybe giving them an edge in that upset department.
Of the other five expected nominees, the only one given much of a shot to earn any traction with voters is Christopher Nolan's smash summertime mind-bender Inception. But it hasn't gotten any love for a single member of its cast, leaving many to think that this sensational and original epic will only make hay in the technical categories, and I'd personally list the film's chances at a February upset hovering around nil.
And what movies have a chance to fill out the remaining four slots? Two, Lisa Cholodenko's The Kids Are All Right and Pixar/Disney's marvelous Toy Story 3, are pretty much guaranteed a nod, while a third, Danny Boyle's 127 Hours, is darn close to being a lock, as well. Only that tenth spot feels like it's up for grabs - Debra Granik's Winter's Bone (my pick for 2010's best motion picture), Ben Affleck's overrated The Town, Roman Polanski's woefully underappreciated The Ghost Writer, John Cameron Mitchell's Rabbit Hole, and Mike Leigh's Another Year are the leading contenders as I see them right now.
MY PREDICTIONS: 127 Hours, Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The King's Speech, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter's Bone
FILMS THAT SHOULD BE NOMINATED, BUT WON'T BE: The Ghost Writer, Get Low
On paper, this looks like it will be round two of the Oscar battle between Colin Firth (The King's Speech) and Jeff Bridges (True Grit). For months, the talk has been that it would come down once again to this pair of actors, but with the outcome being reversed this time around (meaning a victory for Bridges). But I'm not fully sold that Bridges, as good as he is in the Coen brothers' remake, will actually get the nomination. There has been a little chatter that he's a bit too hard to understand in the film, and the fact he's filling John Wayne's shoes - a pair that already earned the Western icon his only Academy Award - I'm not positive voters are going to feel comfortable nominating him for the performance.
The only other official lock I see here right now is for James Franco in 127 Hours. Between his riveting work in that, the Allen Ginsberg biopic Howl, and his brief scene-stealing cameo in Date Night, Franco had a 2010 to remember. Heck, his blink-and-you'll-miss-it work in the just-released (and otherwise horrific) The Green Hornet has been getting almost universal raves as well, leading me to think voters are ready to give him his second Academy Award nomination, and first in the Best Actor category.
There are ton of potentials to fill out the remaining slots. From Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) to Ryan Gosling (Blue Valentine), Mark Walhberg (The Fighter) to Robert Duvall (Get Low), Sean Penn (Fair Game) to Michael Douglas (Solitary Man), and Javier Bardem (Biutiful) to George Clooney (The American), there are plenty of directions this list of nominees could go. Noticeably absent from the conversation is Édgar Ramírez, but his film Carlos was sadly deemed ineligible because it played on French television before appearing in U.S. theatres.
MY PREDICTIONS: Javier Bardem, Jesse Eisenberg, James Franco, Colin Firth, Ryan Gosling
PEOPLE WHO SHOULD BE NOMINATED, BUT WON'T BE: Robert Duvall
What kills me about the Best Actress category are the women we're not talking about, like Tilda Swinton (I Am Love), Patricia Clarkson (Cairo Time), Rachel McAdams (Morning Glory), and Marisa Tomei (Cyrus). Each of these women gave performances equal to or better than the ones likely to be nominated, and it drives me nuts that none of them have even come close to entering the conversation.
Of the actual likely potential nominees, both Natalie Portman (Black Swan) and Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right) are locks - although in Bening's case, I wish she were getting this nod for her far superior work in Mother and Child, but beggars can't be choosers. Filling out the final three slots are a handful of worthy actresses including newcomer Jennifer Lawrence (Winter's Bone), Bening's co-star Julianne Moore (The Kids Are All Right), Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole), Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine), Hilary Swank (Conviction), Sally Hawkins (Made in Dagenham), and Naomi Watts (Fair Game). The big wildcards are Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) and Lesley Manville (Another Year), but based on how their film studios are handling their candidacies, it's anyone's guess what category (if any) either of them will end up being nominated in.
MY PREDICTIONS: Annette Bening, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lawrence, Natalie Portman, Michelle Williams
PEOPLE WHO SHOULD BE NOMINATED, BUT WON'T BE: Sally Hawkins, Lesley Manville, Julianne Moore
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
So Christian Bale has already won this award for his transformative performance in The Fighter. It's over. Finished. Done. Just give him the statue and move on.
As we can't do that, the cast of characters likely to fill out his competition is really rather large. Geoffrey Rush (The King's Speech) is the only one of the bunch I'd consider a lock as he was the frontrunner in this category until Bale came along. The rest of the potentials include Bill Murray (Get Low), Jeremy Renner (The Town), Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right), John Hawkes (Winter's Bone), Matt Damon (True Grit), Michael Douglas (Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps), Sam Rockwell (Conviction), Tom Hardy (Inception), John Malkovich (Secretariat), and pretty much the entire male supporting cast of The Social Network (Andrew Garfield, Armie Hammer, Justin Timberlake).
MY PREDICTIONS: Christian Bale, Andrew Garfield, John Hawkes, Mark Ruffalo, Geoffrey Rush
PEOPLE WHO SHOULD BE NOMINATED, BUT WON'T BE: Armie Hammer, Tom Hardy, Bill Murray
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
I'm not going to call this race over, but I will say it is probably down to two co-stars, Melissa Leo and Amy Adams, both from The Fighter. Leo has won the majority of the early prizes including last weekend's Golden Globe, but Adams got the BAFTA nod, while her fellow actress did not, and it will be interesting to see which way the SAGs go in trying to pick between the two.
The last three spots could be filled by a number of actresses, including the aforementioned Hailee Steinfeld and Lesley Manville. Other contenders include Helena Bonham Carter (The King's Speech), Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom), Olivia Williams (The Ghost Writer), Dale Dickey (Winter's Bone), Mila Kunis (Black Swan), Juliette Lewis (Conviction), Miranda Richardson (Made in Dagenham), Mia Wasikowska (The Kids Are All Right), Sissy Spacek (Get Low), Dianne Wiest (Rabbit Hole), and Barbara Hershey (Black Swan).
MY PREDICTIONS: Amy Adams, Helena Bonham Carter, Barbara Hershey, Hailee Steinfeld, Dianne Wiest
PEOPLE WHO SHOULD BE NOMINATED, BUT WON'T BE: Dale Dickey, Olivia Williams
I'd say David Fincher has this one in the bag for The Social Network. Even if there is an upset in the Best Picture category, there's no chance Fincher won't be going home as the year's outstanding director.
Of his potential competitors, Christopher Nolan (Inception) and Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan) seem like shoo-ins for nominations at this point. I'm also fairly certain David O. Russell (The Fighter) will get the nod, leaving only a single spot and a bunch of high-caliber filmmakers all competing for it. These figures include the Coen brothers (True Grit), Tom Hooper (The King's Speech), Debra Granik (Winter's Bone), Danny Boyle (127 Hours), John Cameron Mitchell (Rabbit Hole), Sofia Coppola (Somewhere), Roman Polanski (The Ghost Writer), Lisa Cholodenko (The Kids Are All Right), and Mike Leigh (Another Year). Also, don't be surprised if Oscar history is made; Lee Unkrich has a better shot than you might think to land a nomination for his direction of Toy Story 3.
MY PREDICTIONS: Darren Aronofsky, Lisa Cholodenko, David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, David O. Russell
PEOPLE WHO SHOULD BE NOMINATED, BUT WON'T BE: Danny Boyle, Debra Granik
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