The big showdown here is between Annette Bening (The Kids Are Alright) and Natalie Portman (Black Swan), though the gap between the two seems to be increasing in favor of the later actress. The rest of the field is actually pretty tough to predict, once again muddled by the fact that it's impossible to know which category Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) and Lesley Manville (Another Year) will end up in, if any. Nicole Kidman has been a precursor regular for her work in Rabbit Hole, and even if Winter's Bone doesn't get all of the love I predict that it will, I can't really imagine Jennifer Lawrence's name not getting called. The field is pretty shallow: Potential spoilers Hilary Swank (Conviction), Noomi Rapace (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo), and Julianne Moore (The Kids Are Alright), would all be more accurately referred to as dark horses. I see voter confusion costing Manville a nod, and as previously stated, my money is on Steinfeld showing up in the Supporting Actress category. This leaves the door open for Michelle Williams, whose Blue Valentine might just make for a morning full of surprises tomorrow.
1. Natalie Portman---Black Swan
2. Annette Bening---The Kids Are Alright
3. Jennifer Lawrence---Winter's Bone
4. Nicole Kidman---Rabbit Hole
5. Michelle Williams---Blue Valentine
6. Lesley Manville---Another Year
7. Hailee Steinfeld---True Grit
8. Julianne Moore---The Kids Are Alright
9. Hilary Swank---Conviction
10. Noomi Rapace---The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
How I Did: 5/5
In a year with comparatively few locked categories, a Colin Firth victory for The King's Speech is about as safe as the predictions get. From there we have James Franco (127 Hours) and Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network), who have both been nominated by everyone who votes for anything on the planet. Jeff Bridges has also gotten his fair share of shout-outs, but his victory last year and comparatively smaller amount of screen time keep him from being as locked as the top three. Assuming that Bridges is in, there are three incredible actors left fighting for the final spot: Robert Duvall (Get Low), Javier Bardem (Biutiful), and Ryan Gosling (Blue Valentine). Something tells me it's not Duvall: His movie came out too early in the year, and he already has enough nominations that another one wouldn't mean as much to him as the other two. On one hand, Oscar has a tendency to award foreign films with lead acting nominations as a kind of patting himself on the back, which favors Bardem. On the other, Gosling has Harvey Weinstein on his side, and his movie will most likely be a bigger hit. I have less confidence in this call than in any other thus far, but I'm going with Gosling by the slimmest of margins because I think voters will be more likely to see his movie due to the fact that it has two buzzed performances (his and Michelle Williams') instead of just one.
1. Colin Firth---The King's Speech
2. James Franco---127 Hours
3. Jesse Eisenberg---The Social Network
4. Jeff Bridges---True Grit
5. Ryan Gosling---Blue Valentine
6. Javier Bardem---Biutiful
7. Robert Duvall---Get Low
8. Aaron Eckhart---Rabbit Hole
9. Paul Giamatti---Barney's Version
10. Mark Wahlberg---The Fighter
How I Did: 4/5
Much like Colin Firth, David Fincher appears primed and ready to receive his first Oscar for The Social Network. As the director of that movie's biggest challenger for the top prize, Tom Hooper also seems locked in for The King's Speech. Christopher Nolan's omission for The Dark Knight was bemoaned by many two years ago, and I think that they'll have learned from their lesson. The distinctive styles and talents of Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan) and David O. Russell (The Fighter) were the reason why their movies worked, not to mention that both received Directors Guild nominations, among other precursors. Next in line are Ethan and Joel Coen (True Grit) and Danny Boyle (127 Hours), with Ben Affleck (The Town) and Mike Leigh (Another Year) making the smallest of blips on the radar.
1. David Fincher---The Social Network
2. Tom Hooper---The King's Speech
3. Darren Aronofsky---Black Swan
4. David O. Russell---The Fighter
5. Christopher Nolan---Inception
6. Ethan Coen & Joel Coen---True Grit
7. Danny Boyle---127 Hours
8. Mike Leigh---Another Year
9. Ben Affleck---The Town
How I Did: 4/5
All right, bare with me here: I've been thinking about this one long and hard for the last several weeks, so what follows might be a little overkill in the analysis department. Given the expanded field, there are a handful of movies that seem as though they've already been handed the honor: The Social Network, The King's Speech, Toy Story 3, The Fighter, and True Grit. For all intents and purposes, there's every reason to think that Inception, Black Swan, and The Kids Are Alright are just as certain, but each gives me pause for its own reasons. Inception is both an action blockbuster, and a Christopher Nolan movie, a combination that was almost completely ignored two years ago even after The Dark Knight had all of the guilds on its side. Black Swan is simply a very strange movie, and it's hard for me to see it sitting as well with all of the older academy members as the 20-30 crowd that is powering its box office. The Kids Are Alright is a comedy, and Oscar has a reputation for not thinking too much of the genre, let alone summer releases. Given the choice, however, my money is on all eight to make the ten.
This leaves two spots for, in theory, three movies: 127 Hours, The Town, and Winter's Bone. The first two completed the Producers Guild's list of Ten (along with the movies listed above), which has a lot of people jumping ship on Winter's Bone. What these doubters forget is that the Academy votes with a preferential system, so a movie that gets more first place votes could supplant one that is on everyone's list, but is no one's favorite. The people that like Winter's Bone tend to love it, whereas I would be surprised if so much as a single member of the Academy wrote down The Town as their favorite of 2010. So, yeah: Winter's Bone over The Town. Now, to the heart of this section: The possibility of a complete shocker in the top ten.
Count them out all you want, but Oscar has a tendency to pick a left-fielder that is closer to a rule than an exception, especially of late. Consider this list:
2009: The Blind Side over Invictus
2008: The Reader over The Dark Knight
2007: Atonement over Into The Wild (Look back at the precursors if you don't believe that was a surprise)
2006: Letters from Iwo Jima over Dreamgirls (Ditto above)
2005: Munich over Walk the Line
It's a trend that I've been trying my best to understand over the last couple weeks, and here's what I've come up with. Atonement aside, all Four of the upsets had at least one of two factors in their favor: An actor or actress with a giant lead in an acting category, or someone involved with the industry with considerable clout. Quite literally every actor or actress with a fighting chance to win a prize gives their performance in one of those first eight movies that I listed, so when I've been looking for my upset, I've focused on big names behind the camera.
Martin Scorsese is just that, and though Shutter Island wasn't as well-recieved as many of his works, it had a great box office, which is something that Oscar seems to be increasingly impressed in. Producer Harvey Weinstein has pulled a fast one on folks before (The Reader's nomination, Shakespeare in Love's win), and seeing as he's already gone to battle for Blue Valentine over the NC-17 issue, you have to imagine that he's been in people's ears around tinseltown. Roman Polanski has a collection of supporters as well, as does his movie The Ghost Writer. Directors Mike Leigh (Another Year) and Peter Weir (The Way Back) also boast of pretty big names in the industry, though not as big to my mind as the three listed above.
What I think is also worth considering is Oscar opening up the field to genres that range from seldom-to-never honored. How to Train Your Dragon was a huge hit both commercially and critically, though it is hard to imagine two animated movies in a field of ten. If they feel like going the foreign route, my money is on Biutiful. If they get really loose, and invite a documentary (and you know that the expended field will someday), why not Inside Job or Waiting for "Superman"?
I don't think that Winter's Bone is a big enough surprise, and the potential for 127 Hours to be viewed as disgusting by weaker-stomached Academy members makes it the perfect fall guy in the face of the big surprise. I feel like kind of an idiot for going against the precursors to this degree, but where has agreeing with them ever gotten anyone, anyways? One away from having guessed all of them, that's where. With all of the evidence considered, I'm going with Harvey Weinstein, two potential lead acting nominations, and Blue Valentine to be the big shocker tomorrow morning. Fortune favors the bold, right?
1. The Social Network
2. The King's Speech
3. Toy Story 3
4. The Fighter
5. True Grit
7. Black Swan
8. The Kids Are Alright
9. Winter's Bone
10. Blue Valentine
11. 127 Hours
12. The Town
13. Shutter Island
14. The Ghost Writer
15. Another Year
17. The Way Back
18. How to Train Your Dragon
19. Inside Job
20. Rabbit Hole
21. Get Low
24. Waiting for 'Superman'
How I Did: 9/10
How I Did with Nominations in Major Categories: 36/45: 80%
How I Did with Nominations in Major Categories: 36/45: 80%