Oscar predictions 2011

Colin Firth and The King's Speech should have a good Oscar night. © Photo from AP/The Weinstein Company.

Colin Firth and The King's Speech should have a good Oscar night. © AP/The Weinstein Company photo.

The 10-film best picture Oscar field has become such a tease.

In just two years, it has created the illusion of a lot more — and a lot more popular — films vying for the top honor. But in the end, it still boils down two or three movies jockeying for the finish line.

It would be wonderful to see an inventive and challenging Chris Nolan film like Inception or Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan get the prize when it is handed out Sunday night. But we know that’s not going to happen.

It would also be wonderful if the voters got over their anti-animation snobbery and gave some of the outstanding studios like Pixar, nominated this year for Toy Story 3, a real shot. But we know that’s not going to happen.

And speaking of snobbery, could any of these award shows give an honest-to-God, unpretentious comedy a shot? I won’t say it.

Old Oscar habits die hard, and it will probably happen again this year.

If ever there was a movie tailor-made for Oscar, The King’s Speech is it.

British, or European? (See: Shakespeare in Love, The English Patient.) Check.

Focused on a person contending with a disability? (See: A Beautiful Mind, Forest Gump.) Check.

Have the heft of Harvey Weinstein, Mr. Oscar promoter? (See: Chicago, No Country for Old Men and several movies already mentioned.) Check.

Did we mention strong acting performances often propel best picture winners? (See: Firth, Colin; Rush, Geoffrey; Bonham-Carter, Helena.) Check.

Justin Timberlake and Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network. © Sony Pictures/AP photo.

Justin Timberlake and Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network. © Sony Pictures/AP photo.

Back around Golden Globes time, it looked like The Social Network, the cheeky movie about the founding of Facebook, was the frontrunner for best picture. But then almost all the Hollywood trade guilds — which are much more reflective of Oscar voters that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association — went with The King’s Speech, and the tide started shifting. Unfortunately.

Nothing against The King’s Speech, but The Social Network is so good, so relevant and so unexpected. Remember the buzz before The Social Network came out? How are they going to make a movie about Facebook interesting? Who wants to watch a movie about the entity that made “friend” a verb?

And then we saw this brilliant piece of film work that cast a Harvard computer geek as this sort of tragic king, cutting his onetime loyalists off at the knees and slowly isolating himself as his power grows. And that isolation — particularly the final scene — was an unsettling commentary on the simultaneous connectedness and detachment of online social media.

The Social Network still has a good shot at winning, and it would be great to see it happen for the movie’s relevance and outstanding take on an excruciatingly current topic. Last year’s win for The Hurt Locker makes me think the Academy might be in that sort of mood, but the The King’s Speech is the sort of Oscar bait voters probably won’t be able to resist.

David Fincher accepts the award for Best Director in a Motion Picture for The Social Network during the Golden Globe Awards. © AP/NBC photo by Paul Drinkwater.

David Fincher accepts the award for Best Director in a Motion Picture for The Social Network during the Golden Globe Awards. © AP/NBC photo by Paul Drinkwater.

Best director

Here’s The Social Network’s best shot at one of the big six awards. In another director’s hands, the film might have lacked the punch David Fincher brought to Aaron Sorkin’s script. But The King’s Speech’s Tom Hooper won the Director’s Guild Award, which is usually a good indicator of the winner. So it’s another close race, but considering it is not just directors who vote for the best-picture Oscar, a best picture-best director split seems plausible this year, with Fincher taking home the prize.

Best actor and best actress

Natalie Portman accepts the award for best female actor in a leading role for "Black Swan" at the 17th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Natalie Portman accepts the award for best female actor in a leading role for Black Swan at the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Jan. 30. © AP Photo by Mark J. Terrill.

Colin Firth’s humanizing performance in The King’s Speech and Natalie Portman’s psychotic break in Black Swan look to be mortal locks for the top acting prizes, though we would certainly take some Kentucky pride in Louisville’s Jennifer Lawrence of Winter’s Bone staging an upset.

It won’t happen, but Lawrence is a big winner this year anyway making a name for herself in the gritty drama. She’ll be back.

The story developing here is an always-a-bridesmaid saw about Annette Bening, nominated this year for The Kids Are All Right. Soon, if she just utters sentences coherently in an off-year for actresses, she will get her Oscar. At least, for Bening’s sake, Hilary Swank, who has beat her twice, isn’t a contender this year.

Best supporting actor and actress

Christian Bale is the lock here for The Fighter, and you would have thought his co-star Melissa Leo, who has won most of the pre-Oscar awards, would also be a solid bet. Bet there is this huge buzz for 14-year-old True Grit star Hailee Steinfeld to steal the Oscar. Supporting actress is the category with a record of upsets (most recently, Tilda Swinton’s 2007 win for Michael Clayton) and awarding children (most recently, Anna Paquin for The Piano). The coin toss (seriously), says Leo holds on and adds to her trophy cabinet, and Hailee has to wait.

Louisville's Jennifer Lawrence, shown arriving at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, has been a hit on the red carpet this awards season. © AP Photo by Chris Pizzello.

Louisville's Jennifer Lawrence, shown arriving at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, has been a hit on the red carpet this awards season. © AP Photo by Chris Pizzello.

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4 Responses to Oscar predictions 2011

  1. I think your predictions are dead-on – and I agree so much with your assessment of Social Network. It’s just a terrific film. The pace moves as quickly as social networking in the real world, and the score by NIN’s Trent Reznor gives it even more speed. I really did love it.
    King’s Speech is a good movie, but not as great as SN. Aaron Sorkin’s talent as a writer is just breathtaking. He really gets dialogue.
    My very favorite movie of 2010 wasn’t even nominated: The Town. I thought it was pitch-perfect and hated to see it ignored. I could have lost Winter’s Bone and added The Town pretty easily.

  2. WallMash says:

    So Rich wants an overhyped and confusing video game (inception) and an overwrought melodrama with one note performances (all red-lining at 10 on the emotive scale) (The Black Swan) to win over simple, perfect, well acted storytelling (kings speech). Extrapolate this thinking and Tron IV gets nominated in a couple of years.

  3. richard says:

    I fundamentally disagree with your views on this matter. The purpose of the academy is to reward the art of film making, not to operate Asa a bellwether for current events. While the Social Network is a compelling film, the Kings Speech is leagues ahead of it, not because of it’s pedigree, but rath because of it’s humanity. At the core of the film is a man, chosen by forces beyond his control to lead a nation during one of the darkest most turbulent times in recorded history and parallel to this reality is his own inner journey through the isolating and equally turbulent world of stuttering. Great works are often not the popular works, but if the academy awards is to hold any relevance as a supporter for the art of film making, then The Kings Speech is really a far better choice for the prize than the Social Network.

  4. Rich, I’ve often disagreed with the Oscars’ choices, found many baffling, and some I’ve even thought foolish mistakes (How could Peter O’Toole be nominated so often without ever winning? Nothing can explain C.B. DeMille’s bloated circus epic, THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH, as Best Picture of 1952. Some recent song choices have been truly bizarre. And I’ll never understand Roberto Benigni.). There have always been some odd, even inexplicable choices.

    But if the KING’S SPEECH, a superb, emotional, and beautifully crafted film, wins, I think it a bit peevish and unjust to diminish its achievements by trying to dismiss them as merely the result of Academy “snobbery”. British-dominated fims and actors frequently win because they are brilliant drama, brilliantly written, that showcase great performances.

    And, as THE SOCIAL NETWORK, a fine film in its own right, has already scooped a few best picture awards, I hardly think that THE KING’S SPEECH is a guarantee for that category.

    Just for the record, SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE was instigated through a WGA colleague of mine, Marc Norman, an American screenwriter, who had the idea, wrote the initial screenplay, and is a credited writer on the script. I have sat in on post-screening interviews with Mr. Norman and Mr. Stoppard, who graciously acknowledged each other’s significant input, and have even conducted one with Mr. Norman about the long origins and development of the project. Most of the producing entities are American. Though the film takes place in Britain, is about a British literary icon, and most of the cast is British, it is arguable whether it’s a “British” film, having been initiated, developed, and nurtured by Americans.

    As for me, I’m hoping THE KING’S SPEECH takes everything it’s up for and if Colin Firth doesn’t get Best Actor, I may never watch the Oscars again. Just call me a snob, I guess.

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