The Academy Awards telecast is tomorrow. Here is who I think will take top honors:
Nominees: Black Swan ** The Fighter ** Inception ** The Kids Are All Right ** The King’s Speech ** 127 Hours ** The Social Network ** Toy Story 3 ** True Grit ** Winter’s Bone
Should Win: In a great year for art-meets-commerce, the Academy would be wise to choose any from among Black Swan, Inception, Toy Story 3, or The Social Network. Though not as widely seen, Winter’s Bone would also be an inspired choice.
Will Win: After picking a little-seen critical favorite last year, the Academy will revert to form by picking the safe, tasteful heart-warmer The King’s Speech, whose awards from the producers’, directors’, and actors’ guilds make this all but a done deal.
Nominees: Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan) ** Joel and Ethan Coen (True Grit) ** David Fincher (The Social Network) ** Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) ** David O. Russell (The Fighter)
Should Win: For me, no one in this category beats the rapturously bizarre, psychologically complex work of Darren Aronofsky in Black Swan.
Will Win: After the directors’ guild awarded Tom Hooper, it seemed to be the last nail in the coffin for David Fincher, the early favorite, but even the Brits, at the BAFTA Awards, picked Fincher over their hometown favorite (Hooper, a British director making a film all about the British monarchy). I’ll give a very slight edge to Hooper, but hedge your bets.
Nominees: Javier Bardem (Biutiful) ** Jeff Bridges (True Grit) ** Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) ** Colin Firth (The King’s Speech) ** James Franco (127 Hours)
Should Win: Jesse Eisenberg, for his acid, angry, verbally lethal delivery of Aaron Sorkin’s marvelous dialogue in The Social Network.
Will Win: Colin Firth. No contest.
Nominees: Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right) ** Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole) ** Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone) ** Natalie Portman (Black Swan) ** Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine)
Should Win: The year’s strongest category. There’s not a bad choice in the bunch, but I’m partial to Natalie Portman, not just for how physically grueling her performance in Black Swan is, but for how emotionally grueling it is.
Will Win: Portman has everything going for her: wins at SAG and BAFTA, her age (young women tend to prevail over veterans in this race), and strong Academy support for her film in general. Nevertheless, watch out for the overdue Annette Bening, who is within striking distance and may potentially upset.
Best Supporting Actor
Nominees: 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)
Should Win: John Hawkes is a character actor I’ve long admired, and I’ve never seen him as good as he was as the fearsome Uncle Teardrop in Winter’s Bone.
Will Win: I think Christian Bale is still the man to beat, but depending on how big the tidal wave of support for The King’s Speech is, Geoffrey Rush could overtake him.
Best Supporting Actress
Nominees: Amy Adams (The Fighter) ** Helena Bonham Carter (The King’s Speech) ** Melissa Leo (The Fighter) ** Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) ** Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom)
Should Win: The best performance in this field was Jacki Weaver‘s …
Will Win: … but sadly, Weaver is the only actress in this race with no chance to win. Melissa Leo is the prohibitive favorite, but here’s why I think Hailee Steinfeld will beat her: (1) Leo shot herself in the foot by campaigning for herself in print ads considered by many to be tacky, and (2) the Academy loved True Grit more than most expected, and this is the voters’ only real chance to reward it in one of the top categories.
Best Original Screenplay
Nominees: Another Year ** The Fighter ** Inception ** The Kids Are All Right ** The King’s Speech
Should Win: The layered and innovative storytelling of Inception.
Will Win: The classy urbanity of The King’s Speech.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Nominees: 127 Hours ** The Social Network ** Toy Story 3 ** True Grit ** Winter’s Bone
Should Win: The Social Network is one of the best written works by Aaron Sorkin, who is among the most distinctive writers in Hollywood, and it might be my favorite piece of screenwriting this year.
Will Win: The Social Network, which should be thankful not to have to compete against The King’s Speech.