When the Academy Award nominations are announced on Tuesday morning, there are a few things that you can count on: Colin Firth and “The King’s Speech, Natalie Portman and “Black Swan” and Christian Bale and “The Fighter.”
But with 10 best picture nominees and a total of 20 acting contenders to be named, there are sure to be some surprises and snubs.
As we eagerly await the official announcement, allow me to preview the pictures and performers who will most likely make this year’s Oscar list.
“The Kids Are All Right”
“The King’s Speech”
“The Social Network”
“Toy Story 3”
Unlike last year, when no one knew what to expect beyond the five leading contenders, this year’s race seems pretty much decided. The only question seems to be the tenth slot, which I suspect will go to “Slumdog Millionaire” director Danny Boyle’s “127 Hours.” Though it didn’t quite live up to expectations, the reviews were excellent, and James Franco’s performance was universally praised. The film’s technical achievements were strong, which is especially important given that the entire Academy membership nominates best picture. If it doesn’t make it in, watch for it to be replaced by indie darling “Winter’s Bone.” It seems a bit dark and dreary for traditional Academy tastes, but might have just enough admirers to get it into the Top 10.
Darren Aronofsky, “Black Swan”
Joel and Ethan Coen, “True Grit”
David Fincher, “The Social Network”
Tom Hooper, “The King’s Speech”
Christopher Nolan, “Inception”
The only question here is whether the Coen brothers make it in for their acclaimed remake of “True Grit.” I’m betting that they will. The two have long been Academy favorites, and won this prize just three years ago for “No Country for Old Men.” “Grit” got off to a late start in the Oscar derby with its Christmas day release, but has been enjoying great critical and commercial success. If the two get bumped from the best director line-up, look for David O. Russell to make it in for “The Fighter.” The Golden Globe and Directors Guild of America voters have both recognized him. It’s possible that the Academy’s directing branch just might do the same.
Jeff Bridges, “True Grit”
Robert Duvall, “Get Low”
Jesse Eisenberg, “The Social Network”
Colin Firth, “The King’s Speech”
James Franco, “127 Hours”
Firth and Franco are guaranteed, and thanks to the momentum of “The Social Network,” Eisenberg is looking strong, too. That leaves two openings. Despite having been shut out of the Golden Globes, last year’s winner Bridges should be back for the same role which won John Wayne the 1969 Best Actor Oscar. That leaves the fifth spot to go to six-time nominee Duvall for his showy turn in “Get Low.” Remember that it is high-ranking votes which count in the nominating process, and Bridges and Duvall are old Academy favorites. If anyone else cracks this category, it’s mostly likely going to be Mark Wahlberg as the hero of “The Fighter.” In a less competitive year he would be a sure thing, but this year’s outstanding array of lead actors might leave him knocked out of the best actor ring.
Annette Bening, “The Kids Are All Right”
Nicole Kidman, “Rabbit Hole”
Jennifer Lawrence, “Winter’s Bone”
Lesley Manville, “Another Year”
Natalie Portman, “Black Swan”
Bening and Portman are the front-runners, and nods for Kidman and Lawrence seem increasingly secure. That leaves room for a fifth lady, and it’s actually quite open. Michelle Williams has drawn praise (and a Golden Globe nomination) for her performance as a young wife and mother in “Blue Valentine,” but the work might not be flashy enough to catch voters’ attention. Two-time winner Hilary Swank would be a good bet if “Conviction” had registered more strongly with critics and movie-goers. Julianne Moore has been overshadowed by co-star Bening in “The Kids Are All Right,” and buzz for Oscar host Anne Hathaway in “Love and Other Drugs” faded all too fast. So I’m naming Manville as the boozing secretary in Mike Leigh’s “Another Year.” She’s earned fantastic reviews and a best actress win from the National Board of Review. Leigh has previously directed many actresses to nominations, and there’s usually at least one Brit in the category. She’s far from a sure thing, but Manville could emerge as one of nomination day’s biggest surprises.
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”
Bale and Rush are foregone conclusions, which leaves as many as eight other actors are vying for the three remaining spots. Steady support for Renner and Ruffalo bodes well for them, especially since their films are likely to be named best picture nominees. Matt Damon in “True Grit,” Andrew Garfield in “The Social Network” and Michael Douglas in “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” are all possibilities. But I’m going to out on a limb and predicting that relative unknown John Hawkes will sneak in for his chilling performance in “Winter’s Bone.” He scored an out of left field Screen Actors Guild nomination, and will likely benefit from the coattails of co-star Jennifer Lawrence’s best actress nod. Again, he’s far from guaranteed, but there are always supporting surprises.
Amy Adams, “The Fighter”
Helena Bonham Carter, “The King’s Speech”
Melissa Leo, “The Fighter”
Hailee Steinfeld, “True Grit”
Jacki Weaver, “Animal Kingdom”
The big question in this category is whether one of the “Black Swan” ladies makes it in. Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild citations for Mila Kunis are good signs for her, and some pundits insist that she’s a lock. However, I can’t help but feel that the role was just not enough of a stretch to warrant an Oscar nomination. Previous nominee Barbara Hershey was far more powerful in the film, but for some reason she has largely been ignored in the pre-Oscar sweepstakes. If one of them does break into the category, watch for Australian actress Weaver to get bumped from the list.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
“How to Train Your Dragon”
“Toy Story 3”
This year’s category will feature only three nominees, which is unfortunate given the number of fine animated features released in 2010. These three are widely seen as the cream of the crop. Other contenders like “Megamind,” “Tangled” and “The Illusionist” are all deserving, but will probably finish just outside of the top three.