Hollywood’s biggest stars will socially network.
A man who played a king may give a speech.
And there will be several moments of true grit.
Get ready for the 83rd Annual Academy Awards.
More importantly, get ready for my fourth annual Fox411 Oscar predictions. The past three years, I have told you with confidence exactly what to expect before the big show. You learned that Marion Cotillard would win best actress of 2007 for “La Vie en Rose.” You knew that Sean Penn in “Milk” would survive a tough challenge from Mickey Rourke in “The Wrestler” to win best actor of 2008. And last year you read that “The Hurt Locker” would overcome “Avatar” to win best picture of 2009.
Once again, I will explain to you who will take home Oscar gold – and why.
Prediction: “The King’s Speech”
Chance of winning: 80 percent
For much of the awards season, it looked like “The Social Network” had this race wrapped up. It swept the critics prizes, won the Golden Globe for best motion picture drama, and enjoyed a hipness factor much like last year’s winner, “The Hurt Locker.” But within a few weeks, “The King’s Speech” made one of the greatest comebacks in the history of the Academy Awards. It received 12 nominations, more than any other film and well ahead of the eight earned by “The Social Network.” “The King’s Speech” then pulled off the ultimate trifecta, winning top honors from the Producers, Directors and Screen Actors guilds. Suddenly, it was a completely different race.
I’m proud to say that I was never on “The Social Network” bandwagon. It’s not that I didn’t admire the film – I did and it ranked in my top five of 2010. It’s just that it never felt like an Oscar winner to me. The characters are largely unsympathetic and there’s no real hero. The acting is very good but nothing earth-shattering. Overall, it doesn’t have the excitement or dramatic arc of a film like “The King’s Speech.”
The bottom line: while Oscar voters appear to really like “The Social Network,” they LOVE “The King’s Speech.” In many ways, it’s a throwback to the Oscar film of yesterday – like “Casablanca,” “Around the World in 80 Days,” “Lawrence of Arabia,” “The Godfather” and “Out of Africa.” Grand art direction and costumes, beautiful cinematography and score, magnificent performances and an examination of history – “The King’s Speech” has it all.
Come Sunday night, it will have the Best Picture Oscar, as well.
Prediction: Tom Hooper, “The King’s Speech”
Chance of winning: 50 percent
I wish that I could be as confident about the directing category as I am for film. Usually, best picture and director go hand in hand. And usually, the Directors Guild winner (in this case Tom Hooper for “The King’s Speech”) repeats at the Oscars. However, this isn’t quite your usual year.
While the Hooper’s helming of “The King’s Speech” has been applauded, some observers say that it wasn’t quite the directorial accomplishment as achieved by David Fincher for “The Social Network.” Hooper took a traditional screenplay and made all the right choices; everything comes together perfectly. But Fincher might have had a greater challenge in taking a script about people on computers, and captivating the audience’s attention for two hours. If you look at “The King’s Speech” on paper, it’s easy to imagine a terrific movie. If you look at “The Social Network” the same way, it’s not so clear.
Many Academy members may choose to split their tickets, voting for “The King’s Speech” for best picture but going with “The Social Network” for best director. If enough of them do this, Fincher could easily walk away with the prize.
I’m still going with Hooper – as history appears to be on his side. But it’s definitely a coin toss.
I am switching to Fincher for “The Social Network.” Many of my best sources tell me that he apparently enjoyed a slight edge during voting. It’s extremely close and Hooper could still prevail for “The King’s Speech.” But I’m officially going with Fincher and suggest that you do, too. (FOX411 readers deserve to win their Oscar pools!)
Prediction: Colin Firth, “The King’s Speech”
Chance of winning: 95 percent
This is the one major category that you can bet the house on. Everyone agrees that Coin Firth was simply brilliant as King George VI. It’s a performance that stands with the finest work of the late Sir Laurence Olivier. He’s the heart and soul of “The King’s Speech,” and it’s unfathomable that the Academy could honor the film but not him. Firth has already collected the Critics Choice, Golden Globe, SAG and British Academy trophies. He better have room for the Oscar – it has name written all over it.
Chance of winning: 75 percent
It’s Annette Bening in “The Kids Are All Right” vs. Natalie Portman in “Black Swan.” While the two had initially appeared to be neck and neck, Portman seems to have opened up a comfortable lead in recent weeks. She’s won both the Golden Globe and SAG awards, and “Black Swan” has become a surprise box office smash. (I don’t think anyone expected the film to pass the $100 million mark.) It’s a very dramatic performance with great emotional range. Plus, Portman gets bonus points for the physical challenges – she did most of the complex ballet dancing herself.
Bening is superb in “The Kids Are All Right.” Her first of her four Oscar nominations came 20 years ago for “The Grifters.” Yes, she’s ridiculously overdue. But she’s more of an ensemble player in “Kids,” making it hard to compete with Portman (who appears in virtually every scene of “Black Swan.”)
So it looks like Natalie’s night. As for Bening, I’m sure that an Oscar is somewhere in her future. Hopefully she (and we) can wait just a little longer.
Prediction: Christian Bale, “The Fighter”
Chance of winning: 75%
Yet another two-horse race, this one between Christian Bale in “The Fighter” and Geoffrey Rush in “The King’s Speech.” Bale has always been regarded as a fine actor, but he really knocked Hollywood out with his latest performance. He completely disappears into the role, both physically and emotionally. Golden Globe and SAG voters have agreed, and it appears that Oscar voters will, too. With seven nominations and some passionate support for “The Fighter,” the Academy won’t want to let it go home empty-handed.
The only way Bale could lose is if coattails from a “King’s Speech” sweep carry Rush to victory. However, the role doesn’t break any new ground for the talented Rush, a best actor winner for 1996’s “Shine.” (Remember that the bar is always higher when going for a second win. ) Rush may have to wait for a much more challenging role to get another shot at the gold.
Interesting note: If Bale and Colin Firth both prevail as I expect they will, this will be the first time since the 1965 ceremony that British men have won the two acting awards. (That year saw Rex Harrison win best actor for “My Fair Lady,” with Peter Ustinov named best supporting actor for “Topkapi.”)
Prediction: Melissa Leo, “The Fighter”
Chance of winning: 55 percent
Unlike the other acting contests, this is the only one with a real chance of an upset. Melissa Leo is undoubtedly the frontrunner, for her turn as the boxer-managing mother in “The Fighter.” She’s a well-respected actress, having been nominated for best actress just two years ago for “Frozen River.” Her performance in “The Fighter” includes a nice collection of both quiet and dramatic moments, the usual recipe for Oscar success. Her triumphs at the Golden Globe and SAG awards would seem to make her invincible.
Still, there are some factors which could lead to an upset here. Leo’s popular“Fighter” co-star Amy Adams is also a nominee, opening up the possibility of vote-splitting. Leo also caused a stir when she took out her own personal Oscar campaign ads, a surprising move for a category frontrunner. Could that move be a downfall? Probably not…but if the voting is close and even a few of her supporters defect, it could be bad news.
If there is a surprise, it’s most likely to be Hailee Steinfeld, the young heroin in “True Grit.” It’s essentially a leading role, and she’s drawn high praise for successfully tackling such a difficult part. “True Grit” earned an impressive ten nominations, second only to frontrunner “The King’s Speech.” With losses in the best picture, director and best actor races a near certainty, this might be the only place to reward the film in a major category. Steinfeld’s name could be quite tempting on the ballot.
I’m sticking with Leo, as the odds do favor her. But don’t be shocked if another name is called out.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Prediction: “The King’s Speech”
Chance on winning: 70 percent
The best picture winner often takes a writing award, making “The King’s Speech” the most logical choice. Sometimes voters do look for the most original concept, which could lead to an upset by “Inception” or even “The Kids Are All Right.” All in all, this still looks like another trophy for “The King’s Speech.”
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Prediction: “The Social Network”
Chance of winning: 85 percent
While “The Social Network” may not win best picture, it can count on at least one major award in the screenwriting category. It’s a dialogue-driven film, and simply wouldn’t work without the skillful scripting. If support for “True Grit” really breaks through, there’s a chance that “True Grit” could score a vi ctory. But most voters will “like” the Facebook film enough to give it this Oscar.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Prediction: “Toy Story 3”
Chance of winning: 95 percent
It has little hope of winning the best picture category, but “Toy Story 3” is a shoo-in to take the animated feature award. It was one of the best-reviewed films of the year, and brought tears to the eyes of many adults. Fellow nominees “How to Train Your Dragon” and “The Illusionist” are both superb, but I won’t even toy with the possibility of them winning.