King’s Speech, Social Network lead Oscar picks

2011-02-24 11:37

Who will take home Oscar statuettes on Sunday? Based on behind-the-scenes info, The Hollywood Reporter picks the winners in the key races.

BEST PICTURE - The King’s Speech

Three factors favour the film over its only serious rival, The Social Network:
Precedent: Speech scored wins at the producers, directors and screen actors guild awards. True, it lost to Social Network at the Golden Globes, but the Globes are hardly a litmus test for the Oscars any more.

Voters’ ages: Academy members average out at 57, meaning they’re far more likely to identify with Speech’s middle-aged heroes than Social’s young cast.

The voting system: In the best-picture race, voters rank the 10 nominees in order of preference; if no movie gets more than 50% of first-place votes, the bottom vote-getters are eliminated and their votes transferred. So it’s important to be placed second and third on lots of ballots, rather than just be No 1. Being widely liked counts more than being deeply loved. And a whole lot of voters really like Speech.

ACTOR - Colin Firth, The King’s Speech
A year after he lost to Jeff Bridges (Firth was up for A Single Man, Bridges for Crazy Heart), the two are in competition again. This time, Firth is a lock. He has scooped all the major awards so far, and there’s little chance he’ll lose when the Oscar envelope is opened. Among the other nominees, Javier Bardem is too dark in Biutiful, Jesse Eisenberg too young in Social Network and James Franco’s actions in 127 Hours just too plain gruesome.

ACTRESS - Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Many insiders believe Annette Bening will win for The Kids Are All Right, thanks to the support of the Academy’s older voters. She’ll be helped by her place on the board of governors, respect for her body of work and sympathy for three previous losses. But other veterans have lost to fresher faces: Remember Marion Cotillard’s win over Julie Christie in 2008 and Juliette Binoche’s over Lauren Bacall in 1997? It’s a close race, but Portman has the showier role; that and the fact that she won the SAG (Screen Actors Guild) Award get her the Oscar.

DIRECTOR - David Fincher, The Social Network

He lost at the DGA (Directors Guild of America), but he’s our pick for the Oscars. Why? The DGA has a huge TV contingent; they respected Tom Hooper’s craftsmanship on Speech, but Fincher’s visual mastery means more with the Academy. Bad sign for Hooper: Even Bafta (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) opted for Fincher over his British rival.

SUPPORTING ACTOR - Christian Bale, The Fighter
Play ugly, play period and play with an accent. Bale does all three in The Fighter. Add the fact that he’s won nearly every other award, except a Bafta, and he’s a lock. Speech’s Geoffrey Rush won in 1997 for a more memorable lead role in Shine, but that will work against him as the academy rarely gives actors a second Oscar.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS - Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Did Leo’s weird, self-financed ads showing her in a fur coat by a pool ultimately hurt her? Maybe, but they were also rather touching. She might split votes with her Fighter colleague Amy Adams, and a Speech sweep could help Helena Bonham Carter, but Leo remains the favourite.

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY - Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network
Come on, who else stands a chance? When Sorkin won the WGA (Writers Guild Awards) award it was clear he was unstoppable. Objections that all of his characters in the movie sound the same pale against the fact that he made a business story about a computer nerd into a hugely compelling psychodrama.

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY - David Seidler, The King’s Speech
Inception got the WGA nod, but Seidler wasn’t eligible for that award. Even though some believe Christopher Nolan will get a consolation prize after failing to earn a directing nomination, they’re wrong: Speech is a virtual lock here, helped by older voters who identify with Seidler’s age, 73, and his great back story: Like his hero, the writer had a stutter as a youth.

– Hollywood Reporter

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