Sure, the Oscar nominations aren't until January. But with awards buzz emanating from the festival circuit, and with the recent release of David Fincher's critically acclaimed movie 'The Social Network,' we decided to get a early start on the game.
Is 'The Social Network' really the film to beat? Will Colin Firth become the Helen Mirren of 2010? Will Natalie Portman dance away with the Best Actress Oscar? And will the Academy actually nominate singer-turned-actor Justin Timberlake?
Find out answers to these and more of your burning awards questions with our fearless Oscar predictions. strong>
'The Kids Are All Right'
'The King's Speech'
'The Social Network'
'Toy Story 3'
Commentary: If the race unfolds anything like last year's, which expanded the nominees from five to 10 for the first time in decades, we'll probably see a mix of box office hits like 'Inception' and 'Toy Story 3' and critically acclaimed indies like 'The Kids Are All Right' and (we hope) 'Winter's Bone' make the cut. As for what might win, right now it's shaping up to be a race between 'The Social Network,' which won raves from critics and steady money at the box office, and 'The King's Speech,' which was a huge hit on the festival circuit.
Of course, it's only October, and with the Oscars still four months away, anything can happen. Among the movies that could shake things up: 'Another Year,' from Academy favorite Mike Leigh ('Vera Drake,' 'Secrets and Lies'), 'The Way Back,' from another Academy favorite, Peter Weir, and 'The Town,' from comeback kid Ben Affleck. Heck, even Tyler Perry's'For Colored Girls' could cause a stir, assuming it's any good.
Darren Aronofsky, 'Black Swan'
Danny Boyle, '127 Hours'
David Fincher, 'The Social Network'
Tom Hooper, 'The King's Speech'
Christopher Nolan, 'Inception'
Commentary: After last year's unusually diverse group of nominees, look for this year's directing nominees to be a return to the boys' club. Past nominees Danny Boyle ('Slumdog Millionaire') and David Fincher ('The Curious Case of Benjamin Button') shouldn't have a problem earning their second nominations, given the hype surrounding their movies. Tom Hooper should have an easy time making the cut, as well, especially after 'The King's Speech' took home the Audience Award at this year's Toronto Film Festival.
The final two spots could go to directors who have arguably been snubbed in the past -- the most obvious being Christopher Nolan, many of whom felt he was unfairly overlooked for 'The Dark Knight' in 2008. Darren Aronofsky is a much riskier choice, since 'Black Swan' appears to be polarizing critics and festival audiences. But as everyone clamors for first-place votes, a passionate fan base can sometimes work to a competitor's best advantage. (See: David Lynch.)
Javier Bardem, 'Biutiful'
Robert Duvall, 'Get Low'
Ryan Gosling, 'Blue Valentine'
Colin Firth, 'The King's Speech'
James Franco, '127 Hours'
Commentary: Much like Helen Mirren swept the 2006 season for her performance in 'The Queen,' past nominee Colin Firth ('A Single Man') will have absolutely no trouble taking home the Best Actor Oscar in February. (Don't believe us? Check out his reviews.)
But predicting who will fill out the remaining four spots is a bit trickier. In a category that typically skews older, many of this year's competitors are of the younger crowd. The most likely to be nominated from that set is James Franco, who, for all of his eccentricities, appears to be winning over critics and audience for his performance as mountain climber Aron Ralston in '127 Hours.' Past nominee Ryan Gosling could make the cut, as well, though 'Blue Valentine's' NC-17 rating may turn more voters off than on. In fact, his spot could be challenged by up-and-comer Jesse Eisenberg, though that may depend on how much the Academy actually likes 'The Social Network.'
If voters are looking to nominate a few familiar faces, we could see nominations for Javier Bardem, who won Best Actor at this year's Cannes Film Festival for his well-received turn in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's 'Biutiful,' or Robert Duvall, who also garnered strong reviews for 'Get Low.'
Annette Bening, 'The Kids Are All Right'
Sally Hawkins, 'Made in Dagenham'
Jennifer Lawrence, 'Winter's Bone'
Lesley Manville, 'Another Year'
Natalie Portman, 'Black Swan'
Commentary: With rave reviews in her corner, three-time nominee Annette Bening is arguably the safest bet in this category. But Bening fans hoping to see her finally take home an Oscar may want to keep an eye out for Natalie Portman, who is also winning raves for her performance as good-ballerina-gone-bad Nina in Aronofsky's 'Black Swan.' Also working in Portman's favor is the fact that voters love to award young, up-and-coming starlets in this category. (See also: Gwyneth Paltrow, Marion Cotillard). For better or worse, actresses over 40 rarely win Best Actress. (Bening is 52.)
As for the remaining nominees, two may come from across the pond: Sally Hawkins, for her turn in the 'Norma Rae'-esque 'Made in Dagenham,' and Lesley Manville, who could follow in the footsteps of Brenda Blethyn ('Secrets and Lies') and Imelda Staunton ('Vera Drake') with a nomination for Leigh's 'Another Year.'
Rounding out the category could be 20-year-old Jennifer Lawrence. She won a slew of raves when 'Winter's Bone' hit theaters in June, and critics may rally behind her when the precursor season rolls around, much like they did in 2008 for 'Frozen River's' Melissa Leo. One thing that may stand in Lawrence's way: performances from actresses with bigger names, like past nominees Nicole Kidman ('Rabbit Hole'), Michelle Williams ('Blue Valentine') and Anne Hathaway ('Love and Other Drugs').
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Christian Bale, 'The Fighter'
Matt Damon, 'True Grit'
Andrew Garfield, 'The Social Network'
Bill Murray, 'Get Low'
Geoffrey Rush, 'The King's Speech'
Commentary: Geoffrey Rush ('Shine') is already gunning for Oscar number two, thanks to the overwhelming praise for his work in 'The King's Speech.' Right now his most likely challenger is Christian Bale, whose penchant for transforming his body for roles (he slimmed down considerably for 'The Fighter') appears to have finally paid off.
Beyond that, the race is pretty wide open. Which could mean good news for Matt Damon and Bill Murray, if voters are looking for a laugh, or Sam Rockwell ('Conviction') and Mark Ruffalo ('The Kids Are All Right'), if they're looking to nominate two well-overdue actors.
As for 'The Social Network,' many seem to believe that it will be Justin Timberlake who will carry the flag for the movie. But we think the nomination will actually go to his co-star, Andrew Garfield. He already has the 'Spider-man' buzz working in his favor, plus the advantage of playing arguably the only sympathetic male character in the movie.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Helena Bonham Carter, 'The King's Speech'
Barbara Hershey, 'Black Swan'
Melissa Leo, 'The Fighter'
Miranda Richardson, 'Made in Dagenham'
Hailee Steinfeld, 'True Grit'
Commentary: With the exception of Helena Bonham Carter -- and assuming that Lesley Manville goes lead, instead of supporting -- this race is wide open, so, really, our guess is as good as yours.
But, since we have to guess, we think we may see a mix of familiar and fresh faces in the remaining four slots. Among the familiar: past nominees Barbara Hershey, Melissa Leo, Miranda Richardson and two-time winner Dianne Wiest, the latter of whom has a baity role as Nicole Kidman's mother in 'Rabbit Hole.'
A potential challenger could be youngster Hailee Steinfeld, who is making her film debut in the Coen brothers' 'True Grit.' The Coens' movies are hugely popular in the Academy, and voters are notorious for nominating young actors in this caregory -- most recently with Saoirse Ronan ('Atonement') and Abigail Breslin ('Little Miss Sunshine'). Also on the radar are Jacki Weaver, who was a scene-stealer in 'Animal Kingdom,' and Kristin Scott Thomas, for 'Nowhere Boy.'
'Exit Through the Gift Shop'
'A Film Unfinished'
'Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work'
'Waiting for 'Superman''
Commentary: It's been a big year for documentaries already, making this typically difficult to predict category that much harder to sort through. (Lest we forget other docs like 'Catfish' and 'The Tillman Story.')
On the bright side, we're already looking at two safe bets: 'Waiting for Superman,' which has everyone talking (and apparently crying), and the Holocaust doc 'A Film Unfinished.' And if 'Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work' somehow manages to sneak in, well, that will be icing on the cake.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
'How to Train Your Dragon'
'Toy Story 3'
Commentary: Assuming there will only be three nominees, instead of five, this should be an easy victory for 'Despicable Me,' 'How to Train Your Dragon' and the category's inevitable winner, 'Toy Story 3,' though watch out for 'The Illusionist' and 'Shrek Forever After.'