The Oscar race is over! Such has been the chant dating back to the night Tom Hooper won the Director's Guild Award for 'The King's Speech', and this belief has been reinforced every time the film won a late-season prize -- up to and including a generous sweep from their side of the pond, courtesy of BAFTA. Is there even a need to tune in this year, other than to see how well James Franco and Anne Hathaway do with hosting duties? Or can anyone try to make a case that Aaron Sorkin's David Fincher's 'The Social Network' is still in the running? We can give it a shot.
In the grand scheme of the 2010 awards season, as we count victories from guilds, recognized critic groups and celebrity-lovin' party throwers, no other film comes close. If we just take awards handed out that sync up to categories presented at the Oscars, 'The Social Network' is at a whopping 99 victories. Compare that to the rest of the Best Picture nominees: 'Inception' (49), 'Black Swan' (40), 'The Fighter' (38), 'The King's Speech' (37), 'Toy Story 3' (27), 'True Grit' (18), '127 Hours' (11), 'Winter's Bone' (7), and 'The Kids Are All Right' (6). The last four years, 'The Departed', 'No Country For Old Men', 'Slumdog Millionaire', and 'The Hurt Locker' led the field in awards and all won Best Picture.

If we break the awards tally down to just the Top Eight categories though, 'The King's Speech' does narrow the gap on 'Social.' Only slightly though, now trailing 90-36, and still behind 'The Fighter' win 38 victories. 'Toy Story 3' won all its awards for Best Animated Feature and 'True Grit's 10 Top Eight prizes were for Hailee Steinfeld. 'Black Swan' has won 30 to date and 'Inception' has 18.

'The Social Network' has the unique position in that it took Best Picture honors (in order) from the National Board of Review, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the Golden Globes. This is only the 12th year dating back to 1975 where the critics on the coasts agreed on the year's best. But in those previous 11 years, only four times has the LA & NY choice won the Best Picture Oscar ('Kramer vs. Kramer,' 'Terms of Endearment,' 'Schindler's List', and 'The Hurt Locker'.) In the midst of the shock that the NBR kicked off awards season with such a distinctly un-NBR-like choice, many of us forgot that they have usually been the kiss of death. Only 10 of their choices since '75 have won the Oscar, though two of them were in 2007 & 2008.

BAFTA choosing 'The King's Speech' should not be looked upon as the death knell for the Zuckerberg story. If history has taught us anything, their idea of the year's best tends to correlate directly with whom they can honor from their side of the pond. In that same period, even with a Best British Film category, 20 of their 36 choices have production roots in either Britain or the United Kingdom. Hell, their choices over the years have included 'Educating Rita', 'The Commitments', and 'Four Weddings and a Funeral'. And now 'The King's Speech' can sit aside 'The Queen.' Though, for fairness sake, they did select 'Manhattan' and 'American Beauty.'

And so we must look to the other great indicators of the evening. Some will have you believe that the Editing award could call the race early on. When in truth, since 1975 only 50% of the 36 films to win that award actually went on to win Best Picture. With 'Inception' maddeningly out of the running in this category, there really isn't that big action spectacular like 'The Matrix' or 'The Bourne Ultimatum' to sneak in. If 'Speech' does triumph over 'Social' here though, all bets may be off. If the award goes to 'Social,' however, it could still be going down to the wire.

Which is where we will then hold our breath and bite our nails as the Best Director trophy is given out. Since 1950, only six directors have won the DGA prize and gone on to lose the Oscar. Tom Hooper would seem to be in the driver's seat. But wait a moment. You thought the consensus amongst the majors on the best film of the year was pretty high? What if I told you that David Fincher was named Best Director from L.A., N.Y., Chicago, the BFCA, the Golden Globes, the National Board of Review, AND BAFTA? OK, so L.A. also named Olivier Assayas for Carlos, but let's not split hairs here. How do you like his chances now? The coasts have only agreed in this respect seven times over the years.

The bad news for Fincher? Martin Scorsese ('GoodFellas'), Jane Campion ('The Piano'), Quentin Tarantino ('Pulp Fiction'), and Curtis Hanson ('L.A. Confidential') were their first four agreements.

The good news? Steven Soderbergh ('Traffic'), Ang Lee ('Brokeback Mountain'), and Kathryn Bigelow ('The Hurt Locker') were their last three.

Taking into account that 30 of the last 36 Oscars for Best Director also went on to win Best Picture, there are two examples of the six that did not. So while that may not be good news for the film, Fincher may be more in line to overtake Hooper than you think. In 1995 & 2002, the DGA chose Ron Howard ('Apollo 13') and Rob Marshall ('Chicago'), respectively. None of the above groups chose either of these directors those years. The DGA stood alone. Just as they have with Tom Hooper. It was his sole directing trophy by any critic's group or organization for 2010. Now go back to the year 2000. Ang Lee wins the DGA award for 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.' BAFTA & the Globes backed up that choice. But along with L.A. & N.Y., Chicago, the BFCA and the NBR all chose Steven Soderbergh, who went on to win the Oscar.

So don't bail out too early. It may be another split year and your favorite may lose out, but the race could be more exciting than you believe.

categories Awards, Cinematical