Oscar Picks

Best Picture

This is a two horse race. My gut feeling is that Social Network will walk away a winner simply because of its modernity. The Academy likes to throw its voting muscle behind films that are in keeping with the time’s rustic aesthetic, à la environmentalism (Happy Feet over the Incredibles? In no universe will that ever be kosher) and gay rights (Sean Penn is a force in Milk, but Mickey Rourke revived a long-dead career with one of the best performances of the decade in Aronofsky’s The Wrestler.) That’s not to say Social Network shouldn’t win. In fact, my heart and head both agree that it should. It’s just The King’s Speech is so damn good, and its themes are perhaps even more appropriate today than pre-World War II Europe.

PS- If Toy Story 3 wins due to some fluky voting schism between Social Network and King’s Speech, it’s a victory for everyone’s inner child.

Leading Actor

In a year where almost every category could go one of two ways, this might be the easiest call of the night. Colin Firth is now a two-time nominee, having previously been given a nod for his work in A Single Man. His role is smack dab in the middle of a phenomenal film that has the rare quality of being both a critical home run and a hit with audiences. He has picked up every major award on the circuit leading up to Oscar night. Mark this as a sure thing.

Leading Actress

Not as much of a sure bet as Firth, but Natalie Portman has also won every major award leading up to the Academy Awards, she is also a previous nominee for her supporting work in Closer, and it seems nothing can stand in her way, right? The one person who could spur an upset is Annette Bening. I have no direct evidence to support this, it’s just a gut feeling. Bening has been nominated four times now, not a single win to her credit. Sometimes the Academy does funny things when they believe it’s someone’s ‘time’ to win. Fair? No. But hey, it’s Hollywood.

Actor in a Supporting Role

Is he going to walk around and rip their bleeping lights down? It’d sure make for one hell of an acceptance speech. Bale wins here, uncontested.

Ohhhhh, gooooood for him!

Actress in a Supporting Role

Here’s a toughie. If you’re playing in an office pool, take Melissa Leo. Her role in The Fighter has everything the Academy traditionally rewards with a little golden man- she’s not pretty, she’s not nice, and she steals scenes (from a meth-head Christian Bale, no less). That’s what my head says anyway. My heart is one hundred percent for Hailee Steinfeld. But hey, I’m a sucker for westerns and those crazy awesome Coen Brothers. This is a particularly challenging pick because True Grit was left out in the cold at the Golden Globes, so there’s no real barometer to help measure how people are leaning in this category.

Oh well, Steinfeld 2011! Fill her hands, Academy!

Directing

Again, this is a tight race. At the start of Award season, the general buzz was that Social Network would destroy all on-comers like Sauron meléeing the free armies of Middle Earth into oblivion. But it seems Tom Hooper has taken on the role of Isildur, cutting the Ring of Power from David Fincher’s phenomenally steady hands. I’m sticking with Fincher, though. His final product is a masterpiece, he’s a respected filmmaker, and he’s now a two-time nominee. Again, it feels like his ‘time.’

The Screenplay Things

Film might be a director’s medium, but the writers are just as important and well-known.

What’s-his-face is almost assured an Oscar with Social Network (the dialogue in the opening scene alone! God it’s good!). But those other guys? You know, the brothers? Yeah, the Academy likes them a lot, so True Grit has the distinct air of possibility surrounding it. I’d stick with the former, though.

And as for original screenplay, The King’s Speech guy should rock and roll here. If there is a dark horse, it’s the guy and that girl who slapped The Kids Are All Right together. And just so we all remember, it took whosie-whatsit, that Dark Knight guy, ten years to get Inception straight in his mind. That bears some recognition as far as I’m concerned.

Chinese and Oscar Night! That’s what Oklahoma does!

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