Come awards season, every film buff is an Oscars expert.
They’ve seen the films. They’ve read the reviews. And they feel confident they can predict the winners with pinpoint accuracy.
Well, readers, I’m no different. Here are my picks for the major categories of the 83rd annual Academy Awards:
Two films stand out from this diverse crop of dramas, comedies and animated flicks: “The King’s Speech” and “The Social Network.”
One is a polished period drama, that familiar, old-fashioned genre traditionally associated with sumptuous costumes, superb set design and classically trained actors with clipped British accents. The other, a contemporary tale about greed and ambition, belongs wholeheartedly to the Internet Age.
At least, that’s how they appear at first. Beneath those substantially different surfaces, “The Social Network” shares the meaty marrow of a Greek tragedy, and “The King’s Speech” has a pluckily subversive streak.
Who should win: “The Social Network”
Who will win: “The King’s Speech”
Once you overlook the glaring omission of “Inception” director Christopher Nolan, you’ll agree that this year’s nominees represent men at the top of their respective games.
Darren Aronofsky followed up “The Wrestler” with the psychosexual thriller “Black Swan.”
“Three Kings” director David O. Russell delivered another look at muscular masculinity with “The Fighter.” And brothers Joel and Ethan Coen continued their streak of dark, quirky dramas with “True Grit.”
“Fight Club” director David Fincher, meanwhile, delved into new territory with a drama about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. But it’s newcomer Tom Hooper (“The Damned United”) who deserves the most attention for his inspirational biopic, “The King’s Speech.”
Who should win: Tom Hooper
Who will win: David Fincher
These leading men are a colorful bunch. They include a one-eyed bounty hunter, a one-armed mountain climber and a British monarch with a horrendous stutter.
Colin Firth portrays the latter in “The King’s Speech.”
With his reserved manner and dry, sardonic wit, Firth has made his career playing stoic Brits with stiff upper lips. He plays with that public persona in “The King’s Speech,” depicting King George VI as a courageous man struggling to find his voice.
After being snubbed by the Academy as a grief-stricken gay professor in “A Single Man,” Firth deserves to win the film industry’s top acting prize.
Who should win: Colin Firth
Who will win: Colin Firth
The two front runners in the “best actress” category are a study in contrasts.
In the indie comedy “The Kids Are All Right,” screen veteran Annette Bening plays an uptight middle-aged mom trying to keep her nontraditional family together from falling to pieces. The result is poignant, frequently funny and thoroughly believable.
If Bening’s performance is grounded firmly in reality, Natalie Portman’s electrifying turn as a ballerina in “Black Swan” belongs to the realm of fantasy. She pours herself into the demanding role of a dedicated dancer on a dangerous quest for perfection.
Who should win: Annette Bening
Who will win: Natalie Portman
Best Supporting Actor
You might admire the shaggy dog charm that Mark Ruffalo brings to “The Kids Are All Right.” You might applaud Geoffrey Rush’s wonderfully warm speech therapist in “The King’s Speech,” Jeremy Renner’s rawboned bank robber in “The Town” or John Hawke’s menacing uncle in “Winter’s Bone.”
But it’d be difficult to ignore Christian Bale’s scenery-chomping turn as boxer-turned-drug addict Dicky Eklund in “The Fighter.” From his emaciated body to his deadened eyes, he’s a has-been struggling under a desperate delusion.
Who should win: Christian Bale
Who will win: Christian Bale
Best Supporting Actress
Fourteen-year-old Hailee Steinfeld steals the show every second she’s onscreen in “True Grit.”
As Mattie Ross, the iron-willed teen who hires U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn to avenge her father’s death, she exhibits tough-as-nails tenaciousness and a stubborn streak half a mile long. Plus, she handles the Coen brothers’ notoriously tricky dialogue like a pro.
Alice Ward is no pushover, either.
As portrayed by Melissa Leo in “The Fighter,” she’s the manipulative mother and manager of two blue-collar boxing champions. Her ferocity comes from a far darker place.
Who should win: Hailee Steinfeld
Who will win: Melissa Leo
In other categories
- Best Cinematography: “Black Swan”
- Best Original Screenplay: “The King’s Speech”
- Best Adapted Screenplay: “The Social Network”
- Best Documentary Feature: “Exit through the Gift Shop”
- Best Animated Feature: “Toy Story 3”
- Best Foreign Language Film: “Biutiful”
- Best Original Score: “The Social Network”