Tuesday, January 25, 2011

For your consideration: My last-minute predictions for the 2011 Oscar nominations

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will announce the nominees for the 2011 Oscars on Tuesday morning, and it just dawned on me that I've yet to compile my list of predictions. Best Supporting Actress aside, I think that on February 27, we'll see the same people at the podium that we've been seeing all Oscar season so far, but that doesn't mean the Academy won't throw us some curve balls come tomorrow. I'll be waiting, hand in glove, ready to catch them.

Best Actress
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Julianne Moore, The Kids Are All Right
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit

Note that Julianne Moore has stolen the spot that's usually reserved for Winter's Bone's Jennifer Lawrence. Here's why: The wildly overrated film has lost much of its early season buzz in recent weeks, and I just don't see Oscar flirting with two underage actresses -- Steinfeld, 14, and Lawrence, 20 -- in the same year. One of them will be out, and I suspect it will be Lawrence. Ellen Page and Carey Mulligan she is not. She'll be this year's Sally Hawkins, a precursor darling who doesn't make the final cut.

Best Actor
Colin Firth, The King's Speech
James Franco, 127 Hours
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Jeff Bridges, True Grit
Javier Bardem, Biutiful

Ryan Gosling would be a shoo-in if Blue Valentine weren't so fringey, and if the category, usually reserved for actors in their mid-thirties and older, weren't already so loaded with young actors. Jeff Bridges will get the old-coot slot (sorry, Bobby Duvall), and Javier Bardem, who recently got a big plug from his Eat, Pray, Love costar Julia Roberts, will sneak in over Gosling and The Fighter's Mark Wahlberg.

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, The Fighter
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter, The King's Speech
Mila Kunis, Black Swan
Jackie Weaver, Animal Kingdom

This is by far the most volatile category. Barbara Hershey could possibly steal Mila Kunis's thunder and end up representing Black Swan here, but I think her role might have been too small and the performance too subtle to ultimately register with the academy (see Rachel Getting Married's snubbed monster of a mother Debra Winger -- the Academy likes its horror moms loud and loudly dressed, like The Fighter's Melissa Leo and last year's winner, Mo´Nique from Precious). As for Another Year's Lesley Manville, who has been collecting accolades for months, category confusion will lead to her getting the snub, as Mike Leigh's last leading lady, Happy Go Lucky's aforementioned Hawkins, unfairly did two years ago.

Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale, The Fighter
Geoffrey Rush, The King's Speech
Andrew Garfield, The Social Network
Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right
Jeremy Renner, The Town

If the Academy is in a sentimental mood -- and when is it not? -- look for the dearly and recently departed Pete Postlethwaite to take his The Town costar Jeremy Renner's spot. The other four feel like locks to me.

Best Director
David Fincher, The Social Network
Christopher Nolan, Inception
Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
Tom Hooper, The King's Speech
David O. Russell, The Fighter

Best Picture
The Social Network
The King's Speech
Black Swan
The Fighter
Toy Story 3
The Kids Are All Right
True Grit
The Town
The Ghost Writer

There's a chance that 127 Hours could sneak in here, but for some reason, James Franco aside, the movie doesn't seem to be on many radars, which is strange, considering that Danny Boyle's last film, 2008's Slumdog Millionaire, won both Best Picture and Best Director.

Perhaps the biggest curve ball that the Academy could toss our way would be to nominate someone of color in one of the acting categories. The cast of frontrunners is alarmingly white. Was 2010 such a terrible year for black actors? Come to think of it, it was, but did any of the best supporting actress candidates do a better job than Kerry Washington or Shereeka Epps in Mother and Child. When the most prominently featured black person in a Best Picture contender is Sugar Ray Leonard in The Fighter, Hollywood, we've got a very big problem.
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