The 83rd Academy Awards will be broadcast on Sunday, and it's been quite a ride this season, with the expanded best picture category giving movie buffs a particularly diverse slate of genres. Here are the nominees in the major categories and projected winners, as well as potential upsets; this is the way everything looks to be going, but bear in mind that — especially in Hollywood — there's no sure thing.
Best original screenplay nominees: “The King's Speech,” “The Kids Are All Right,” “Inception,” “The Fighter,” “Another Year”
WILL WIN: “The King's Speech”
David Seidler, a long-dormant screenwriter who has himself struggled with a stutter, turned what sounded like stuffy, period Oscar bait into a warm, human story of the friendship between two men, one of whom happened to be the king of England. In addition, this film is the frontrunner, and the last time the winner of best picture didn't win either screenwriting award was in 2004.
Despite its best director snub, Christopher Nolan's cerebral heist thriller, his first entirely original work, showed off all the brilliant, elaborate twists and turns that have marked his writing; if it loses out on this, expect it to sweep the technical awards regardless.
Best adapted screenplay nominees: “The Social Network,” “Toy Story 3,” “127 Hours,” “Winter's Bone,” “True Grit”
WILL WIN: “The Social Network”
Aaron Sorkin's distinguished career writing for television and film has been marked by a talent for crackling, snappily intelligent dialog in the style of Howard Hawks, and that's what helped make a story about a bunch of techie college kids building a website into a compelling, almost Shakespearean drama; the wind is clearly at his back, and he deserves it for the film's opening scene alone.
SPOILER: “Toy Story 3”
The brainchild of Michael Arndt, who won Best Original Screenplay for “Little Miss Sunshine” four years ago, this is a cartoon about a bunch of talking toys, and yet you still have no soul if it didn't at least mist up your eyes. If anything could derail the “Social Network” locomotive, it's affection for this, perhaps the most emotionally nuanced children's animated film released in my lifetime.
[image-2] Best supporting actor nominees: Geoffrey Rush, “The King's Speech,” Mark Ruffalo, “The Kids Are All Right,” John Hawkes, “Winter's Bone,” Christian Bale, “The Fighter,” Jeremy Renner, “The Town.”
WILL WIN: Christian Bale
As the crackhead older brother of boxer Micky Ward, Bale underwent the most dramatic transformation of his career, losing 30 pounds and adopting a pitch-perfect motormouthed Boston accent. Much like Firth, he's won pretty much every precursor award, and despite his PR problems in the past (notably his infamous 2009 on-set tantrum), he's been uncharacteristically affable in the circuit appearances he's made.
SPOILER: Geoffrey Rush
Rush, already an Oscar winner for “Shine,” is probably the only real competition Bale has; his performance as Lionel Logue, the offbeat Australian speech pathologist who helps King George VI overcome his stutter, is one of the best parts of the film. Bale is still probably a lock.
Best supporting actress nominees: Melissa Leo, “The Fighter,” Amy Adams, “The Fighter,” Jacki Weaver, “Animal Kingdom,” Helena Bonham Carter, “The King's Speech,” Hailee Steinfeld, “True Grit.”
WILL WIN: Melissa Leo
This one's a little hazier; Leo has won most of the precursors with her performance as boxers Micky Ward and Dickie Eklund's domineering mother, but she hasn't had the same kind of momentum as the rest of the likely winners, and caused a minor scandal recently when she took out her own “For Your Consideration” ads rather than going through the studio. Her biggest victory up to this point was the Golden Globe for the same role, but this time around she has slightly different competition.
SPOILER: Hailee Steinfeld
14-year-old newcomer Steinfeld's brilliant performance has had everyone talking, despite the ridiculousness of her nomination in a supporting category for what's clearly a leading role; if Leo's faux pas costs her the award, it'll likely deliver it to Steinfeld, and, regardless of how this turns out, she clearly has a bright future in the business.
[image-3] Best actor nominees: Colin Firth, “The King's Speech,” Jeff Bridges, “True Grit,” Javier Bardem, “Biutiful,” James Franco, “127 Hours,” Jesse Eisenberg, “The Social Network”
WILL WIN: Colin Firth
Firth is playing a real person, royalty and someone with a disability (in this case, a crippling stutter), all of which on their own are famous for getting actors awards attention. In addition, he's swept the precursor awards, he's exceedingly likeable in his public appearances, and he was a very strong second in this same category last year for his performance in “A Single Man.”
SPOILER: James Franco
Franco's star is rising faster all the time, and he won some of the best notices of his career for his tour-de-force, one-man-show performance as trapped mountaineer Aron Ralston; that said, Firth is still probably the closest nominee to a sure thing.
Best Actress nominees: Annette Bening, “The Kids Are All Right,” Natalie Portman, “Black Swan,” Michelle Williams, “Blue Valentine,” Nicole Kidman, “Rabbit Hole,” Jennifer Lawrence, “Winter's Bone.”
WILL WIN: Natalie Portman
Portman has swept the precursors with her portrayal of an obsessed ballerina, one of the best performances of her career; even though consensus on the film itself isn't 100 percent positive, the consensus on her performance is.
SPOILER: Annette Bening
On the other hand, performances in Darren Aronofsky's films have a history of being nominated and then falling short (two years ago, Mickey Rourke's performance in “The Wrestler” lost despite widely being considered the favorite); Bening's performance as a high-strung lesbian mom could take the prize, especially since the actress has been working far longer and has three previous nominations to prove it. The fact that both actresses won their respective Golden Globe (for actress in a drama and actress in a musical or comedy, respectively) makes it a tougher call.
[image-4] Best director nominees: Tom Hooper, “The King's Speech”; David O. Russell, “The Fighter”; David Fincher, “The Social Network”; Darren Aronofsky, “Black Swan”; Joel and Ethan Coen, “True Grit.”
WILL WIN: David Fincher
Best director and best picture haven't gone to two different films since 2005, but while “The King's Speech” is the clear best picture favorite, Fincher has a much longer directorial history (including a nomination two years ago for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”) and it's likely that the academy will gravitate towards rewarding someone perceived as having paid his dues.
SPOILER: Tom Hooper
Because, um, best director and best picture haven't gone to two different films since 2005.
Best Picture Nominees: ”127 Hours,” “Winter's Bone,” “The Kids Are All Right,” “True Grit,” “The Fighter,” “The Social Network,” “The King's Speech,” “Toy Story 3,” “Black Swan,” “Inception.”
WILL WIN: “The King's Speech”
The true story of King George VI overcoming his speech impediment lost out on the Golden Globe, but netted several key critics' awards, as well as the Producers Guild of America's top prize, which has predicted the best picture winner for the past three years.
SPOILER: “The Social Network”
The story of the founding of Facebook looked like the one to beat early on, but it's been surpassed in buzz by “The King's Speech”; still, it won the Golden Globe for best drama, and the Academy may be eager to reward a more topical film.