Oscar Predictions Updated: The Field is Beginning to Sort Itself Out

Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network
Photo: Columbia Pictures

I finally saw David Fincher’s The Social Network last night and will be taking in Secretariat only a few hours from now, leaving very few supposed Best Picture Oscar contenders left for me to see. By my count all that’s left are the Coen brothers’ True Grit, Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere, Ed Zwick’s Love and Other Drugs, Nigel Cole’s Made in Dagenham and Peter Weir’s The Way Back. Suffice to say, it’s not even October yet and the majority of the Oscar contenders have already been seen and the bees are buzzing.

Following my eight days in Toronto at the Toronto International Film Festival it’s surprising the number of major Oscar contenders have been seen and with Oscar pundits picking horses a bit too early in this race I think it gives films such as Somewhere, True Grit and The Fighter a lot to look forward to.

1The King’s Speech
2The Social Network
3127 Hours
4Black Swan
6Another Year
7Toy Story 3
8True Grit

Somewhere has only been seen in Venice to this point and ended up winning the Golden Lion (although amidst controversy) and both True Grit and The Fighter have yet to be seen by anyone. Love and Other Drugs is another one that hasn’t been seen and it doesn’t hit theaters until late November and buzz has been building around Anne Hathaway’s performance in that one since the beginning of the year.

Other films that may be able to generate steam as many films peak too early include Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls and Roger Michell’s Morning Glory. Of course, neither seem like the kind of films Oscar buzz is built on, but with ten nominees anything is likely, and if the films prove to be good you better believe they’ll be a part of the conversation.

As far as the current state of the Best Picture race is concerned, Fincher’s Social Network certainly has taken a quick path to the top of most people’s lists, but with an October 1 release date and the fact it speaks squarely to the heart of the Gen-Y crowd I don’t see it as the front-runner so many others are painting it as. It’s a good film, just not the masterpiece early buzz has declared it to be, plus I don’t see it as the kind of film the Academy will rush to support as a Best Picture although it will likely enjoy front-runner status for Best Adapted Screenplay (Aaron Sorkin) and may find nods in the acting categories, perhaps Sound Mixing, definitely Editing, Original Score (Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross) and Director (Fincher).

As for my pick, right now, I see Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech as the one film that’s right up the Academy’s alley and not only that, it’s a great film. In my mind it’s the clear front-runner and it still has until late November before the Weinstein Co. releases it to theaters. It has Colin Firth coming off a strong performance in last year’s A Single Man, a performance I believe should have earned him an Oscar, and one that finds me placing him as my current front-runner for Best Actor. To go along with that, co-star Geoffrey Rush is my Best Supporting Actor front-runner at the moment and David Speidler’s script has a good shot at Best Original Screenplay.

Danny Boyle on the set of 127 Hours
Photo: Fox Searchlight Pictures
1Danny Boyle (127 Hours)
2David Fincher (The Social Network)
3Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech)
4Christopher Nolan (Inception)
5Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan)

However, I don’t see Hooper as the front-runner for Best Director, the same as I don’t see Fincher as front-runner either. Both Hooper and Fincher have created excellent films, but when it comes to Best Director, Danny Boyle stands out at the moment for 127 Hours. Boyle, to me, seems about as risky as the Academy is willing to get in the face of directors such as Darren Aronofsky and Christopher Nolan, both of which I see getting nominations at this time for Black Swan and Inception respectively, but they both seem a bit too visionary for the Academy. Boyle, while certainly a visionary, delivers a film dealing with the real world while Aronofsky and Nolan deal somewhere amongst the in-between.

This certainly leads to the obvious question as to whether Boyle can take home the Best Director statue two out of the last three years? Frank Capra won three out of five years from ’34-’38, John Ford won in ’40 and ’41 and Joseph L. Mankiewicz won in ’49 and ’50, but beyond those three there’s been at least two years between wins for a director since 1950, and the last time that happened was Oliver Stone in ’86 with Platoon and again in ’89 with Born on the Fourth of July. Can Boyle defy history in this sense? Right now I have him at the top of the heap, but it’s still early.

Colin Firth in The King’s Speech
Photo: The Weinstein Co.
1Colin Firth (The King’s Speech)
2Robert Duvall (Get Low)
3James Franco (127 Hours)
4Javier Bardem (Biutiful)
5Jeff Bridges (True Grit)

Moving into the acting categories we’ll start with Best Actor, which I already said I have Colin Firth in the top spot at the moment, leap-frogging Robert Duvall followed by James Franco for 127 Hours, Javier Bardem for Biutiful and Jeff Bridges in the teetering fifth spot eyed closely by several below the Bubble Line candidates that could very easily move into those final two spots.

I feel relatively confident Firth, Duvall and Franco will be nominated at this point, but I can’t commit to the fourth and fifth slots with the likes of Ryan Gosling (Blue Valentine), Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network), Jake Gyllenhaal (Love and Other Drugs) and Mark Wahlberg (The Fighter) waiting in the wings. Firth is my current #1 solely because I believe he was robbed for A Single Man and because Duvall has already won an Oscar (Tender Mercies in 1984), not to mention buzz on Duvall was high for this role about a year ago, but that’s hard to maintain.

Annette Bening in The Kids are All Right
Photo: Focus Features

On the actress side things aren’t as simple. My current #1 is Annette Bening for The Kids are All Right. She’s got a lot of buzz behind her, she’s been nominated three times and has yet to win. However, the list of names behind her is extraordinarily strong, some don’t have the buzz just yet, but in my opinion give better performances.

1Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right)
2Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
3Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole)
4Anne Hathaway (Love and Other Drugs)
5Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone)

My personal favorite at the moment is Nicole Kidman for Rabbit Hole, which was picked up out of Toronto by Lionsgate for a December release. Kidman has my #3 slot at the moment with Natalie Portman just above her in #2 for Black Swan primarily because the buzz behind Portman is a bit louder considering more people have seen Black Swan than have seen Rabbit Hole. Having seen both I believe Kidman has the stronger performance. Rounding out my top five are the as yet unseen Anne Hathaway in Love and Other Drugs and what I believe to be the young-Hollywood sentimental lock, Jennifer Lawrence for Winter’s Bone.

It’s a solid five should Hathaway’s performance live up to the chatter, but hot on their heels are the likes of Diane Lane (Secretariat), Julianne Moore (The Kids Are All Right) and Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine) not to mention several others such as Gwyneth Paltrow’s unseen performance in Country Strong and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld in the Coens’ True Grit. Steinfeld, for that matter, could take that “young-Hollywood sentimental lock” I just awarded Lawrence.

Lesley Manville in Another Year
Photo: Sony Pictures Classics
1Lesley Manville (Another Year)
2Dale Dickey (Winter’s Bone)
3Dianne Wiest (Rabbit Hole)
4Elle Fanning (Somewhere)
5Helena Bonham Carter (The King’s Speech)

Continuing on the women’s side, the Supporting Actress race is all sewn up if you ask me as Lesley Manville gives one of the best performances of the year in Mike Leigh’s Another Year. Several pundits around the web are debating over whether she’ll be pushed as supporting or lead, but she is undoubtedly supporting and Sony Classics would be fools to push her in lead against much stronger competition. However, the names behind Manville aren’t so easily sorted out.

Right now I have Dale Dickey’s menacing performance in Winter’s Bone at #2 followed by Dianne Wiest (Rabbit Hole), Elle Fanning (Somewhere) and Helena Bonham Carter (The King’s Speech). This is me just spit-balling at the moment as I am positive two or three of those names will not make the final ballot, but who will rise up is beyond me at the moment.

Geoffrey Rush in The King’s Speech
Photo: The Weinstein Co.
1Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech)
2Christian Bale (The Fighter)
3Sam Rockwell (Conviction)
4Bill Murray (Get Low)
5John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone)

On the Supporting Actor side I don’t see anyone competing with Geoffrey Rush for The King’s Speech at the moment. Combined with Firth, the two make a powerful acting duo in that film. However, like the women’s side, I don’t have any kind of a clear picture on the rest of the race.

Currently below the bubble I have the likes of John Malkovich (Secretariat), Mark Ruffalo (The Kids are All Right), Josh Brolin (True Grit), Jeremy Renner (The Town), Justin Timberlake (The Social Network) and Andrew Garfield (The Social Network). And truth be told, any one of them, or even four of them could move into the top five. The only lock at this point is Rush, though I think Rockwell will be nommed not only for a good performance in Conviction, but also the uproar over him not being nominated for Moon last year.

As the links below each chart say, you can browse my “The Contenders” section for the full prediction charts or even click here to get started. I am still working on the Adapted and Original Screenplay categories and by the time I have my next predictions update I should have those figured out.

For now, browse my complete list of predictions and share your thoughts in the comments below. We’re getting closer and closer to the time of year where movement on the prediction boards will begin to get a bit more precise as this update has several big jumps following my last batch of predictions over a month ago.