The Kids Are All Right
Toy Story 3
The King's Speech
The Social Network
You'll notice that I haven't changed much here; that's namely because nothing's really changed my mind. Black Swan still seems too outre to get in without unaminous support (that won't arrive until at least the end of November), and despite decent reviews, middling box office (i.e., not becoming a hit of The Blind Side-level proportions) will most likely keep Secretariat from making much of an impact here. Winter's Bone is gaining momentum, but I can't see it being more than a big nominee at the Indie Spirit Awards, and Blue Valentine, though fantastic-looking and probably very worthy, doesn't seem like it will be seen by enough people. And even though The Way Back is getting a very small, last-minute qualifying release, I still don't have much faith in it; it didn't work for The New World in 2005, and I don't see it working for this film. I've dropped Somewhere, though, since reviews haven't been kind on the festival circuit. So I'm going with True Grit instead: it's buzz is building, and the stunning trailers indicate that the Coen Brothers have crafted yet another classic.
Tom Hooper, The King's Speech
Christopher Nolan, Inception
David Fincher, The Social Network
Mike Leigh, Another Year
Danny Boyle, 127 Hours
I haven't made any changes to this category, but only because no one else has really convinced me otherwise. I feel really good about Hooper, Nolan, Boyle, and Fincher; at this point they feel like locks even without precursor awards. I'm not completely convinced on Leigh, especially since most of his film's attention has been focused on Lesley Manville's performance rather than on Leigh's direction. David O. Russell (The Fighter) is the most likely candidate to replace Leigh, but if Black Swan picks up Best Picture traction, expect Darren Aronofsky to make the cut as well.
James Franco, 127 Hours
Colin Firth, The King's Speech
Mark Wahlberg, The Fighter
Robert Duvall, Get Low
Ryan Gosling, Blue Valentine
I'm dropping Javier Bardem from the line-up, since it's seeming more and more like voters won't be in the mood to sit through two-and-a-half hours of miserablism for more than just the Foreign Language nomination that Biutiful should earn. However, I'm not necessarily buying Jeff Bridges for True Grit yet; he just won, and it doesn't seem likely that they'll nominate him again this year. However, don't rule him out just yet: he looks really good in the film, and if the love continues, he's a shoo-in. For now, though, I'm returning to Gosling, who supposedly gives a performance so powerful he's one-half of the reason the film earned an NC-17 rating (the other half being Michelle Williams). The tiny-release strategy tends to benefit actors more than the films themselves, so it's not completely impossible.
Anne Hathaway, Love & Other Drugs
Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
Lesley Manville, Another Year
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
The Best Actress race is becoming increasingly crowded, and at this point any number of women could find themselves here. I haven't made any changes, since Portman, Manville, and Bening have proven their merits, Hathaway has received raves from her film's few screenings, and the Rabbit Hole trailer has proven that Kidman is more than a safe choice. But Jennifer Lawrence (Winter's Bone), Julianne Moore (The Kids Are All Right), Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine), Sally Hawkins (Made in Dagenham), and even Gwenyth Paltrow (Country Strong; she'll be performing live at several country music events this fall as promotion) are all strong contenders as well. It's a tight race that should prove to be exciting this year.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Christian Bale, The Fighter
Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush, The King's Speech
Sam Rockwell, Conviction
Justin Timberlake, The Social Network
After months of resistance, I can no longer avoid it: I'm predicting Timberlake as a nominee. He's showy, he's charismatic, and most importantly, he's actually really good. Unfortunately, this will most likely come at the expense of his equally fantastic co-star, Andrew Garfield. Otherwise, I'm keeping this category the same, since it's an unusually weak category this year, with very little competition.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Helena Bonham Carter, The King's Speech
Barbara Hershey, Black Swan
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom
Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
This is the most wide-open category, with no sure things other than Bonham Carter. I'm sticking with Leo and Hershey, since they're both in maternal roles that Oscar voters love so much. I'm dropping Dianne Weist, though, but I'm not completely convinced I should yet, and I can't keep up the Elle Fanning nomination anymore; it just doesn't seem likely. I'm replacing them with Weaver, who is phenomenal in Animal Kingdom (my review), and since her film was one of the first screeners mailed to voters, she'll certainly be seen. I'm also including Steinfeld, who appears to give a wonderful and assured performance well beyond her 13 years in the True Grit trailers. Plus, this is a category that young actresses tend to be nominated in (See: Abigail Breslin, 2006; Saoirse Ronan, 2007).