Will The King's Speech stage a royal flush at the 83rd Annual Academy Awards? Or will The Social Network prove to have the most friends in all the right Hollywood places? We'll find out Sunday, but for now, let's make some predictions. So put on your thinking caps, bust out your ballot, make your picks and compare them to ours below while we count down to the big night.
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Oscar nominees: Who should win?
Who will win: The King's Speech
Oh, how the tides have turned. Just five weeks ago, The Social Network was the one to beat after making a near clean sweep of the critics awards, including wins at the Broadcast Film Critics Awards and the Golden Globes. But then the industry awards were handed out, and The King's Speech — whose heart-tugging, uplifting tone is a throwback to traditional Oscar favorites of yesteryear — made its own sweep of the Producers Guild Awards, the Directors Guild Awards and the Screen Actors Guild Awards (its screenplay wasn't eligible at the Writers Guild Awards.) Now with a leading 12 nominations, the Oscar is its to lose.
Watch out for: The Social Network
The zeitgeist-y drama still has its fervent supporters, but its subversive cautionary tale isn't as easy to embrace as The King's Speech's story of triumph over adversity. In many ways, the two are complete opposites: British vs. American. Inherited fortune vs. self-made fortune. Likable characters vs. unlikable characters. Friendship-forming vs. friendship-ending. While it's surprising how swiftly momentum has turned, it's not the first time a critical darling was taken down in the home stretch. L.A. Confidential made a mini-sweep of the critics' awards 13 years ago, before Titanic sunk it on the big night.
Did you know? Only one film has won the PGA, DGA and SAG and then failed to win Best Picture at the Oscars: 1995's Apollo 13.
Who will win: David Fincher, The Social Network
There's only been a picture-director split 21 times in Oscar history and it looks likely that another will happen this year. Fincher may have lost the DGA, one of the best Oscar predictors, but he's a household name, is considered overdue and won the BAFTA. Think about that. On a predictably huge night for The King's Speech (it won seven trophies), the Brits gave out its director award to an American.
Watch out for: Tom Hooper, The King's Speech
Hooper has his upset DGA win and the advantage of helming the Best Picture favorite, but this race may play out similarly to that of 2002, when Roman Polanski (The Pianist), the respected (work-wise, at least) veteran, toppled Rob Marshall (Chicago), the DGA winner and Oscar newbie.
Did you know? Since its inception in 1949, the DGA has mismatched with Oscar a mere six times.
Who will win: Colin Firth, The King's SpeechThe coronation is nearly complete. Firth's been dominant in the precursors, taking the BFCA, Globe, SAG and BAFTA, among others, and his coiled, pained portrayal of the stammering duke-turned-king marks a career high, following a nomination last year for A Single Man. Watch out for: James Franco, 127 HoursFranco's lively, moving performance is the best one-man show since Tom Hanks in Cast Away. And he didn't have a volleyball to work off either. Franco has said he partially decided to co-host the Oscars to take his mind off his nomination, but a host triumphing is not unprecedented: David Niven won Best Actor for 1958's Separate Tables while co-hosting.Did you know? Only one person has lost the Oscar after winning the BFCA, Globe, SAG and BAFTA: Russell Crowe for 2001's A Beautiful Mind.Actress
Who will win: Natalie Portman, Black SwanLike Firth, Portman has also won the BFCA, Globe, SAG and BAFTA, putting her in great position for her first Oscar. While detractors have criticized her for her often one-note turn in the psychological thriller, the sheer intensity of her performance will be too much to ignore. Voters also love transformative performances, especially in this category (see: Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron, Reese Witherspoon, Marion Cotillard, Helen Mirren and Hilary Swank x 2).Watch out for: Annette Bening, The Kids Are All RightThe four-time nominee, who lost her last two Oscar contests to Swank, has been working the circuit the past few weeks, reminding everyone of her nuanced, subtle turn in the indie hit. She also has the intangibles on her side: overdue factor, being Hollywood royalty and serving on the Academy's Board of Governors. Did you know? It's no secret that the Academy loves honoring young babes, but just how partial are they to twentysomethings? (Portman is 29.) Only one woman in her 50s has won lead actress: Shirley Booth, who was 54 when she took home the gold for 1952's Come Back, Little Sheba. Bening is 52.
Who will win: Christian Bale, The FighterLoud, brash, and totally committed, Bale steals the show from Mark Wahlberg in the boxing drama, and his "drug addict who finds redemption" role is an Oscar archetype staple. Of course, his awards haul (BFCA, Globe, SAG, critics wins) doesn't hurt — neither will the fact that people may be surprised to learn that this is his first Oscar nomination.Watch out for: Geoffrey Rush, The King's SpeechRush, a Best Actor winner for 1996's Shine, is the heart and soul of The King's Speech — a charming delight who, like Bale, also steals the show from his leading man. He defeated Bale at the BAFTAs, which, at first glance, may not seem surprising, given the film's premise and origin. But remember that Rush is Australian and Bale is British.Did you know? If Rush were to win, he would be the seventh man to win both lead and supporting actor awards, following (in order) Jack Lemmon, Robert De Niro, Jack Nicholson, Gene Hackman, Kevin Spacey and Denzel Washington.Supporting ActressWho will win: Hailee Steinfeld, True GritThough she's claimed most of the precursors, Melissa Leo is the shakiest front-runner in a notoriously unpredictable category. Also suspect: She wasn't even nominated at the BAFTAs. But perhaps what may hurt her most are her ill-conceived, self-paid "FYC" ads, in which she dons sequins and faux fur, and poses by a pool. That could all morph into a win for Steinfeld, whose steely, precocious Mattie went toe-to-toe with dudes (and The Dude) more than twice her age in the Western. (True Grit, by the way, earned 10 nods — the second-most of any film.) The 14-year-old, who would be Oscar's third-youngest acting winner, is also arguably a lead in the film, and extra screen time never hurts.Watch out for: Melissa Leo, The FighterLeo's feisty boxing mama is still a force to be reckoned with, and unlike the Best Actress race, this category is kinder to fiftysomethings (Leo's 50): Four women in their 50s have won.
Did you know? If Bale and Leo both win, it would be the first time in 24 years that actors from the same film swept the supporting categories. The supporting sweep has only occurred seven times: A Streetcar Named Desire, From Here to Eternity, Sayonara, West Side Story, The Last Picture Show, Julia and Hannah and Her Sisters.