By Peter Knegt | Indiewire February 23, 2011 at 6:07AM
After months (and months) of speculation, prognostication and exhaustion, there are only five days to go until awards season finally ends with Oscar night. Over the past two weeks, indieWIRE has run down predictions in the foreign, animated, doc, short and music categories, and in the artistic and technical categories, but 'tis finally time to run down the big eight: acting, screenwriting, directing, and best picture of the year. For anyone looking for major drama or suspense, there is little to go around here (the real drama is here). In fact, there hasn't been much all season. Looking back at this Oscar overview from way back in September, my winner predictions remain the same with the exceptions of best actress and best supporting actress (which in September were Annette Bening and Melissa Leo, respectively... though both remain reasonable suggestions).
So let's start with the least suspenseful and work our way up. If there are two absolute certainties for Oscar night, it's Colin Firth winning best actor for "The King's Speech" and Aaron Sorkin winning best adapted screenplay for "The Social Network." They're two of the surest bets in Oscar history, with both taking essentially every precursor for which they were eligible. Either losing would definitely require hell freezing over.
Beyond those two, 73-year-old first-time nominee David Seidler ("The King's Speech") looks like a sure beat for best original screenplay (unless the Academy feels guilty for snubbing Christopher Nolan in the best director category), while Christian Bale ("The Fighter") should easily thwart BAFTA winner Geoffrey Rush to take home the best supporting actor trophy.
Betting against "The King's Speech" for best picture is also a bad idea. There's really no precedence for a film in the position of "The King's Speech" losing the big prize. It has the most nominations and won top prizes at PGA, DGA, SAG and BAFTA. Of course, that doesn't mean it can't, and former frontrunner "The Social Network" (which, prior to Guilds, won essentially everything) is definitely the film that could dethrone "Speech." But the chances are minimal.
As for best actress, "Black Swan"'s Natalie Portman is the clear frontrunner. There have been whispers that a late-in-the-game shift in momentum in the best actress race could see "The Kids Are All Right"'s Annette Bening take her down. The theory's reasoning is considerable: Bening has never won despite decades of great work, she's Hollywood royalty and she's been working the circuit with incredible charm. Is that enough to beat Portman, who has won the SAG, the Golden Globe, the Critic's Choice the BAFTA, and a good dozen critic's awards? Probably not. But if one's looking to get a shocker on Oscar night, here's a category where it's possible.
There's only two major categories in which things are up in the air. Best director sees "King's Speech" director and DGA winner Tom Hooper face off against David Fincher's "The Social Network" (honored by the Golden Globes and BAFTA). Despite Hooper's DGA win -- it's correctly predicted the Oscar winner 57 times in the DGA's 63-year history -- Fincher is the likelier winner. Doing so would give the Academy a chance to honor "The Social Network" in a big way (given that "The King's Speech" receives best picture), and to honor Fincher, who has never won despite two decades of acclaimed work. It's the night's truest two-horse race and could go either way. Whispers from those in the know say most Academy members are opting for Fincher, suggestively giving us the first Picture/Director split since 2005's "Brokeback"/"Crash" debacle.
The best supporting actress category might look like it has a frontrunner, but really doesn't. Melissa Leo ("The Fighter") won SAG and the Golden Globes, a mighty combination. The last supporting actress to win both and lose the Oscar was Lauren Bacall in 1996, when Juliette Binoche shocked everyone (including herself) by winning for "The English Patient." It could happen again -- not only is there the risk of Leo splitting the vote with co-star Amy Adams, but there's also her bizarre campaign move in which she took out her own faux-fur heavy "for your consideration" ads.
One of Leo's greatest threats is "True Grit" star Hailee Steinfeld, the 13-year-old newcomer who is excellent in what is truly a lead role (which often helps in this category). I have gone back and forth between predicting Leo or Steinfeld over the past few weeks, but in the end, my final prediction is definitely the most risky one I'll make: Helena Bonham Carter for "The King's Speech." Like Binoche, Carter is a big international name and is starring in a Harvey Weinstein-produced best picture frontrunner. She's well-liked and has been a pleasant presence on the campaigning circuit (particularly with her adorable BAFTA speech). Leo and Steinfeld are both very, very possible, but something tells me Carter has the goods to upset them. It'll be one of the night's first awards so if it happens, expect to hear "The King's Speech" announced on that stage many more times to come.
Tomorrow, indieWIRE will offer a rundown of the "who will win"'s and "who should wins" from dozens of bloggers and critics - for both the Oscars and the Spirit Awards, which happen on the Saturday prior to Oscar night. In the meantime, here's our official predictions:
The nominees: Black Swan; The Fighter; Inception; The Kids Are All Right; The King's Speech; 127 Hours; The Social Network; Toy Story 3; True Grit; Winter's Bone
What will win: The King's Speech
What might win: The Social Network
What should win: True Grit
What shoulda been a contender: Another Year
The nominees: Darren Aronofsky; Joel & Ethan Coen; David Fincher; Tom Hooper; David O. Russell
Who will win: David Fincher
Who might win: Tom Hooper
Who should win: Darren Aronofsky
Who shoulda been a contender: Roman Polanski
The nominees: Annette Bening; Nicole Kidman; Jennifer Lawrence; Natalie Portman; Michelle Williams
Who will win: Natalie Portman
Who might win: Annette Bening
Who should win: Any of them: This has been an incredible year for actresses and this is an amazing lineup.
Who shoulda been a contender: Lesley Manville and Tilda Swinton
The nominees: Javier Bardem; Jeff Bridges; Jesse Eisenberg; Colin Firth; James Franco
What will win: Colin Firth
What might win: N/A
What should win: Colin Firth
What shoulda been a contender: Ryan Gosling
Best Supporting Actress
The nominees: Amy Adams; Helena Bonham Carter; Melissa Leo; Hailee Steinfeld; Jacki Weaver
Who will win: Helena Bonham Carter
Who (definitely) might win: Melissa Leo or Hailee Steinfeld
Who should win: Jacki Weaver
Who shoulda been a contender: Olivia Williams
Best Supporting Actor
The nominees: Christian Bale; John Hawkes; Jeremy Renner; Mark Ruffalo; Geoffrey Rush
Who will win: Christian Bale
Who might win: Geoffrey Rush
Who should win: Mark Ruffalo
Who shoulda been a contender: Matt Damon
Best Original Screenplay
The nominees: Another Year; The Fighter; Inception; The Kids Are All Right; The King's Speech
What will win: The King's Speech
What might win: Inception
What should win: The Kids Are All Right or Another Year
What shoulda been a contender: Please Give
Best Adapted Screenplay
The nominees: 127 Hours; The Social Network; Toy Story 3; True Grit; Winter's Bone
What will win: The Social Network
What might win: N/A
What should win: Winter's Bone
What shoulda been a contender: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
Previous editions of this column:
For Your Consideration: Final Oscar Winner Predictions, Part II
For Your Consideration: Final Oscar Winner Predictions, Part I
For Your Consideration: Sundance and Next Year's Oscars
For Your Consideration: Final 2011 Oscar Nomination Predictions
For Your Consideration: Guessing The Golden Globes
For Your Consideration: If I Had An Oscar Ballot...
For Your Consideration: 60 Women That Defined "The Year of the Actress"
For Your Consideration: A Mid-December Stab at Oscar Predictions
For Your Consideration: A Guide To The Oscar Precursors
For Your Consideration: The 10 Biggest Surprises of the Spirit Award Nominations
For Your Consideration: The 10 Worst Original Song Oscar Snubs of the Past 10 Years
For Your Consideration: A Mid-November Stab at Oscar Predictions
For Your Consideration: Gauging a Crowded and Female-Friendly Spirit Award Field
For Your Consideration: Could a Documentary Be Nominated For Best Picture?
For Your Consideration: Assessing Those Gotham Award Nominations
For Your Consideration: 10 Underdog Actors
For Your Consideration: 10 Underdog Actresses
For Your Consideration: Save For "Love" Snub, Foreign Language Submissions Uncontroversial
For Your Consideration: Post-Toronto Oscar Predictions
For Your Consideration: Updating Oscar Contenders In The Eye of The Storm
For Your Consideration: 10 Things The Fall Fests Should Say About Awards Season
For Your Consideration: Assessing Oscar In The Calm Before The Storm