There will be few surprises and the usual dash of outrage over who gets gold as the gussied-up stars make their way through Sunday’s 83rd annual awards ceremony for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences at Los Angeles’ KodakTheatre.
Prognosticators seem to be in general agreement about favorites in most major categories.
Vote on your favorites. Download the ballot below. Also click on the photo to the right for a slideshow of the award nominees.
So without much suspense, how will I keep interested as ABC’s live broadcast — beginning at 5 p.m. PST and 8 p.m. EST — creeps toward the fourth hour? Happily, from my living room — heckling Hollywood narcissism and celebrity fashion crimes never gets old!
Will win: ‘The King’s Speech’
After the edgy “Social Network” swept the early critics’ awards, the accessible “Speech” took the major guild awards (producers, directors and screen actors). Guild memberships overlap with that of the academy, an establishment with a bias toward feel-good movies, pretty costume dramas and inspiring stories about overcoming personal challenges. The British speech therapy flick is all three. Meanwhile, the Facebook movie features young selfish characters in a realistic depiction of cynical times.
Should win: ‘The Social Network’
The two top best picture contenders were my two favorite films of 2010. Both are wittily observant as they interpret true events and say something larger about the human condition. But the originality and modernity of “Social” make it a more important film than “Speech.” “Social” captures issues of American commerce, academia, class, ego, litigation and technology in an amusing way that will enlighten future filmgoers about this era for decades.
Will win: Natalie Portman
It was a close race against Annette Bening until Portman showed off her baby bump. Oscar constituents are as unduly influenced by positive personal publicity as fans are. They have a history of picking pregnant actresses. Plus, Portman lost a lot of weight and faked the ballet moves seamlessly in “Black Swan.” Oscar loves showy thespian technique.
Should win: Natalie Portman
Luckily, she’s worthy. Indeed, it takes tremendous dedication to sculpt yourself to look so much like a specific body type, which she did. More importantly, she goes into the disturbing dark heart of an artist’s deepest emotion with a performance that carries the psychologically resonant horror story.
Will win: Colin Firth
In clichéd Oscar pundit parlance: It’s his turn. Instead of voting on one performance, as they should, academy members often consider an actor’s entire body of work. Firth has been trudging along in the British backwaters for decades until losing with his first nomination last year for the devastating “A Single Man.” He’ll beat Jeff Bridges this year with “The King’s Speech” for sure.
Should win: Colin Firth
Looking strictly at their work in these pictures, it’s a tough call between Firth’s subtle rendering of a stuttering monarch and James Franco’s moving portrayal of an isolated young hiker who undergoes spiritual and physical metamorphosis through a crisis in a canyon. I’d be happy if either won.
Best Supporting Actress
Will win: Hailee Steinfeld
Most pundits are predicting Melissa Leo, because she’s won most of the precursor awards. But most years, there’s at least one upset. This category offers the greatest chance for that. And Oscar just loves talented kiddies who steal movies like Steinfeld of “True Grit.”
Should win: Melissa Leo
She is so fierce as the misguided matriarch in the miniskirt in “The Fighter”! This veteran journeyman gives the fire and drollery to a great movie. Her multilayered character reflects a performer’s complete commitment to her craft.
Best Supporting Actor
Will win: Christian Bale
Another big star’s physical transformation: He’s believable in “The Fighter” being emaciated, a boxer and a crack addict — all in one. It’s an Oscar trifecta! He’s a shoo-in.
Should win: Christian Bale
Again, besides just the impressive surface components of his characterization, Bale finds both the buried pain and the unexpected sweetness in an addict who loves his insanely dysfunctional family. His work in “The Fighter” is like a master class.
Will win: Tom Hooper
Since “Speech” will win, so will Hooper. The director statuette usually goes to the best picture winner, as the director is most responsible for a picture’s sensibility. Also — since personalities unfortunately do play a part — Hooper is better liked among industry types than the notoriously aloof and demanding Fincher.
Should win: David Fincher
Hooper does first-rate but hardly pioneering period dramas (“John Adams” for HBO). But Fincher is unflinching, an original risk-taker who knows how to infuse film with energy. It’s hard to imagine anyone else who could make a movie (“The Social Network”) full of nerds chatting and boardroom dispositions so invigorating and provocative.
Best Original Screenplay
Will win: ‘The King’s Speech’
It’s this film’s year. It earned the most nominations, with 12, which likely means it will sweep in the lesser categories.
Should win: ‘The Kids Are All Right’
It’s not easy to write an engaging small movie about real modern family relationships with so much universal insight and gentle good humor.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Will win: ‘The Social Network’
The best movie of the year will get its only glory here. Aaron Sorkin is recognized as a genius, and his words are the obvious, crucial foundation of the film.
Should win: ‘The Social Network’
The dialogue in this script crackles with a challenging intelligence and sophisticated wit that we don’t see much in studio films anymore.
Best Animated Feature
Will win: ‘Toy Story 3’
Few of the voters probably ever even saw the obscure but very beautiful French-made “Illusionist,” and Pixar remains supreme among showbiz’s elite.
Should win: ‘Toy Story 3’
This is a hard choice. “The Illusionist” is symbolic visual poetry, but not traditionally entertaining. “TS3” has quality, meaning and mass appeal.
Best Visual Effects
Will win: ‘Inception’
Its cool computer-generated imagery doesn’t look like anything Oscar members have seen before, compared to the more conventional contenders.
Should win: ‘Inception’
So what if this overrated movie didn’t make any sense? It looked so amazing that it fooled legions of ticket buyers into thinking it did.
Should win: ‘Alice in Wonderland’
For pure invention and eye-popping surrealism, nothing beats Tim Burton’s vision, executed by legendary costumer Colleen Atwood.
Should win: 'The King's Speech'
The Academy tends to recognize period pieces in this category. And “Speech” is the big dog of the genre this year.