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And the winners will be …

Published: February 18, 2011
Section: Arts, Etc., Top Stories

To paraphrase a wise man, nothing in life is certain save for death, taxes … and the Academy Awards. Just as most Brandeis students will be returning to campus on Feb. 27, the 83rd iteration of the Oscars will be underway. Like every other year, this telecast—to be hosted by James Franco and Anne Hathaway—promises to be both delightful and infuriating.

Predicting the winners has become much easier as more and more awards programs have sprung up in recent years. Of course, the occasional surprise still occurs—just think of “Crash” beating “Brokeback Mountain” for Best Picture in 2005. So, taking the possibility of a few surprises into account, here are my predictions in the top categories.

Best Director

Historically, whoever directs the Best Picture winner almost always takes the director’s prize. This year, however, things are a little cloudier than usual. Director Tom Hooper has received plenty of acclaim for his direction of “The King’s Speech,” the most likely winner for Best Picture; however, this is only his third feature film, and he’s primarily known for his television work. In light of this, “The Social Network” director David Fincher—known for directing iconic films like “Seven” and “Fight Club”—may well take the prize. The other nominees—Darren Aronofsky (“Black Swan”), David O. Russell (“The Fighter”), and Ethan and Joel Coen (“True Grit”)—are almost equally prolific, but their films lack the same momentum as Fincher’s.

Will win: David Fincher, “The Social Network”
Could win: Tom Hooper, “The King’s Speech”

Best Picture

Though this marks the second year in which 10 films are in competition, this category is really a two-horse race between “The Social Network” and “The King’s Speech.” Initially “The Social Network” appeared to be the favorite; this dark, modern morality tale won virtually every critics’ prize. However, a recent turnaround occured in recent weeks, as “The King’s Speech” won award after award from the Hollywood guilds and also did big business at the box office. That, combined with the academy’s predillection for prestige films, seems to seal the film’s position as the frontrunner. The only film that could come out of nowhere to win at this point is “The Fighter,” which, with its strong ensemble, appears to be strong with the acting branch. For my money, though, the dark fairy tale “Black Swan” deserves to win this one.

Best Actress

Many expected Annette Bening to finally win for her nuanced performance in “The Kids Are All Right;” she had been widely expected to win in 1999 for “American Beauty” and then in 2004 for “Being Julia,” but, in both instances, she lost to Hilary Swank. While Swank isn’t nominated this year, it doesn’t look like Bening will be able to eke out a win after all. Instead, Natalie Portman’s career-defining turn in “Black Swan” is almost guaranteed to win. Bening can take comfort in the fact that she’s part of one of the strongest fields of nominees in this category in recent years; in addition to Portman, she’s joined by Nicole Kidman as a grieving mother in “Rabbit Hole,” Michelle Williams as half of a crumbling marriage in “Blue Valentine” and Jennifer Lawrence as a young woman trying to save her family from foreclosure in “Winter’s Bone.”

Best Actor

This year’s slate of Best Actor nominees includes Colin Firth and Jeff Bridges, both of whom received nominations in this category last year. While Bridges won that contest for his work in “Crazy Heart,” Firth will receive his award this year for his stirring performance as stuttering King George VI in “The King’s Speech.” After years of strong work, nominees James Franco and Jesse Eisenberg finally received recognition for “127 Hours” and “The Social Network,” respectively, but both appear too young to win this category, which usually favors veteran actors. Fellow nominee Javier Bardem, meanwhile, looks unlikely to win for his little-seen work in “Biutiful.”

Best Supporting Actress

It seemed like Melissa Leo had this category in the bag thanks to her performance as a larger-than-life mother in “The Fighter.” However, just as ballots were mailed out, she launched a personal ad campaign that made her seem overly desperate. Now she appears to be in a dead heat with Hailee Steinfeld, the 14-year-old star of “True Grit.” Considering that Steinfeld’s performance is in no way supporting, she really shouldn’t be in this category; that probably won’t be of concern to voters, though. Amy Adams could also be a threat, thanks to her tough performance in “The Fighter.” Helena Bonham Carter is unlikely to win due to the small size of her role in “The King’s Speech,” while voters probably see Jacki Weaver’s nomination for her work in “Animal Kingdom” as reward enough.

Best Supporting Actor

Christian Bale won virtually every award for his performance in “The Fighter” this year. His role required him to lose weight and acquire a Boston accent; the Oscars love actors who transform themselves. He appears unbeatable. His closest competition is Geoffrey Rush, who brought a quiet humanity to his character in “The King’s Speech.” Considering Rush already won, however, he appears unlikely to surprise. Mark Ruffalo certainly deserves recognition for his portrayal of a dude-ish sperm donor in “The Kids Are All Right,” while fellow nominees John Hawkes and Jeremy Renner gave acclaimed performances in “Winter’s Bone” and “The Town,” respectively.