The 83rd Academy Awards begin tonight at 8pm ET on ABC -- and will honor the best in film for 2010. Having seen all the movies in the top categories and all the nominated performances, I offer up my predictions with some level of confidence.
Like I said last year, I'd love to be right -- but I also love to be surprised. The most memorable Oscar shows have always been the ones with some upsets. With that said, here are my predictions (in purple)...
2/28 update -- winners in red
The Kids are All Right
The King's Speech - winner
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
For the second year in a row, we have a staggering 10 best picture noms -- after 5 was the norm for decades. But even with the added films, the race is down to just two -- The King's Speech and The Social Network. The latter was the early favorite, but was released in October -- losing steam as the awards season kicked into high gear. So, watch for the very worthy The King's Speech to take the top prize. The Oscar voters skew older, so the WWII-timed story should strike a chord more than the one about the relatively new Facebook creation. Meanwhile, my favorite movie of 2010, Toy Story 3, will have to settle for the best animated feature award (see below).
Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan)
David O. Russell (The Fighter)
Tom Hooper (The King's Speech) - winner
David Fincher (The Social Network)
Joel and Ethan Coen (True Grit)
This race is down to the same two movies -- and it's even a tighter race. Second-time nominee Fincher (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) may squeak out a win over relative newcomer Hooper -- even though the latter took the Directors Guild prize. But again, some years a sweep occurs -- so don't be surprised if Hooper walks home with trophy. Either way, both men are very deserving.
Javier Bardem (Biutiful)
Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network)
Colin Firth (The King's Speech) - winner
James Franco (127 Hours)
Jeff Bridges (True Grit)
Bridges (Crazy Heart) beat Firth (A Single Man) in the same category last year, so it's time for Firth to get his sweet revenge. No contest this year. Firth turned in a great performance as the stuttering British monarch in The King's Speech -- and will hold that trophy high late in the evening.
Annette Bening (The Kids are All Right)
Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole)
Jennifer Lawrence (Winter's Bone)
Natalie Portman (Black Swan) - winner
Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine)
This race is closer than you think. The Black Swan's Portman has received most of the attention for her harrowing turn as a ballerina suffering from a mental collapse. But Bening was amazing in her role as a lesbian mother trying to keep her family together. When I left the theater after seeing The Kids Are All Right, I turned to my friend and said, "I forgot how great an actress Bening is!" She's come close to winning this award before -- so the Academy may honor her here. But I think Portman still maintains the edge.
Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale (The Fighter) - winner
John Hawkes (Winter's Bone)
Jeremy Renner (The Town)
Mark Ruffalo (The Kids are All Right)
Geoffrey Rush (The King's Speech)
Bale totally transformed himself to play a crack-addicted former boxing hero in The Fighter -- a truly mesmerizing performance. He should win over Rush who was excellent as the speech therapist in The King's Speech. Once again, though -- a strong tide for The King's Speech could reverse the results.
Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams (The Fighter)
Helena Bonham Carter (The King's Speech)
Melissa Leo (The Fighter) - winner
Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit)
Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom)
Much talk has been made that Leo has turned off voters with her shameless self-campaigning. Others suggest that she and Fighter co-star Adams will split the vote. But I still think she'll ride the wave of her previous wins at the other award shows and capture the Oscar. It will be a well-deserved win for her excellent portrayal of a head-strong mother. But this category is notorious for being the one with the most surprises on the big night. So, don't be shocked if 14-year-old newcomer Steinfeld wins for her gritty performance in True Grit.
Best Original Screenplay
Another Year (Mike Leigh)
The Fighter (Paul Attanasio, Lewis Colich, Eric Johnson, Scott Silverand Paul Tamasy)
Inception (Christopher Nolan)
The Kids are All Right (Stuart Blumberg and Lisa Cholodenko)
The King's Speech (David Seidler) - winner
Look for The King's Speech to add to its trophy case here. It's a great historical story intertwined with one of true friendship -- the type of uplifting film that the Academy loves. I thought the writing in Another Year was equally exceptional -- but Inception is the dark horse with its truly unique story.
127 Hours (Simon Beaufoy and Danny Boyle)
The Social Network (Aaron Sorkin) - winner
Toy Story 3 (Michael Arndt, story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich)
True Grit (Joel Coen and Ethan Coen)
Winter's Bone (Debra Granik and Anne Rossellini)
Famed TV writer Sorkin (The West Wing) stepped up his game for the intriguing Social Network -- and the film's win here will be a nice consolation prize for losing in the Best Picture category. How could the Academy pass on such brilliant, quickfire dialogue? I must say that is a shame that the absorbing 127 Hours will be shutout in the main categories tonight.
Best Animated Feature
How to Train Your Dragon
Toy Story 3 - winner
No contest here. How to Train Your Dragon was good, not great. And The Illusionist was beautiful to look at, but a bit short on story. With its equally great story and top-notch animation, Toy Story 3 was my favorite movie of the year -- and those geniuses at Pixar/Disney will deservedly win here.