2011 Academy Awards predictions

By Drew Hunt

Actor in a leading role:

Javier Bardem in “Biutiful”

Jeff Bridges in “True Grit”

Jesse Eisenberg in “The Social Network”

Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech”

James Franco in “127 Hours”

Who will win: Colin Firth. And it won’t be because he’s the only actor nominated whose name doesn’t start with a J. It’ll be because it’s a strong performance in a popular film that seems to be gaining ground as a shoe-in for Best Picture. If he does indeed win, perhaps this will be the Academy’s way of making up for not giving him the Oscar for “A Single Man,” a far better performance in a more sophisticated film than “The King’s Speech.”

Who should win: Jesse Eisenberg. Effectively taking every single Michael Cera comparison thrown his way and tossing it aside with the grace of a seasoned veteran, Eisenberg’s portrayal of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is brimming with gravitas. He could have easily delivered a caricature and let Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay do all the talking, but he instead embodied a character whose contemptuousness may go on to define a generation.

Actor in a supporting role:

Christian Bale in “The Fighter”

John Hawkes in “Winter’s Bone”

Jeremy Renner in “The Town”

Mark Ruffalo in “The Kids Are All Right”

Geoffrey Rush in “The King’s Speech”

Who will win: Christian Bale. He was a clear favorite at The Golden Globes, and the buzz hasn’t stopped there. Many consider his performance in “The Fighter” one of the film’s more notable qualities. The film has little chance of winning Best Picture, so this award could act as some sort of consolation prize.

Who should win: Mark Ruffalo. Ruffalo has long been dependable when it came to strong supporting roles. In recent years, he seems to have found his footing in character work. As Paul in “The Kids Are All Right,” he provides sincerity to a character that, in lesser hands, would have been an overly antagonistic person. Though he may be the film’s de facto villain, Ruffalo never oversells it and keeps the character grounded in earnestness. He’s a hardhat-and-lunch pail kind of actor; it’s high time he’s recognized for his consistently great work.

Actress in a leading role:

Annette Bening in “The Kids Are All Right”

Nicole Kidman in “Rabbit Hole”

Jennifer Lawrence in “Winter’s Bone”

Natalie Portman in “Black Swan”

Michelle Williams in “Blue Valentine”

Who will win: Natalie Portman. With an Oscar win, Portman will have swept each of the major acting awards for her daring performance as Nina in “Black Swan,” a film that finds the starlet stepping out and tackling a character seemingly incongruous to her persona. It’s hard not to admire what is surely a most brazen career move. Even when playing a character as decidedly unglamorous as Nina, Portman fills the screen with infectious grace.

Who should win: Jennifer Lawrence. It’s hard to imagine “Winter’s Bone” being nearly as successful as it is without Lawrence playing Ree Dolly, the film’s heroine and driving force behind a most fragile narrative. She provides so much to a film that relies more on setting and image to elicit intrigue, making it equally as reflective in its storytelling.

Actress in a supporting role:

Amy Adams in “The Fighter”

Helena Bonham Carter in “The King’s Speech”

Melissa Leo in “The Fighter”

Hailee Steinfeld in “True Grit”

Jacki Weaver in “Animal Kingdom”

Who will win: Hailee Stanfield. For this category, the Academy tends to award spirited newcomers. Stanfield fits that bill perfectly. If she wins, she’ll be the first actress to win a Best Supporting Oscar despite appearing in virtually every single scene in her film. Her turn as the fiery Mattie Ross is a lead performance through and through, but her status as a youngster essentially placed her at the kid’s table.

Who should win: Jacki Weaver. Her performance in this Australian gangster film is effortlessly impressive. As the matriarch of an extended crime family, she’s gentle and intimidating in equal measure. It’s a deceptively demanding role that requires quicksilver changes in tonality. Weaver never misses a beat.

Best director:

Darren Aronofsky: “Black Swan”

David O. Russell: “The Fighter”

Tom Hooper: “The King’s Speech”

David Fincher: “The Social Network”

Joel and Ethan Coen: “True Grit”

Who will win: Tom Hooper. History proves whoever wins Best Director at the Director’s Guild of America Awards eventually goes on to win the Oscar. It’s happened something like 90 percent of time, and there’s little to suggest this year will be any exception.

Who should win: Darren Aronofsky. For all its grandiosity, “Black Swan” is the work of a focused filmmaker with a distinct vision. His stylistically advanced depiction of mental turmoil is masterful. The film feels as if it could fall apart at any moment, yet never stops plowing through its sometimes overly conceptual narrative. From the grandiosity of the imagery to the nuances of the subtext, Aronofsky is keenly aware of every detail.

Best picture:

“Black Swan”: Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver and Scott Franklin, producers

“The Fighter”: David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman and Mark

Wahlberg, producers

“Inception”: Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan, producers

“The Kids Are All Right”: Gary Gilbert, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and Celine

Rattray, producers

“The King’s Speech”: Iain Canning, Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin,


“127 Hours”: Christian Colson, Danny Boyle and John Smithson, producers

“The Social Network”: Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca and Cean Chaffin, producers

“Toy Story 3”: Darla K. Anderson, producer

“True Grit”: Scott Rudin, Joel and Ethan Coen, producers

“Winter’s Bone”: Anne Rosellini and Alix

Madigan-Yorkin, producers

What will win: “The King’s Speech.” Because it fits the narrative of the Oscars to a T: a lavishly produced period piece with a humanist message that paints a nice picture for the Academy and the image it puts forth. It’s possible they could pull a fast one, a la “No Country for Old Men,” but seeing how they gave the award to “The Hurt Locker” last year, don’t expect the Academy to step out on a limb two years in a row.

What should win: “Black Swan.” Because of their station as smaller indie fare, it would have been near impossible to imagine films like “Winter’s Bone” and “The Kids Are All Right” as possible best picture winners, but they’re rightfully represented here next to the requisite studio drivel (“Inception,” “The Fighter”) and Oscar standbys (The Coen Brothers and Pixar). For a film so conceptual, there are morsels of illumination sprinkled generously throughout its tawdriness. Rarely has a film so eloquently catered to the intellectual and primal

aspects of cinema.