Despite a Best Picture list featuring talking toys, Facebook feuds and black-winged beasts, what’s most surprising about this year’s Oscar nominations is how unsurprising the choices are.
The 83rd Academy Awards nominations were released last week, before the Feb. 27 ceremony. King George VI’s biopic “The King’s Speech” led the pack with 12 nominations, followed by 10 for the Coen brothers’ Western remake “True Grit” and eight for David Fincher’s website saga “The Social Network.”
While many worthy talents were recognized this year, the ballot contains a lot of safe choices and some small snubs to sort through.
The Oracle breaks down the nominations by predicting winners in the five major categories, as well as musing on the nominations themselves.
Most likely to win: “The Social Network”
Even with fewer nominations than “True Grit” or “The King’s Speech,” it seems like “The Social Network” has this category locked in for its telling of how Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook.
The movie is certainly timely, as the website continues to collect an untold number of visits and Zuckerberg was named TIME’s 2010 “Person of the Year.”
The picture has already scooped several Golden Globe awards, including Best Motion Picture, Drama.
In a year where big blockbuster fare like “Inception” are nominated alongside purely prestige pictures, “The Social Network” also offers a middle ground – a critically acclaimed film that still earned $22 million in its opening weekend.
“The Kids Are All Right”
“The King’s Speech”
“Toy Story 3”
Most likely to win: David Fincher, “The Social Network”
After receiving an obligatory nod for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and total dismissals for “Zodiac” and “Fight Club,” Fincher seems primed to finally win a directing Oscar with “The Social Network.”
The movie demonstrates Fincher’s directorial talents, whether they’re making dialogue-heavy moments seem kinetic or depicting the Winklevoss twins through special effects.
His closest competition is first time nominee Darren Aronofsky for “Black Swan.” The Coen brothers’ 2007 win for “No Country for Old Men” is probably too close in the rearview for the duo’s well-crafted “True Grit” to be considered.
The Academy could’ve easily tossed out David O. Russell and Tom Hopper for more exciting choices – perhaps Edgar Wright for “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” or even enigmatic street artist Banksy for his documentary, “Exit Through the Gift Shop.”
Darren Aronoskfy, “Black Swan”
Joel and Ethan Coen, “True Grit”
Tom Hooper, “The King’s Speech”
David O. Russell, “The Fighter”
Best Actor in a Leading Role:
Most likely to win: Colin Firth, “The King’s Speech”
After earning his first nomination last year for “A Single Man,” Firth will likely take an Oscar home the second time around for his portrayal of King George VI. Firth already won this category in the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild awards, and by delicately depicting the king’s stuttering condition, “The King’s Speech” seems to have this one big prize cinched.
Though “The Social Network” is shaping up to be this year’s big winner, Jesse Eisenberg’s comedic “Adventureland” and “Zombieland” persona could easily overshadow his performance as Zuckerberg.
This category’s snubs include Jim Carrey’s wonderfully deft turn in the little-seen “I Love You Phillip Morris” and Ryan Gosling’s powerful performance in “Blue Valentine.”
Javier Bardem, “Biutiful”
Jeff Bridges, “True Grit”
Jesse Eisenberg, “The Social Network”
James Franco, “127 Hours”
Best Actress in a Leading Role:
Most likely to win: Natalie Portman, “Black Swan”
The Best Actress nominations offer perhaps the strongest selection of the major categories, with well-deserved nods for Michelle Williams in “Blue Valentine” and Jennifer Lawrence in “Winter’s Bone.”
But this year appears to belong to Natalie Portman and her portrayal of Nina Sayers, a ballerina living a fevered dream in “Black Swan.”
The role is a demanding one filled with emotional volatility and body mutilation – as well as existing in an unreliable narrative – that Portman pulls off with aplomb.
Her latest big-budget comedies “No Strings Attached” and “Your Highness” might not suggest the pedigree of an Oscar winner, but she’s nonetheless likely to take home a golden statue this year.
Annette Benning, “The Kids Are All Right”
Nicole Kidman, “Rabbit Hole”
Jennifer Lawrence, “Winter’s Bone”
Michelle Williams, “Blue Valentine”
Best Writing (Original Screenplay) nominees:
Most likely to win: “The Kids Are All Right,” Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Bloomberg
Since the Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay) win is almost assuredly a lock for “The West Wing” writer Aaron Sorkin for his “The Social Network” script, the more interesting question is which original screenplay will win.
Cholodenko’s film “The Kids Are All Right” could win for its story of a lesbian couple’s household disrupted by the birth father’s appearance – but it’s also competing against 10-years-in-the-making “Inception” and Oscar-frontrunner “The King’s Speech.”
The movie is also hindered by a July theatrical release date that has given voters nearly seven months to forget about it.
Yet the Academy likes believing it’s progressive from time to time, meaning the movie’s parental protagonists and bedroom dynamics might edge it towards a win.
“Another Year,” Mike Leigh
“The Fighter,” Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson (screenplay); Keith Dorrington, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson (story)
“Inception,” Christopher Nolan
“The King’s Speech,” Daniel Seidler