I'll be honest with you: over the years, I've had pretty good success predicting who would win Oscars (especially in the "Big 8" categories), but not a great deal of success predicting who would be nominated in the first place. Of course, that's never stopped me from giving my opinion on who I think will or should get a nod. And so, without further ado, here are my thoughts—I'm loathe to call them predictions—on who will get that coveted wake-up call at 5:30 tomorrow morning.
As in most categories, there are a couple of shoo-ins and a few slots still up in the air. Golden Globe winner Colin Firth (The King's Speech) is basically guaranteed his second nod in as many years for his critically acclaimed performance as King George VI. Another safe bet is Jesse Eisenberg as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network. Critics and audiences alike loved this film, and I expect it will be shown a lot of love by the Academy as well.
The other three slots are sort of up for grabs, though: Jeff Bridges (True Grit), James Franco (127 Hours), Mark Wahlberg (The Fighter), Robert Duvall (Get Low), and Kevin Spacey (Casino Jack) are all real contenders, and a dark horse candidate like Ryan Gosling (Blue Valentine) or Javier Bardem (Biutiful) could sneak his way onto the shortlist. My guess is Bridges, Franco, and Wahlberg will probably get the nods, but this will be a fun category to watch.
Everyone seems to agree that Annette Bening's performance in The Kids Are All Right was more than alright and should earn her her fourth Oscar nomination. Most would also agree that Natalie Portman's tour de force performance in Black Swan is not only a shoo-in, but the favorite to actually win the award. Although few people have seen the movies so far, Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole) and Jennifer Lawrence (Winter's Bone) have topped many critics' lists and will probably make the cut. That leaves the remaining spot to be filled by Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine) or Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit), with an outside chance that Julianne Moore (The Kids Are All Right) or Noomi Rapace (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) will sneak in there instead.
Though conventional wisdom says Williams should get the nod, I'm going to go out on a limb and predict Rapace. The book and film have both been well received (the Hollywood remake is already underway) and the Academy has, in recent years, enjoyed nominating foreign language films in this category. In the past ten years, Marion Cotillard, Penélope Cruz, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Keisha Castle-Hughes, and Salma Hayek have all been nominated for non-English-speaking roles.
Best Supporting Actor
When I said earlier that most categories have a few toss-up slots, I was not talking about Best Supporting Actor; there seems to be a general consensus about who will get nominated this year. Fresh off his Golden Globe win, Christian Bale (The Fighter) should be fighting for Oscar glory soon enough. The Social Network's Andrew Garfield gave a great performance as Zuckerberg's ex-best friend and Facebook's very first investor. With Facebook investing on everyone's minds and in the news of late, Garfield should score his first Oscar nomination. Geoffrey Rush gives a touching yet hilarious performance in The King's Speech—a film for which he is also an executive producer—and will earn his fourth career nomination. Rounding out the nominations should be Jeremy Renner (The Town) and Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right).
Obviously, no category is immune to surprise nominees, and there's always an outside chance that Johnny Depp (Alice in Wonderland), Justin Timberlake (The Social Network), or Sam Rockwell (Conviction) could grab Ruffalo or Renner's slot.
Best Supporting Actress
The King's Speech should score yet another acting nomination for Helena Bonham Carter as the woman who eventually became beloved to Britons as the Queen Mum. Both Amy Adams and Melissa Leo, Academy favorites of late, should score noms for The Fighter. If Hailee Steinfeld doesn't get nominated for Best Actress, expect to see her drop down to the supporting category for True Grit. Rounding out the category, Mila Kunis should make the final cut for what many consider to be the title role in Black Swan. Possible spoilers in this category are numerous, and include Dianne Wiest (Rabbit Hole) and Marion Cotillard (Inception).
Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan) and David Fincher (The Social Network) are both safe bets to make the directing shortlist. Tom Hooper (The King's Speech) should also score his first career nomination. Last week, Mark Ruffalo challenged the Academy to "grow a pair" and nominate Lisa Cholodenko for directing The Kids Are All Right, and they may do just that. Christopher Nolan looks like a decent bet for Inception and David O. Russell has gathered a fair bit of buzz for The Fighter. Cholodenko or Nolan's spot could go to Danny Boyle (127 Hours), Roman Polanski (The Ghost Writer), or even Joel and Ethan Coen (True Grit) though, so don't count on the Academy growing a pair.
I find this category much harder to predict now that it's been expanded to ten films instead of the usual five. My new theory is to just throw everything in here that is getting nominated in the other big categories and see what happens. With that in mind, safe bets include The Social Network, Black Swan, The King's Speech, The Fighter, and The Kids Are All Right. Probable nominees include Toy Story 3, True Grit, The Town, and Inception, and other possibilities include The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Winter's Bone, Rabbit Hole, Another Year, and 127 Hours.
Feel free to post your predictions (or your critiques of mine) in the comments.