It's that time of year again, the time of year that critics, film snobs and the nerdy elite await with bated breath: Awards season. Revealed on January 25th, the nominations for the 83rd Annual Academy Awards came into the world with the usual fanfare and debatable snubs. Leading the pack is The King's Speech with 12 nominations, followed closely by surprise contender True Grit with 10. Early favorites The Social Network and Inception are in a tie for third with eight noms each. Keep reading for my predictions in the major categories, then head on over to IMDB for the full list of nominations.

(Note: On any category where they differed, I've given both who I would have chosen and who I think will win. Also, be wary of possible minor spoilers.)



My vote: Inception

My prediction: The Social Network

Inception was the best cinematic experience of the year, a perfectly calibrated thrill ride that was simultaneously an adrenaline rush and a mind-bending puzzle. It was unique and unforgettable, but its disappearance in some key categories (Best Director, Editing) means it's not a contender. Therefore, expect The Social Network to walk off with Best Picture, continuing its hot streak from every early critics' award and the Golden Globes. It also helps that The Social Network is a great landmark film, an ambitious attempt to analyze our times and lives.

If there's a spoiler to be had in any race, it's here and it's The King's Speech. The British period drama -- defining words that, almost by default, equal Oscars -- is fresh off a Producers Guild Award for Best Picture and comes into the race with the most nominations. Both facts are strong predictors for the eventual winner, but is it enough for an upset?



Colin Firth, The King's Speech

Because he was great, that's why. Firth's performance of a speech impediment was astonishing, his portrayal of familial guilt was heartbreaking, and his terror at ascending to the throne was palpable and brilliant. It takes a truly great actor to make a climatic nine-minute monologue one of the most intense and emotional scenes of any movie this year. The fact that Firth did it so effortlessly and with such natural grace makes him a lock.



Natalie Portman, Black Swan

Portman's charisma and talent have been lighting up the screen since she was twelve years old, but with few exceptions, her performances have been girls instead of women. Not so in Black Swan. Here we get to see all her gifts come to full bloom. She dominates the entire film, appearing in every scene, masterfully controlling the tempo as her ballerina goes way, way past the breaking point in a descent of exhilarating madness. It's a thrilling, high-wire performance that will be remembered in years to come as a classic. "Perfection," her character gasps in the film's haunting final moments. I couldn't agree more.



My vote: Jeremy Renner, The Town

My prediction: Christian Bale, The Fighter

Renner lost for The Hurt Locker last year, and his gritty, powerful magnetism is in full, terrifying force as the charismatic and dangerous Jem in The Town. But Bale's been overlooked for great performances for years, and his physical transformation for The Fighter was, as usual, astonishing. Look for Bale to walk away with this one.



Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit

This is a great category for a dark horse winner, and who better than Steinfeld? Not only did she hold her own against Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and Josh Brolin, her performance dominated theirs. The Academy clearly loved True Grit, which means a win for its most deserving performer.



David Fincher, The Social Network

Fincher juggled multiple storylines, timeframes, and perspectives to weave together this portrait of our modern inability to communicate. He's a great, respected director who's been doing solid work for years. It's his time.



My vote: Inception, Christopher Nolan

My prediction: The Kids Are All Right, Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg

Christopher Nolan's film had the year's best concept, and was executed brilliantly, thanks in no small part to the script he had been working on for eight years. But The Kids Are All Right was an early critics' favorite and it balances some fairly heavy issues without feeling, you know, heavy. An award here will be the most it gets.



The Social Network, Aaron Sorkin

Sixty seconds into The Social Network and I knew it was a lock for this category. This film is proof that dialogue can be as powerful and exciting as any action sequence, if not more so. It's laced through and through with Sorkin's trademark intelligence and wit, and he will be rewarded.



Toy Story 3

Pretty soon, the Academy will need to change this category to "The Annual Pixar Award". No one does animated films like Pixar, and the fact that this movie was strong enough to land a Best Picture nomination makes it a sure thing.


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