Well, you can finally start taking me seriously when I talk about this year's Oscar race-- I have seen The King's Speech, the movie that was stamped a Best Picture frontrunner the moment it premiered at the Toronto Film Festival back in September, and which had been taunting me weekly with all the predictions that Colin Firth had Best Actor in the bag, that it could beat The Social Network for Best Picture, that it featured Helena Bonham Carter playing an actual human being again, etc. etc.

You'd think a movie with all that hype surrounding it could only falter once it actually unspools, but The King's Speech is one of those classy, impeccably acted, very British films that is neither boring nor stuffy nor overly familiar. It's just a damn good movie, never getting too flashy or taking itself too seriously, but also never settling for posh accents and well-appointed scenery as a stand-in for actual good storytelling. The centerpiece is clearly the acting--Colin Firth is totally captivating as the stammering and anxious King George VI, while Geoffrey Rush as his unorthodox speech therapist and Bonham Carter as the Queen are perfect in their supporting roles-- but the movie is remarkably well-shot, with clear and sometimes unusual cinematography that uses close-ups to put you right inside the King's frenzied, tongue-tied state.

I walked out the screening this morning totally understanding the fuss, seeing this as the real contender against The Social Network for Best Picture (at least, based on where things stand right now) and feeling pretty confident that, if the Academy wants to make the easier choice this year, they could vote for this one over the story about the punk computer kid with a pretty clear conscience. It's a decision I'll rail hard against-- The King's Speech is good, maybe even great movie, but nothing compared to the masterpiece of The Social Network-- but we've learned pretty well by now that the Academy often makes easy picks over the more difficult options.

Or do they? As pointed out to me by a friend after the screening, the last 10 years or so of Best Picture winners suggest that the "Oscar-type movie" doesn't exist anymore. Movies like Seabiscuit, Frost/Nixon, Atonement, Capote and Finding Neverland get nominated all the time, but not since A Beautiful Mind has the obvious prestige pick been the actual Best Picture winner. The Oscar choices have been refreshingly unorthodox over the last few years, whether it's because the dark Western about the serial killer and the movie about the Indian kid were the ones dominating the conversation, or because Clint Eastwood and Martin Scorsese made great but very dark movies, and it was finally time to reward them. Nobody ever correctly predicted the Oscars by counting on surprises, but at the same time, the surest best isn't always the guaranteed winner.

Either way, I now feel confident that if The King's Speech is the "safest" option for a Best Picture win (and when compared to The Social Network, 127 Hours, Inception, Toy Story 3 or The Kids Are All Right, it certainly is) we won't have anything to be ashamed about. The question now, of course, is when the hell will we finally see True Grit, and how will it change things? The King's Speech, opening November 26, will have a few weeks to be crowned as the Best Picture frontrunner before the Coens possibly show up and topple the race entirely. As someone already a little sick of the Zuckerberg vs. King George VI assumption, I kind of can't wait for it.

Now on to the charts, where my having finally seen The King's Speech is reflected, along with a little other tweaking with an eye on what the next few weeks might bring. Take a look below.

oscar winner prediction

Yes, The King's Speech is bumped up to Mortal Lock, both for the air of inevitability around it and the fact that it really does have what it takes. I'm honestly relieved-- it would have been such a bummer to see the movie and not get the fuss and try to counter that with what I actually expect to happen in the race. The movie is the real deal, and fits in comfortably alongside the three other Mortal Locks. I've done some pruning in the Outside Chance category-- sorry, Nowhere Boy-- but otherwise the rest looks the same.
oscar winner prediction
The King's Speech
The Social Network
Toy Story 3

oscar winner prediction
127 Hours
Another Year
Black Swan
The Fighter
The Kids Are All Right
True Grit
Winter's Bone
oscar winner prediction
Fair Game
Love and Other Drugs
Made in Dagenham
Rabbit Hole
Shutter Island
The Tourist
The Way Back
oscar winner prediction
Blue Valentine
Country Strong
For Colored Girls
Get Low
The Ghost Writer
How Do You Know?
Never Let Me Go
The Town
Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps

oscar winner prediction

I was also thrilled with how well-directed The King's Speech is, and how Tom Hooper makes unconventional choices in placing his camera and actors in relation to each other, making the film feel a lot more intimate and modern without losing any polish. It's excellent work that I'd expect a nomination for, but with so many other more established names in the mix, I don't feel comfortable making him a Mortal Lock just yet. It's entirely possible for The King's Speech to win Best Picture without Hooper even getting a nomination, so who knows when this will clear up.
oscar winner prediction
Danny Boyle, 127 Hours
David Fincher, The Social Network

oscar winner prediction
Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
Joel and Ethan Coen, True Grit
Tom Hooper, The King's Speech
Mike Leigh, Another Year
Christopher Nolan, Inception
David O. Russell, The Fighter

oscar winner prediction
Lisa Cholodenko, The Kids Are All Right
Sofia Coppola, Somewhere
Clint Eastwood, Hereafter
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, The Tourist
Peter Weir, The Way Back

oscar winner prediction
Ben Affleck, The Town
Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu, Biuitiful
John Cameron Mitchell, Rabbit Hole
Tyler Perry, For Colored Girls
Roman Polanski, The Ghost Writer
Mark Romanek, Never Let Me Go
Martin Scorsese, Shutter Island
Oliver Stone, Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps
Edward Zwick, Love and Other Drugs

oscar winner prediction
From the minute people started buzzing about The King's Speech at Toronto, a Best Actor win for Colin Firth just felt right. He got his first nomination last year but didn't stand a chance against Jeff Bridges, but this year Firth is the one with the larger-than-life performance, despite playing a mild-mannered, almost shut-down character (trust me, the performance is all the more impressive for it). If Firth weren't out there we might be talking a lot more seriously about James Franco, but really, this category feels like the only one of the four that's already sewn up.
oscar winner prediction
Colin Firth, The King's Speech
James Franco, 127 Hours

oscar winner prediction
Javier Bardem, Biutiful
Jeff Bridges, True Grit
Robert Duvall, Get Low
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Paul Giamatti, Barney's Version
Ryan Gosling, Blue Valentine
Mark Wahlberg, The Fighter

oscar winner prediction
Johnny Depp, The Tourist
Leonardo DiCaprio, Inception
Stephen Dorff, Somewhere
Aaron Eckhart, Rabbit Hole
oscar winner prediction
Jim Broadbent, Another Year
Jake Gyllenhaal, Love and Other Drugs
Kevin Spacey, Casino Jack
Ben Stiller, Greenberg

oscar winner prediction

This is the only category up top that The King's Speech is not a part of, so instead let's talk about Natalie Portman. Black Swan is screening fairly widely for critics now, and I'm curious about how the conversation will start up again around Portman, and whether the fears that the movie is too weird will be overcome by the amazing strength of her performance. I still see her as a Lock, but if there are real doubts to consider, they'll start surfacing in earnest in the next week weeks. Stay tuned.
oscar winner prediction
Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
oscar winner prediction
Anne Hathaway, Love and Other Drugs
Sally Hawkins, Made in Dagenham
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter's Bone
Lesley Manville, Another Year
Julianne Moore, The Kids Are All Right
oscar winner prediction
Diane Lane, Secretariat
Hilary Swank, Conviction
Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine
Reese Witherspoon, How Do You Know?
oscar winner prediction
Gwyneth Paltrow, Country Strong
Tilda Swinton, I Am Love
Naomi Watts, Fair Game

oscar winner prediction

Though he goes toe to toe with Firth in terms of acting might, Geoffrey Rush isn't the same kind of lock for a win in The King's Speech, primarily because he's won before--in 1996 for Shine-- and also because his character doesn't go through nearly the same emotional arc in the film. Still, he's very much a contender, and absent solid campaigns for his main competition Mark Ruffalo and (probably) Christian Bale-- and hey, maybe Matt Damon in that movie nobody has seen yet!-- he could coast to a win simply by being Geoffrey Rush. It wouldn't be such a bad thing, but kind of a waste of a category with a lot of other interesting performances to consider
oscar winner prediction
Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush, The King's Speech
oscar winner prediction
Christian Bale, The Fighter
Andrew Garfield, The Social Network
Sam Rockwell, Conviction
Justin Timberlake, The Social Network
oscar winner prediction
Michael Douglas, Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps
Ed Harris, The Way Back
John Hawkes, Winter's Bone
Dustin Hoffman, Barney's Version
Bob Hoskins, Made in Dagenham
Sean Penn, Fair Game
Jeremy Renner, The Town
oscar winner prediction
Josh Brolin, True Grit
Vincent Cassel, Black Swan
Matt Damon, True Grit
Colin Farrell, The Way Back
Armie Hammer, The Social Network

oscar winner prediction

I'm sticking with all of my For Colored Girls ladies here, because it's still hard to tell where the movie will land, and it's impossible to know which actress might emerge from the pack. Helena Bonham-Carter has been moved up to her deserving spot as a Mortal Lock, not necessarily because her performance is extraordinary (it's very good, at least), but because the movie is bound to be so beloved she'll make it in. As the competition settles in around her, though, it could get really fierce, and really interesting, in this category.
oscar winner prediction
Helena Bonham-Carter, The King's Speech

oscar winner prediction
Barbara Hershey, Black Swan
Rosamund Pike, Barney's Version
Miranda Richardson, Made in Dagenham
Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom
Dianne Wiest, Rabbit Hole
oscar winner prediction
Amy Adams, The Fighter
Kimberly Elise, For Colored Girls
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Thandie Newton, For Colored Girls
Rosamund Pike, Made in Dagenham
Phylicia Rashad, For Colored Girls
Anika Noni Rose, For Colored Girls
Kristin Scott Thomas, Nowhere Boy
oscar winner prediction
Marion Cotillard, Inception
Elle Fanning, Somewhere
Saoirse Ronan, The Way Back
Sissy Spacek, Get Low
Mia Wasikowska, The Kids Are All Right

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