‘Social Network,’ ‘King’s Speech,’ Portman Lead Oscar Pack: 2011 Nominations Offer A Few Surprises

While the 2011 Oscar nominations, announced Tuesday morning did not offer a plethora of surprises, there were a few notable exceptions.

Like last year, The Best Picture field has been expanded to 10 films. Here are my predictions and analysis:

Black Swan

While anything short of a statue in Natalie Portman’s hand on Oscar night for Best Actress would be considered a major upset, that’s probably the highest accolade “Black Swan,” Darren Aronofsky’s strange and captivating cinematic whirl can expect to win. Aronofsky will likely concede directorial honors to David Fincher for “The Social Network” and Mila Kunis, who offers a seductive turn was snubbed in the Best Supporting Actress category. Aronofsky and company are, no doubt, thrilled with their nominations, and will probably score big the night before at the Independent Spirit Awards.

The Fighter:

David O. Russel’s scrappy film–which languished in Development Hell for years– is a long shot for a Best Picture knock-out. Still, it’s a formidable film with a slew of acting nominations, though Mark Wahlberg did not receive a Best Actor nod. Christian Bale–who took home the Golden Globe–may be the front-runner for Best Supporting Actor and Melissa Leo–also a Golden Globe winner– and Amy Adams are both in the Best Supporting Actress mix. Russell also fetched a Best Director nod, but I’m guessing Fincher has a lock.

Inception:

Even though it was the first movie to receive Oscar buzz–back in the summer–”Inception” survived that stigma and garnered a rare summer blockbuster nomination. It’s a fast-paced action thriller with spectacular sci fi undertones. Look for technical wins, but the odds are long against this audience pleaser picking up The Best Picture statue.

The Kids Are All Right:

Another fab indie that will probably fare better at the Independent Spirit Awards, “The Kids Are All Right” recently took home the Golden Globe for Best Musical or Comedy (a stellar film in a very weak category), as well as Best Actress statue for Annette Bening. It’s doubtful this sweet little four million dollar flick about a lesbian couple, their sperm donor and two teenage kids will give “The Social Network” or The “King’s Speech” a run for their big budget money, but the nomination will get more folks to see the gem ( already available on DVD). Mark Ruffalo–in one of his best performances–may be an upset Best Supporting Actor winner.

The King’s Speech:

Garnering a leading 12 Oscar nominations, “The King’s Speech” is the contender most likely to take on the Awards’ juggernaut “The Social Network.” If anyone can take on a movie about Mark Zuckerberg, it’s King George VI. Don’t forget the Oscar race is political, and no one plays harder than Harvey Weinstein ( whose company distributes stateside) Colin Firth, I think has the Oscar mojo for Best Actor, though that’s shaping up to be the trickiest category to predict, with both Jeff Bridges and Javier Bardem somewhat unexpectedly in the mix. With top honors from the Producers Guild last week and wins at both the Directors and Screen Actors guilds over the weekend, “King” may have more than its over $100 million in worldwide grosses to sport as a crown. It now has the royal edge to score Oscar gold.

127 Hours:
Among the lesser commercial successes on the Best Picture List, “127 Hours” is a harrowing story of personal courage ( that turned a lot of folks off with its graphic amputation scene). It’s not going to win the top prize, and I doubt James Franco–this year’s inexplicable Oscar co-host( along with Anne Hathaway)–will win the Best Actor honor, but with a previous reputation as a handsome, average actor, the nomination elevates him to a higher professional level.

The Social Network:

Once a slam dunk for Best Picture, “The Social Network” has been losing ground to “The King’s Speech.” I know there’s talk that the film–an early fall release-like last year’s early contender “Up in the Air“–may have peaked too soon. But the buzz for the Facebook film is still swirling, so much so, it’s still filling seats at the multiplex. I still think David Fincher’s networking king may reign supreme, but as Oscar loves to spread his golden bounty, this early favorite may have to settle for wins for Aaron Sorkin’s fine script and Fincher’s direction ( though Hooper’s DGA prize gives him a new advantage).

Toy Story 3

The only animated feature nominated in the Best Picture category, “Toy Story 3” will settle for the Best Animation Oscar.

True Grit:

Another long shot for Best Picture, the Coen Brothers re-make of the John Wayne classic “True Grit” took some critical hits for being too close a replica to the original. Still, the filmmaking bros add their grizzly signature touches and the movie boasts superb acting from Bridges, Matt Damon and young newcomer Hailee Steinfeld, who scored a Best Supporting Actress nomination ( though hers was really a starring role). And the Coens, Academy darlings, arguably snarled a Best Directing slot away from “Inception’s” inventive director Christopher Nolan

Winter’s Bone:

For an indie, just grabbing a Best Picture nomination is enough. And “Winter’s Bone,” Debra Granik’s wonderful independent will gladly settle for such an accolade. The film may also do better at the Independent Spirit Awards, with Best Actress nominee Jennifer Lawrence gaining critical ground on Portman. This gripping character-and set–driven mystery engulfs you in gray Appalachian desperation. It’s a quietly moving drama about love and family and the human spirit. Hopefully the recognition will get more folks to see the film, which is available on DVD.

A Few Surprises:

The Acting categories had a few surprises and snubs. I doubt anyone expected to see Javier Bardem pick-up a Best Actor nod for “Biutiful.” While his performance has garnered some insider buzz, the movie itself is off the radar and his nomination snatched potential gold from Ryan Gosling’s steamy “Blue Valentine” performance and Mark Wahlberg’s sturdy and underrated turn in “The Fighter.”

As I mentioned Mila Kunis’ brilliant performance in “ Black Swan” was snubbed, while Australian actress Jacki Weaver fetched a Best Supporting Actress nod for her work in the little seen, brutally violent “Animal Kingdom. ” And while Bening got the bigger push, Julianne Moore’s flakier, slightly deeper performance in “The Kids Are All Right” should have earned some recognition.

Though I know it was the longest of long shots, I would have loved to have seen Ashley Judd get a nomination for her achingly beautiful performance in “Helen a powerful indie with nary a distribution budget, this film about a woman immersed in depression is a must see on DVD. Please, you owe this one to yourself.

I also thought Sam Rockwell and Juliette Lewis deserved noms for their layered portrayals of a wrongly convicted man and his ex-girfriend in “Conviction and Sean Penn or Naomi Watts may have fetched recognition for the political thriller Fair Game.


Here’s a complete list Oscar nominations.

The 83rd Academy Awards airs Sunday, February 27 on ABC.

Please  follow Amy Beth Arkawy on Twitter.

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4 Responses to ‘Social Network,’ ‘King’s Speech,’ Portman Lead Oscar Pack: 2011 Nominations Offer A Few Surprises

  1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Suki
    January 25, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    Great article and insight! Can’t wait to see how many you get right at the Oscars.
    It would be a great upset if Natalie Portman doesn’t get it for “Black Swan” and Colin Firth should get it for “Kings Speech” – guess we have to wait and see!
    Thanks for an excellent preview to the Oscars………

  2. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1nikol
    January 27, 2011 at 2:23 am

    I think the article is great too! Ithink, that Natalie Portman deserves to be nominated. It doesn’t mean, that she wins, but her role in this movie was brilliant as well as the whole film. By the way I found this movie in good quality on http://www.torrentoff.com

  3. Vote -1 Vote +1Jo Deison
    January 30, 2011 at 5:04 am

    Should be interesting to see how that turns out.

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