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Oscar nominations: Picking the winners

Sure 'The Social Network' is going to win big? Time to think again. The Times' Tom O'Neil handicaps the top contenders.

January 26, 2011|By Tom O'Neil
  • "The Social Network" was on a red carpet roll, but things have heated up in the Oscars race. Pictured at the 2011 Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala, left to right: Andrew Garfield, Brenda Song, Armie Hammer, Rashida Jones, Josh Pence, Rooney Mara, Jesse Eisenberg.
"The Social Network" was on a red carpet roll, but things have… (Dan Steinberg / Associated…)

After sweeping the early precursor awards, "The Social Network" looked like it would rule the Oscars easily, but now "The King's Speech" is staging a palace coup, and "Black Swan," "The Fighter" and "True Grit" pose serious threats. What will prevail? Here's how things look at this point.

"127 Hours": Has as little hope of winning as Aron Ralston had of being rescued from that canyon, but it makes the cut because the "Slumdog" team hits an artistic jackpot with James Franco's nomination and duty as Oscar cohost.

"Black Swan": In a 10-film race with many strong contenders, this one could fly thanks to a wildly passionate fan base.

"The Fighter": If a surprise, knockout upset is possible, remember, voters like their boxing flicks ("Million Dollar Baby," "Rocky").

"Inception": There are now 10 nominees largely because Oscar voters snubbed Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight," but now he's been snubbed for best director, which doesn't bode well.

"The Kids Are All Right": Can't win, but its nomination is a Hollywood hug to gay and lesbian parents still reeling from Proposition 8.

"The King's Speech": Starting to look like the front-runner because the film with the most nominations (in this case 12) wins 75% of the time, and voters love British historical dramas ("The English Patient," "Shakespeare in Love").

"The Social Network": Three strong Oscar pluses: 1.) It has won most early awards; 2.) it captures the zeitgeist (Facebook revolution); 3.) it's a critically hailed drama by hot filmmakers at the top of their game (director David Fincher, writer Aaron Sorkin).

"Toy Story 3": Everybody said fantasy films could never win, but then "Lord of the Rings" finally triumphed in its third installment, so don't count it out completely.

"True Grit": After wowing at the box office ($138 million), and pulling in the second most nominations with 10, it could show its grit at an awards contest where the Coen brothers are proven winners ("No Country for Old Men").

"Winter's Bone": Every year, the film establishment loves to throw a bone to an artsy little indie that can't win. But it's an honor just to be nominated, right?

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