Oscars 2011 Nomination Predictions

On Tuesday morning, film critics’ Christmas arrives. Instead of leaving milk and cookies out for Santa Claus, however, we’ll be getting our caffeine ready for the 8:30 am. EST (an extra 30 min. of sleep this year!) arrival of the Academy and Oscar winner Mo’Nique who will be making the big announcement(s).

This year’s list of possible nominees paints a pretty clear picture. With all the awards doled out by various critics societies and the many guilds, you get a solid sampling of what Academy members (who represent the various segments of the industry), are thinking. After a bit of research (and some major infusing of my opinion, of course), I’ve predicted the nominees in all the major categories. I’ve also included other films or actors that are in the conversation in each of these categories to give you a good sense of whose name or which films you might hear Mo’Nique read on Tuesday morning. Oh, and there’s also a ton of guesswork involved.

Best Music – Original Score

The Locks: The outrage in this category stems from the absence of Clint Mansell’s score for “Black Swan” from the eligibility list because it borrows heavily on musical themes from Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake.” Nevertheless, some terrific scores exist. Golden Globe winners Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (“The Social Network”) are the favorites who have been most universally awarded. The Academy-beloved Alexandre Desplat (“The King’s Speech”) is also bound to get recognized again this year. Hans Zimmer (“Inception”) will make the cut yet again and deservedly so as the most memorable soundtrack of the year, one that’s been put to various images not associated with “Inception” on YouTube.

Other Contenders: I have two others I’ve identified: one as likely and one as more deserving though both were strong. The first is A.R. Rahman (“127 Hours”) who was adored for “Slumdog Millionaire” a couple years ago. The second is Daft Punk (“Tron: Legacy”) whose score was the talk of the town. It’s certainly different and the Academy likes to vary it up, at least of late.


  • Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – “The Social Network”
  • Alexandre Desplat – “The King’s Speech”
  • Hans Zimmer – “Inception”
  • A.R. Rahman – “127 Hours”
  • Daft Punk – “Tron: Legacy”

Best Music – Original Song

The Locks: The Academy likes songs from musicals in addition to the occasional strange song, so here be a tough category to predict, but I like my choices this year. Depending on how the voting goes, as many as five or as few as three can be nominated, but I think five exist this year for sure. Golden Globe winner “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me” from “Burlesque” is the one true lock as Diane Warren is an accomplished movie songwriter. There’s also Randy Newman, who the Academy loves like no other. He’s got “We Belong Together” from “Toy Story 3.”

Other Contenders: We saw the Academy gush over “Enchanted” a few years back, so I like Alan Menken’s chances for “I See the Light” from “Tangled.” Similarly, we saw A.R. Rahman own the three-song category back when “Jai-Ho” took it “Jai-Home.” No surprise if “If I Rise” from “127 Hours” gets a nod. Going with the musical theme and last year’s winner in “The Weary Kind,” “Country Strong” seems likely to get its nomination here and the right song to chose seems to be “Coming Home” from “Country Strong.” As we’ve seen with previous winners for songs attached to documentary films, John Legend could get nominated for “Shine” from “Waiting for Superman.” Other musical numbers from “Burlesque,” including “Welcome to Burlesque” and “Bound To You” would also seem to have a shot.


  • “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me” from Burlesque
  • “We Belong Together” from Toy Story 3
  • “I See the Light” from Tangled
  • “If I Rise” from 127 Hours
  • “Coming Home” from Country Strong

Best Documentary – Feature

The Locks: The biggest and most distributed doc of 2010 was “Waiting for Superman,” and Oscar winner David Guggenheim’s film exposing the problems within the education system has won a fair share of awards already. The film “Exit Through the Gift Shop”, however, has captivated the most audiences with its unique probe into the art of graffiti. If there’s a third lock, I suppose it’s “Inside Job,” which examines the financial crisis of 2008.

Other Contenders: In the way of war-based docs, some are adamant for Amir Bar-Lev’s “The Tillman Story,” which tells of the famous football player turned soldier Pat Tillman and how his death was manipulated for propaganda purposes. Others insist “Restrepo,” which follows a platoon in Afghanistan, is the more eye-opening. Also with good chances are “GasLand” about energy companies scouting America’s rural communities for places to extract natural gas, “Waste Land” about turning garbage into recycled art and“Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer” from renowned documentarian Alex Gibney. Some serious guesswork here.


  • “Waiting for Superman”
  • “Exit Through the Gift Shop”
  • “Inside Job”
  • “Restrepo”
  • “Waste Land”

Best Foreign Language Film

The Locks: There aren’t as many locks this year as in the past, but fortunately few eligible films. Golden Globe winner “In A Better World”(Denmark) from Susanne Bier is the favorite, with Sony Pictures Classics distributing, the studio responsible for a few of the last winners in this category. I also like Alejandro González Iñárritu’s chances for “Biutiful” (Mexico).

Other Contenders: Often times the rare countries get good looks from the Academy. I suspect they’ll jump at the chance to award “Incendies” (Canada), a story about two young adults traveling to the Middle East to learn their roots at their mother’s dying wish. “Dogtooth” (Greece) looks like a strong candidate as well as the country rarely gets recognized and the praise has been there for it. To represent the East, I like “Confessions” (Japan), seemingly the only non-drama on the list.


  • “In A Better World”
  • “Biutiful”
  • “Incendies”
  • “Dogtooth”
  • “Confessions”

Best Animated Film – Feature

The Locks: There are just three films being selected this year because the total applicant pool was down from last year. Too bad, as some good films (well, at least one) will be robbed of a nomination. “Toy Story 3” will not be that film. The possible Best Picture nominee will also have company from “How to Train Your Dragon,” one of the year’s biggest surprises.

Other Contenders: The favorite to round off the list is the French film “The Illusionist,” which has a slight advantage over “Tangled” because, as we saw last year with “The Secret of Kells,” the Academy loves those non-American animated films — and many critics societies have even gone as far as to award “Illusionist” over “Toy Story 3,” probably due to the stigma against the commercialism of a film like “Toy Story 3.”


  • “Toy Story 3”
  • “How to Train Your Dragon”
  • “The Illusionist”

Best Original Screenplay

The Locks: Mainstream movie fans, rejoice because “Inception” remains a definite lock here for Christopher Nolan. One cannot utter the name of the film and not say “original” in the same sentence.  The Academy also loves original works based on true events (“Milk” being a recent example), so “The King’s Speech” ought to see love for David Seidler. I think “The Kids Are All Right” marks the last of the shoo-ins here.

Other Contenders: There are a few possibilities to round off this list. A strong one remains for “Black Swan,” clearly one of the most unique pictures among 2010’s best. Though never awarded a statue, the Oscars are quite kind to British filmmaker Mike Leigh, and “Another Year” has been touted as one of his finest. Derek Cianfrance has a shot at his first Oscar nomination with “Blue Valentine,” a film being heaped with praise with credit belonging somewhere. Then there’s the question of whether “The Fighter” can be seen as more than just a boxing movie in this category specifically. However, that’s another original script based on a true story. “Get Low” might also have a shot as several outsider indies often do.


  • Christopher Nolan – “Inception”
  • David Seidler – “The King’s Speech”
  • Lisa Cholodenko, Stuart Blumberg – “The Kids Are All Right”
  • Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, John J. McLaughlin – “Black Swan”
  • Mike Leigh – “Another Year”

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Locks: Aaron Sorkin, anyone? If not for some terrific competition (in theory), he’d be running away with this one for “The Social Network.” Given the track record for Pixar in these categories lately, look for “Toy Story 3” to get some love here as well, though I suppose I could well be wrong in being this confident for a sequel. I can also sniff a nomination here for Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy, especially if the former gets no directing nomination for “127 Hours.”

Other Contenders: Many ways this one can go. There’s been a lot of talk as to whether “The Town” can win a Best Picture nomination. Well, I don’t think you can predict that without picking it in one of these major categories and Ben Affleck will not squeeze into the tight director’s race this year. I for one think that film gets nominated, so I’m liking the chances for the script. Same goes for “Winter’s Bone,” a film looking to nab a nomination for sure. Debra Granik has little chance at a director nomination, so here’s the chance to reward the film. The Coen brothers are also perennial involved in this category, so “True Grit” seems to have a good shot, especially if they’re also squeezed out of Best Director. Tough to knock one of these films off the final list …


  • Aaron Sorkin – “The Social Network”
  • Michael Arndt – “Toy Story 3”
  • Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy – “127 Hours”
  • Ben Affleck , Peter Craig, Aaron Stockard – “The Town”
  • Debra Granik, Anne Rosellini – “Winter’s Bone”

Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role

The Locks: Melissa Leo comes fresh off her Golden Globe win and you can bet her “Fighter” co-star Amy Adams will be in the race with her again this ceremony. Helena Bonham-Carter can also be scratched in with ease for “The King’s Speech.”

Other Contenders: Several critics’ associations raved about Jacki Weaver, who was nominated for “Animal Kingdom” at the Golden Globes. Mila Kunis also must be taken seriously, although I think if anyone else in that film should get nominated, it should be Barbara Hershey. Also, while I wouldn’t place her here, if Hailee Steinfeld doesn’t get nominated for Best Actress as she should (it’s a leading role!), she’ll find her way onto the locks list in this category. Same goes for Lesley Manville from “Another Year.”


  • Melissa Leo – “The Fighter”
  • Amy Adams – “The Fighter”
  • Helena Bonham-Carter – “The King’s Speech”
  • Jacki Weaver – “Animal Kingdom”
  • Mila Kunis – “Black Swan”

Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role

The Locks: Locked and loaded that is, for Christian Bale. While Heath Ledger got in the first laugh, his counterpart in “The Dark Knight” will likely get his turn. Geoffrey Rush will most certainly be nominated as well. Jeremy Renner will definitely get recognized for “The Town” too I think.

Other Contenders: “The Social Network” star Andrew Garfield got the Globe nomination and so I’d think the young up-and-comer would get his due from the Academy. The competition for the last spot, however, is super tight with Mark Ruffalo looking like a strong candidate and John Hawkes slowly making a strong case for his understated performance in “Winter’s Bone.”


  • Christian Bale – “The Fighter”
  • Geoffrey Rush – “The King’s Speech”
  • Jeremy Renner – “The Town”
  • Andrew Garfield – “The Social Network”
  • Mark Ruffalo – “The Kids Are All Right”

Best Female Actor in a Leading Role

The Locks: “Black Swan” star Natalie Portman heads in as the favorite to take home the prize, but she didn’t have to face Annette Bening in her category at the Globes. I wouldn’t count the veteran out as she’s certain to be nominated. Young talent Jennifer Lawrence will also definitely get a spotlight for her starring role in “Winter’s Bone.”

Other Contenders: Nicole Kidman looks to be invited for “Rabbit Hole,” but the film is not poised to get love in any other categories, so my certainty is not quite there. Michelle Williams, nominated for a Golden Globe, also has a similar situation. You also have the Hailee Steinfeld predicament. She belongs here, but she’s one many “supporting awards” and that category is not as deep this year. Lesley Manville applies here as well and I could see Julianne Moore floating around between those two categories. A longshot here would be Hilary Swank for “Conviction.”


  • Natalie Portman – “Black Swan”
  • Annette Bening – “The Kids Are All Right”
  • Jennifer Lawrence  – “Winter’s Bone”
  • Nicole Kidman – “Rabbit Hole”
  • Haliee Steinfeld – “True Grit”

Best Male Actor in a Leading Role

The Locks: Golden Globe winner Colin Firth has emerged as the frontrunner, although there will be an overwhelming amount of support for Jesse Eisenberg. This category more than any seems to reward veterans who’ve been there many a time before, so that’s my justification. James Franco will get his first Oscar nod as well for “127 Hours.”

Other Contenders: Jeff Bridges was better in “True Grit” than in “Crazy Heart,” in my honest opinion, so look for him to make this list. Robert Duvall, who was recently celebrating his 80th birthday, could be the old vet of the group to be nominated for “Get Low.” Javier Bardem for “Biutiful” will have a bit of trouble just because of its limited release now as opposed to when ballots were due and similarly for Ryan Gosling, albeit he earned a Globe nomination.


  • Colin Firth – “The King’s Speech”
  • Jesse Eisenberg – “The Social Network”
  • James Franco  – “127 Hours”
  • Jeff Bridges – “True Grit”
  • Robert Duvall – “Get Low”

Best Director

The Locks: Golden Globe and everything else winner David Fincher, who has been snubbed by the Academy numerous times, leads the pack here. Darren Aronofsky will get his first nomination with some ease as should Christopher Nolan, who deserves a lifetime achievement award already, probably.

Other Contenders: Tom Hooper looks to be a near-lock for “The King’s Speech” despite his inexperience previously. Other respected and proven directors will vie along with him: Danny Boyle and Joel and Ethan Coen I suspect could be named and it wouldn’t surprise anyone. David O. Russell made a strong case with “The Fighter,” however, and it would be sad not to see him get in there. Looking from the outside in are certainly Debra Granik and Mike Leigh.


  • Tom Hooper – “The King’s Speech”
  • David Fincher – “The Social Network”
  • Christopher Nolan  – “Inception”
  • Darren Aronofsky – “Black Swan”
  • David O. Russell  – “The Fighter”

Best Picture

The Locks: In our second year of the 10-film Best Picture category, the guess work is a bit less involved. “The Social Network” leads the way after being recognized as the best by nearly everyone else. Then the Producers Guild Award winner “The King’s Speech” offers the best chance to beat it. “Black Swan” will be there too and among the leaders in nominations thanks to its technical categories. The same can be said for “Inception,” also a no-brainer in a 10-wide field considering it was the most beloved blockbuster of the year. Given the precedent set last year and the powerful campaign from Disney, “Toy Story 3” also belongs in the lock group. And by nature of its impressive ensemble, so does “The Fighter.”

Other Contenders: Another reason those films made the list is because each was distributed by a different major studio. Part of my theory about the 10 nominees involves making sure each studio gets in on the major recognition. Add “The Kids Are All Right” to the mix and you have another distributor being represented (Focus Features). I also like the chances for “True Grit” as well as “127 Hours.” As you’re seeing in my predictions, I’ve put both those movies in the “made by Oscar-winning filmmakers, but not likely to win” pile. The battle for the tenth spot comes down, for me at least, to “The Town” and “Winter’s Bone.” Last year, everyone was thrown for a loop by “The Blind Side,” so in my “blind spot” this year, I have to go with “Town” as I think it’s got the wide appeal the ceremony wants.


  • “The King’s Speech”
  • “The Social Network”
  • “Inception”
  • “Black Swan”
  • “The Fighter”
  • “The Kids Are All Right”
  • “Toy Story 3”
  • “True Grit”
  • “127 Hours”
  • “The Town”


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