Oscar contenders are predictable choices

Out of all the award shows in existence, the Oscars is probably the most anticipated.

Yet the announcement of the 83rd annual Academy Award nominations last week came about just as critics predicted, with only a few, not very notable exceptions.

Winter’s Bone filled what some saw as the wild card slot in the 10-film Best Picture category. In addition, the indie film’s John Hawkes got an unexpected nod for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

Javier Bardem snagged a spot in the Lead Actor category for his role in Biutiful, beating out Blue Valentine’s much praised Ryan Gosling.

And while Christopher Nolan’s dream-within-a-dream psychological thriller Inception was nominated for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay, Nolan himself was snubbed for Best Director.

Overall, this awards season has been predictable. If all goes according to plan, Natalie Portman will take home Best Actress for Black Swan, Colin Firth will win Best Actor for The King’s Speech and The Fighter’s Christian Bale and Melissa Leo will take the Supporting Actor and Actress categories.

With its Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay nominations, Toy Story 3 has little chance of losing Best Animated Feature.

The King’s Speech could pull out ahead, considering its recent slew of wins including the recent Screen Actors Guild Awards.

The real drama on Oscar night will be the battle between The King’s Speech and The Social Network, which has officially kicked into high gear during the last week and a half.

Starting with an unexpected win at the Producers Guild Awards Jan. 22nd, The King’s Speech has won the highest honor from each of the various guilds, including an upset win for director Tom Hooper at the Directors Guild Awards and Outstanding Cast at Sunday’s SAG Awards.

With 12 nominations, it received the most Oscar nods of any film this year, while The Social Network tied with Inception for third at eight nominations each. The King’s Speech is starting to look unbeatable.

But wait a minute. Wasn’t The Social Network the infallible film of the year?

It started awards season by receiving top honors from practically every major critics association, from Los Angeles, New York, the National Board of Review and countless others. The film also earned Golden Globes in the Best Picture, Director and Screenplay categories. Upon its October release, David Fincher’s film about the founding of Facebook was hailed as the film that defined the “Facebook generation,” as we are sadly called. It was heralded by almost every major media outlet as the best film of the year. Have people simply lost enthusiasm for the film in  the last three months?

Even with The King’s Speech’s PGA win, many thought that Fincher, whose painstaking precision at the helm of The Social Network is evident in every scene, had a lock on the Best Director award. In fact, the DGA has predicted the Oscar winner in that category for all but six years of the DGA’s existence since 1948.

The last time the Academy differed from the DGA was in 2002, when Rob Marshall took home the DGA Award for Chicago but Roman Polanski won the Oscar for The Pianist.

Even with the guild’s good track record and Hooper’s upset win, Fincher’s uncanny ability to render scenes of people sitting before computers oddly thrilling could still be recognized by the Academy.

The Producers Guild of America is a less consistent prognosticator, but it has predicted the Best Picture winner for the last three years. Interestingly, the PGA gave this year’s David O. Selznik Achievement Award to The Social Network and True Grit producer Scott Rudin, the first producer in more than 30 years to have two Best Picture nominees.

The race between The Social Network and The King’s Speech pits Rudin against fellow Oscar behemoth Harvey Weinstein, who executive produced the historical drama.

Both The Social Network and The King’s Speech should be boring films. One is about a moody king receiving speech therapy and the other is about a moody computer wiz making a website.

But ultimately, the first is an uplifting tale of overcoming adversity to lead a nation in need, while the latter emerges as a cynically accurate portrayal of this generation’s technology-induced isolation.

Whether the winner Feb. 27 reveals something about the American zeitgeist or simply reminds us which film had a later release date, the Best Picture race is the one to watch.

Cara Dickason is a senior majoring in cinema-critical studies and English. Her column, “Cine File,” runs Tuesdays.