Ben on Film – Handicapping the Oscars not that complicated
Which means that it probably doesn't matter now if Colin Firth is suddenly exposed as a pedophile and commander of an Al-Qaeda sleeper cell.
The Unthinkable could happen – after all "The Hurt Locker" beat out "Avatar" for the best Picture Oscar last year.
The odds are overwhelming, though, that Firth will take home the best Actor Oscar on Feb. 27 and that his movie, "The King's Speech" will be named best Picture.
Natalie Portman, feathers and all, will probably be named best Actress for "Black Swan," and Melissa Leo will get best Supporting Actress for "The Fighter."
The Motion Picture Academy's widening of the best Picture field from five nominations to 10 last year was supposed to make room for more wild cards. yet this year's Oscar field seems to be one of the most predictable in years.
I learned most of my tricks for handicapping the Oscars from a 2000 survey by A.C. Nielsen, the ratings people.
Nielsen came up with a few hard-'n-fast rules:
• The movie with the most nominations normally wins best Picture. "The King's Speech" leads with 12.
• The best Picture is usually linked to the winner of the Directors' Guild award. last year, the DGA honored "Hurt Locker" director Kathryn Bigelow, the first sign that "Avatar" was in trouble. this year, the award went to "King's Speech" director Tom Hooper.
• The best Picture is also usually the pick of the Producers Guild of America. last month, the producers' group presented its top honors to the producers of "The King's Speech."
Nielsen also noted that the top Oscar winners are usually released after September of the previous year. there are exceptions; "The Hurt Locker" snuck into a few theaters in June 2009.
This year, however, the big talk about "Oscar snubs" deals with "Inception," which premiered July 13. "Inception," one of the most original pictures of 2010, did get a best Picture nomination, but since its director, Christopher Nolan, wasn't even nominated in the best Director category, its chances of winning are basically slim to none.
"The King's Speech" officially opened on Christmas Eve.
As for Firth, his Golden Globe award and his Screen Actor's Guild award almost put a lock on his Oscar. Actors are the largest single voting unit within the Motion Picture Academy.
The same goes for Portman and Leo, both of whom have Globes and SAG awards for their mantelpieces now. The best Supporting Actor race might be tighter, but with a Globe and a SAG statue as well, Christian Bale's turn in "The Fighter" has to be the frontrunner.
Academy voters love South Boston yarns such as "The Departed" (Best Picture 2006), "Mystic River" (acting Oscars for Sean Penn and Tim Robbins in 2003) and "good will Hunting" (an acting nod for Robin Williams and a screenplay Oscar for Matt Damon and Ben Affleck). "The Fighter" is as South Boston as you can get.
OK, but what about "The Social Network" earning the Golden Globe for best drama? I dunno. The Academy voting pool is considerably older than the movie fan base, and I doubt they'll be as impressed with Facebook and Ivy League angst as the Hollywood Foreign Press Association was. (And remember: "Avatar" picked up last year's Golden Globe.)
It won't be tragic if "The King's Speech" wins big. It's a fine, solid (if conventional) biopic with good performances.
Personally, though, I'll be rooting for "Toy story 3." The Pixar hit was the fans' favorite and the top-grossing American picture of 2010. It's one of the rare sequels, and one of the rarer third-timers, that's as good as if not better than the original. It was solid "family" entertainment with a story line and characters complex enough to appeal to grown-ups.
The folks at Pixar have an astonishing batting average. as an animation team, they rank with Walt Disney and his "nine Old Men" or with Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, Bob Clampett and the other geniuses who brought us Looney Tunes over at Warner Bros. they deserve a big Oscar.
Instead, I'm afraid, they'll have to settle for best Animated Picture – the cartoon ghetto.
It's also a shame the "True Grit" remake will get steamrolled. It's the Coen Brothers' most popular picture to date and one of the best Westerns of the new millennium (not, I admit, a very big category).
Young Hailee Steinfeld, who did a terrific job as Mattie in "True Grit," is up for best Supporting Actress even though she had more actual screen time than best Actor nominee Jeff Bridges (go figure). Still, I think the veteran Leo will be the winner in her category.
Of course, I could be wrong.
Ben Steelman: 343-2208