Oscar ballots went out this week to Academy members. “The King’s Speech” seems like a lock for Best Picture. There are also some definites: Colin Firth for Best Actor, Melissa Leo for Best Supporting Actress. But what’s still fluid and in flux? Judging by past voting trends, there are two possible upsets: Best Supporting Actor and Best Actress.
In the former, Christian Bale was superlative as Dicky in “The Fighter.” But dial back to 1997 and “The English Patient.” Betting money had Lauren Bacall winning Best Supporting Actress for “The Mirror Has Two Faces.” The Hollywood legend had never won an Oscar, and there was a lot of support and sentiment for her. But “The English Patient,” like “The King’s Speech,” was a tsunami. It pulled Juliet Binoche in, surprising Bacall and her fans.
This could happen again. With Firth, the movie, and the original screenplay very solid, “The King’s Speech” may pull along Geoffrey Rush. Before Bale was on the scene, everyone thought Rush was a lock for Best Supporting Actor. It’s a long shot, but who knows? There are those who think Rush was equal to Firth in “The King’s Speech.” They may check off his name at the last minute. I wouldn’t blame them.
In Best Actress, Natalie Portman has lots of awards for “Black Swan.” She’s young, cute, and pregnant. She’ll have a long career. But there are plenty in the Academy who remember Annette Bening’s performances in “American Beauty” and “Being Julia,” her two best prior Oscar shots before “The Kids Are All Right”, as well as “The Grifters.” This should have been her year. How many times do we expect this woman to go through Oscar campaigns and come out a loser? Not only that: imagine the irony of Firth and Bening, who once co-starred in the dreadful “Valmont,” emerging together as winners years later. It’s delicious.
What else? Yes, we know Aaron Sorkin has Best Adapted Screenplay in hand for “The Social Network.” But who gets Best Director? Is it David Fincher, to split the vote, or Tom Hooper, following “The King’s Speech.” I’ve said this before: Fincher has the lower profile. A lot of people think Sorkin directed “The Social Network”; he’s the face of the film in the Oscar campaign. Hooper also has the DGA, which is hard to shake; rarely does the DGA winner lose the Oscar. Oh, those last two awards are nail biters. There won’t be an empty seat in the Kodak Theater when those announcements come.