Oscar pundits favor new frontrunners as ceremony nears

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The Independent Culture

With the film awards season drawing to a close and the Oscars a few days away, the frontrunners have been well determined by fairly consistent wins, from critics awards and the Golden Globes to the professional guilds and BAFTA, the British film academy.

Across the board, predictions of Oscar winners over a month ago from The Hollywood Reporter, film bloggers, and other sources were different than they are in the days leading up to the ceremony, particularly in the Best Picture category. The Social Network had been the leading favorite after it took the majority of awards, including the Golden Globes. But since then, the odds have shifted.

After The King's Speech won the Producers Guild award and its director Tom Hooper won the Directors Guild award, the film gained momentum. Now the film about the royal stutterer seems the likely nominee to be crowned at the Academy Awards, telecast live on Sunday, February 27, 8 pm ET/5 pm PT from Hollywood's Kodak Theater.

David Fincher, director of The Social Network, about the founding of Facebook, is still in the running for the Best Director trophy, according to pundits, and there could be an upset in the category of Best Picture.

Last year, the toss-up was between The Hurt Locker and Avatar for Best Picture, which The Hurt Locker won. Generally, the same film wins Best Director and Best Picture.

As for the Vegas odds, Johnny Avello, executive director of race and sports operations at Wynn Las Vegas, had very different odds in December than February. His previous pick for Best Picture, following the favorites at the time, was The Social Network, 2-to-3 with The King's Speech, whose odds were 5-to-2.

The acting awards frontrunners are consistent with winners of previous awards, from the Screen Acting Guild to the Golden Globes. Though there could always be an upset, Colin Firth seems a lock for The King's Speech. Annette Bening could win over the favorite Natalie Portman.

Inception's Christopher Nolan was shut out of the Best Director category but the film is likely to take many of the technical awards.

Based on behind-the-scenes info, The Hollywood Reporter magazine released picks for the winners in its current issue on February 23:

Best Picture: The King's Speech
Best Director: David Fincher, The Social Network
Best Actor: Colin Firth, The King's Speech
Best Actress: Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale, The Fighter
Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Best Adapted Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network
Best Original Screenplay: David Seidler, The King's Speech

Other awards include Best Cinematography, predicted as going to True Grit's Roger Deakins, and Best Song, likely to be given to Toy Story 3's "We Belong Together" by Randy Newman.

Best Foreign Language Film and Best Documentary are up for grabs so at least there will be some surprises at the event, although Biutiful (Mexico) could be the winner. Inside Job, about the recent financial meltdown, and Banksy's Exit Through the Gift Shop are the documentary frontrunners.

Forecasts in the Gold Derby, an awards tracker previously seen in The Los Angeles Times, agrees with the above listing of favorites to win based on film "experts" from weekly entertainment magazines such as US Weekly, television news source CNN, film blogs like Cinematical.com, and trade publications including The Hollywood Reporter.

Actors Anne Hathaway ( Alice in Wonderland) and James Franco ( 127 Hours) are co-hosting the Oscars ceremony on February 27. In preparation, Franco started posting on Twitter, gaining 152,675 followers since February 18, at http://twitter.com/jamesfranco and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/JamesFranco.