Predictions for the upcoming Hollywood awards season

Talent takes Tinseltown by storm during this time of year. Award season creates Hollywood’s prominence, renown and reputation. The fans, the media and the film industry cherish this juncture. It’s still too early, but here are predictions for all of the award ceremonies like the Critics Choice Awards, the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs, and most importantly, the Academy Awards.

Best Picture

Presently up to 10 Best Picture nominations, this year’s contenders remain relativity easy to calculate. After the 2009 Oscar fiasco of “The Reader” garnering a Best Picture nod and nabbing the spot that deserved to be reserved for “The Wrestler” and “The Dark Knight,” the 10 nominations proved to be a blessing and a curse. From 1944 until 2009, the Best Picture category had been restricted to five choices until this year’s 82nd Academy Awards presentation. Although the notion of singling out more than five nominations for Best Picture is sensible, aren’t 10 recommendations too much?

Leonardo DiCaprio, left, talks with director Christopher Nolan on the set of Warner Bros. Pictures' and Legendary Pictures' sci-fi action film "Inception," a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (Melissa Moseley/Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures/MCT)

Christopher Nolan’s “Inception,” one of this year’s best, should snatch acknowledgements for Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio). David Fincher’s “The Social Network” will probably be the most nominated film of the year.

Darren Aronofsky’s “The Black Swan” will accomplish what “The Wrestler” wasn’t able to achieve: to attain a Best Picture nomination and solidify Aronofsky’s reputation as a first-rate filmmaker.

The award winning duo of “Slumdog Millionaire,” director Danny Boyle and writer Simon Beaufoy reunite for “127 Hours,” an all-around award-worthy contender.

David O. Russell’s “The Fighter” will capture audience’s hearts as Mark Wahlberg portrays the inspiring real-life boxer Mickey Ward. The film embodies the appeal of “The Blind Side” (based on a true story), the comeback optimism of “The Wrestler” and is reminiscent of Best Picture Academy Award winner “Rocky.”

Recent British-themed films like “Finding Neverland,” “The Queen,” “Atonement” and “An Education” all secured Best Picture nominations so expect the same for “Never Let Me Go” and “The King’s Speech.” Both films contain charismatic and compelling performances by Carey Mulligan and Colin Firth respectively and each should collect acting nominations. Don’t be astounded if these actors facilitate their films to fetch Best Picture nominations.

Remakes don’t receive award considerations, but do accept recognition. The Coen Brothers’ “True Grit” (starring Jeff Bridges) will generate buzz and will sway votes.

Last year, “Up” soared as one of the year’s best and critically acclaimed films and the animated sequel “Toy Story 3” should be nominated.

Ben Affleck astonished audiences this year with his hard-hitting, Boston bank-robbing “The Town.” Even without a Best Picture nomination, Affleck has established himself as the next Clint Eastwood, an amazing actor turned distinguished director.

Affleck’s directing talent should persuade voters for a Best Director nomination, but votes are difficult to determine. Consider Roman Polanski, the brilliant yet controversial director of “The Ghost Writer” whose personal life overshadows his screen work. Eastwood’s latest effort “Hereafter” has received mixed results, but then again, it is a Clint Eastwood production.

David Fincher, Christopher Nolan and Darren Aronofsky have locked up three of the five director nominations. Danny Boyle will likely turn up the fourth, but the fifth is between Affleck, Polanski, Eastwood and possibly dark horse Sofia Coppola (“Somewhere”). Let’s toss Academy Award winners Martin Scorsese and the Coen Brothers into the mix. Best Director nominations usually correspond with Best Picture nominations, so scrutinize the five most likely contenders in the latter category to decide who’s chosen.

Top 10 Options for Best Picture Nominations:

Black Swan
The Fighter
Inception
The King’s Speech
Never Let Me Go
127 Hours
The Social Network
The Town
Toy Story 3
True Grit

Best Actor and Supporting Actor

You never know who may pick up a nomination. Surprisingly, celebrated actors Joseph Cotten, John Cazale, Errol Flynn, Peter Lorre, Zero Mostel, Gary Oldman, Richard Gere, and Kevin Bacon never received an Academy Award nomination.

Possible contenders Christian Bale and Jim Carrey both possess potential this year as Bale (Best Supporting Actor) plays real-life boxing trainer Dick Eklund in “The Fighter” and Carrey (Best Actor) portrays gay con-artist Steven Jay Russell in the much delayed, yet highly anticipated “I Love You Philip Morris.”

Colin Firth (“The King’s Speech”) and James Franco (“127 Hours”) have locked up salutes for Best Actor. Jeff Bridges’ portrayal of Rooster Cogburn (the Oscar-winning role immortalized by John Wayne) in the Coen Brothers’ remake of “True Grit” looms as a possibility. Ben Affleck (“The Town”), Jesse Eisenberg (“The Social Network”) and Leonardo DiCaprio (“Inception”) may also be considered.

Robert Duvall dominates as Felix Bush, a hermit who throws a living funeral in the 1930s after being a recluse for the past 40 years in “Get Low.” There is a solid chance Duvall could add to his already impressive resume with one of the year’s best performances.

For the 2011 Palm Springs International Film Festival in January, Javier Bardem has already been awarded the International Star Award. Focus Features is promoting his role in “Biutiful” by heavily advertising the film for a limited Oscar-qualifying run Dec. 29.

Best Supporting Actor hopefuls include Andrew Garfield (“The Social Network”), Geoffrey Rush (“The King’s Speech”), Sam Rockwell (“Conviction”) and Jeremy Renner (“The Town”). Justin Timberlake possesses a possibility, but will voters and critics look past his music background to truly consider him?

Academy Award winners Michael Douglas, Sean Penn and Jack Nicholson prevail as possibilities, but they must obtain significant studio backing behind them. Douglas might snare a sympathy nomination. Like Meryl Streep, the fabulous Jack Nicholson could easily snatch a last-minute nomination.

Longshots include comedians Bill Murray (“Get Low”) and Zach Galifianakis (“It’s Kind of a Funny Story”) as both individuals brilliantly deliver dynamic, dramatic turns.

Best Actress and Supporting Actress

The Best Actress category remains up for grabs, much like last year. With no clear-cut winner, pure speculation abounds in determining who will get nominated. Only Annette Bening prevails as a sure shot for “The Kids Are All Right.”  Other challengers may include: Natalie Portman (“Black Swan”), Carey Mulligan (“Never Let Me Go”), Noomi Rapace (“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” or “The Girl Who Played With Fire”) and Naomi Watts (“Fair Game”). Halle Berry’s performance in “Frankie & Alice” prevails as a possible 11th hour award contender like Jeff Bridges (“Crazy Heart”) last year. Michelle Williams (“Blue Valentine”) possess an outshot chance as well.

Like Best Actress, the Best Supporting Actress stands up for grabs. My speculations include: Julianne Moore (“The Kids Are All Right”), Helena Bonham Carter (“The King’s Speech”), Kristin Scott Thomas (“Nowhere Boy”), Mila Kunis (“The Black Swan”) and Amy Adams (“The Fighter”). It would be great for Chloe Grace Moretz to be nominated as Hit-girl in “Kick-Ass,” but beyond specialty award ceremonies (the Gotham and Saturn awards), chances remain narrow to nothing.

Best Screenplay

Notable writing categories for “The Social Network” by Aaron Sorkin and “127 Hours” by Simon Beaufoy for Best Adapted Screenplay, and “Inception” by Christopher Nolan for Best Original Screenplay, are guaranteed nominees in their respective categories.

My brash predictions include:

Best Actor: Colin Firth for “The King’s Speech”
Best Director: David Fincher for “The Social Network”
Best Picture: “The Social Network”
Best Original Screenplay: Christopher Nolan for “Inception”
Best Adapted Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin for “The Social Network”