Last Update: 9/20
1. The Social Network (prev: 8 )
The buzz for the film after it’s full-length trailer hit the web was deafening, and Fincher rarely disappoints. Even if it is a hit with critics and audiences (as early word suggests), it’s youthful cast and internet-heavy plot could still miss with AMPAS. At the moment it seems too big to ignore, though.
2. The King’s Speech (prev: 16)
My fears that this Tom Hooper-directed historical dramedy was going to be middlebrow Oscar-bait has apparently proven to be unfounded, as both critics and audiences alike championed the film’s unique approach to the period piece. It’s got a surefire nominee in at least Colin Firth, Toronto momentum, and the full force of the Weinstein machine behind it. What could go wrong?
3. Inception (prev: 1)
Lord knows the Academy doesn’t go for sci-fi that often, but this is hardly Star Wars/Star Trek territory here (and, as District 9 proved, the expansion to 10 nominees can include rarely-represented genre films). This has the box office muscle, audience goodwill, and critical adoration needed to score a nomination, not to mention AMPAS will not want a repeat of their snub of Nolan’s last picture.
4. 127 Hours (prev: 15)
One of the biggest success stories from the festival circuit, Danny Boyle’s follow-up to Best Picture-winner Slumdog Millionaire appears to have done the impossible: make a movie almost entirely set in 1 place and with 1 character that is exciting and dramatic. James Franco is essentially a lock for Best Actor, and this has the potential to be a major box office hit as well.
5. Toy Story 3 (prev: 4)
It’s both the highest-grossing film of the year, and the most-acclaimed. How could the Academy not honor it? Some are saying a win is a serious possibility, though I’m not quite ready to commit to that. Even with the nomination of Up last year, the Academy is still notoriously wary of animated films (which are often, and wrongly, dismissed as child’s fare).
6. The Kids Are All Right (prev: 2)
A timely and acclaimed dramedy with the potential for multiple acting nominations, this Annete Bening/Julianne Moore starrer should take the Little Miss Sunshine spot with ease. It’s only drawback is it’s average box office intake (it sits at about $16 mil right now), though that didn’t stop arthouse flicks like An Education and A Serious Man from sneaking into the Top 10 last year.
7. The Town (prev: 20)
It’s officially a box office and critical smash, which should translate well to Oscar. And everyone loves a comeback story, and it doesn’t get much better than Ben Affleck’s second-act reinvention as a serious auteur. This is the kind of classic mainstream Hollywood production that older AMPAS voters will want to reward.
8. Another Year (prev: 10)
It was well-received at Cannes and Toronto, and Mike Leigh is an Academy-favorite, however it runs the risk of being outshone by the flashier and starrier The Kids Are All Right. It remains to be seen if AMPAS has enough room for two dramedies in the top category.
9. Black Swan (prev: 7)
Slowly-but-surely Oscar has begun to take notice of acclaimed auteur Darren Aronofsky, with 2008’s The Wrestler likely just missing out on a Best Picture nomination. Festival reception has been overwhelmingly positive for this ballet-set psychological thriller, though it might skew too weird and genre for the Academy.
10. The Way Back (prev: 5)
Though it doesn’t have a 2010 release date yet (it’s scheduled for a January 2011 release, though a short Oscar-qualifying run is expected), this Peter Weir drama hits all of AMPAS’ buttons: it’s a WWII period piece, with an Oscar-proven cast (Ed Harris, Saoirse Ronan), and it’s based on a true story. Weir also has a stellar track record with the Academy, as Master and Commander, Truman Show, Dead Poets Society and Witness all managed multiple nominations.
11. Never Let Me Go (prev: 3)
12. The Fighter (prev: 9)
13. True Grit (prev: 17)
14. Love and Other Drugs (prev: 12)
15. Somewhere (prev: 19)
16. Winter’s Bone (prev: 14)
17. Hereafter (prev: 13)
18. Made in Dagenham (NEW)
19. Fair Game (prev: 18)
20. Rabbit Hole (NEW)
21. Shutter Island (NEW)
22. Blue Valentine (prev: 25)
23. Biutiful (prev: 24)
24. For Colored Girls (NEW)
25. The Debt (NEW)
The Conspirator (prev: 6) – moved to 2011
The Tree of Life (prev: 11) – moved to 2011
Brighton Rock (prev: 21)
Miral (prev: 22)
Get Low (prev: 23)