Two weeks ago, the American sports world held its biggest event of the year, the one and only Super Bowl; now, it’s time to shift our focus to the American entertainment world, as they get ready to hold their biggest event of the year: the Oscars.

This Sunday, February 27th, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will be hosting the 83rd Annual Academy Awards to honor the best in this year’s cinema.

Leading the pack with a monstrous 12 nominations is The King’s Speech, about British King George VI and his stuttering problem.  Close behind with 10 nominations is True Grit, a western about a girl who hires a ruthless U.S. Marshall to track down her father’s killer.  How well True Grit will do at this year’s ceremony is one of the biggest storylines leading up to the awards.  The film was shut out of the Golden Globes, but will be heading into the ceremony Sunday with the aforementioned 10 nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director for Joel and Ethan Coen, Best Actor for Jeff Bridges, and Best Supporting Actress for 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld.

The four acting categories are probably the least competitive out of all the major categories.  Colin Firth, who plays King George in The King’s Speech, has already won Best Actor at the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild Awards, and many expect him to continue this streak at the Oscars.  The same goes for Natalie Portman (who played a ballerina striving for perfection in the eerie psychological thriller Black Swan) in the Best Actress Category, though some figure Annette Bening (as a lesbian mother in The Kids Are Alright) also has a shot.  Christian Bale and Melissa Leo, both from the boxing drama The Fighter, are the favorites to win Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress, respectively, just as they did at the Globes and the SAGs.  Ms. Leo does receive some competition from her co-star, Amy Adams, and from Ms. Steinfeld.

The Best Director category features five strong competitors:  Black Swan’s Darren Aronofsky, The Fighter’s David O. Russell, The King’s Speech’s Tom Hooper, the Coen Brothers of True Grit, and David Fincher from the Facebook-creation saga The Social Network.  Mr. Fincher is the favorite after winning Best Director at the Globes.  Mr. Hooper and the Coen Brothers, who are looking for their second award in four years after winning for 2007’s No Country for Old Men, are also strong candidates.  None of the five nominees can truly be counted out of the race, though.

The most exciting category to watch is Best Picture.  This will be the second year that the Academy has expanded the category to include ten nominees rather than the previous standard of five.  This allows different types of movies to be nominated that otherwise wouldn’t be: comedies like The Kid’s Are All Right, animated features like Toy Story 3, and smaller films like the crime thriller Winter’s Bone.  The two heavyweight favorites of the category are undoubtedly The King’s Speech and The Social NetworkThe Social Network was established early on as the favorite after winning the most awards at the Golden Globes, including Best Picture (Drama).  The King’s Speech responded by winning Best Picture at The Producer’s Guild of America Awards and Best Cast at the SAGs.  These two films could not be any more different.  The Social Network, anchored by Aaron Sorkin’s brilliantly witty dialogue, is a 21st century story about college students involved in the making of the current age’s biggest cultural phenomenon; Facebook.  The King’s Speech, on the other hand, is about the British royalty of the early 1900s, and features a strong cast including nominees Helena Bonham Carter (Best Supporting Actress) and Geoffery Rush (Best Supporting Actor), as well as Colin Firth.  Critics can go back and forth all day on what film is better but whichever one wins definitely deserves it.

There are also interesting storylines in some of the smaller categories.  One category to watch is the Music (original score) category.  At the Golden Globes, The Social Network’s synthesizer-fueled score, composed by Atticus Ross and rocker Trent Reznor, pulled the upset and beat out the epic score from Inception, composed by veteran heavyweight Hans Zimmer (Gladiator, The Dark Knight, The Lion King, too many great films to keep track of).  It will be interesting to see whether or not the Academy votes the same way.  Also, in the Best Animated Feature category, Toy Story 3 is looking to become the fourth straight Pixar movie to win the award, following 2010’s Up, 2009’s WALL-E, and 2008’s Ratatouille.  Finally, in the cinematography category, True Grit’s Roger Deakins is looking for his first win in nine nominations (The Shawshank Redemption and No Country for Old Men are among the other films he was nominated for).

Finally, this wouldn’t be an Oscar article without talking about those who were left off of the ballot.  The most notable of these is Christopher Nolan, director of the thrilling Inception, a mind-bending story of people who break into dreams to plot or steal ideas.  This is the second time in three years that Mr. Nolan has been shut out of the Best Director category (The Dark Knight, which was praised by critics, was left off the ballot for Best Director and Best Picture two years ago).  Also getting snubbed was Golden Globe nominee Ryan Gosling, even though critics loved his role as a husband in a failing marriage in Blue Valentine (his co-star, Michelle Williams, was nominated for best actress for her part as the other half of the failing marriage).  Disney’s Tangled was also shut out of the Best Animated Feature category despite being nominated for a Globe.

Whoever ends up winning, it will certainly be an entertaining ceremony.  Unlike past years, no particular category is especially weak and all the nominees undoubtedly deserve the honor.  Now let’s just sit back and enjoy the ridiculously long acceptance speeches.

For a full list of all the nominees visit


Student Opinions on the Best Picture Contenders

“I liked The Social Network’s portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg as an antisocial person who creates a social phenomenon.” – Jim McCabe ‘12

“I enjoyed the way The Fighter showed the effects of drugs on a once great athlete and how he must redeem himself from a massive abyss of misery and failure.” – Joseph Martin ‘12

“It caught your attention in an intellectual way but was still appealing to the popular crowd.” – Akuda Esin ’12, describing The Social Network

“I liked how Inception’s plot wasn’t super-simplistic, like other movies.” – Trey Curran ‘13

“The plot of Black Swan was an interesting modern adaptation of the original Black Swan ballet.” – Ben Cordell ‘12

“Six thumbs up.” – Scott Boudreaux ’11, describing Inception