Contender Countdown: Melissa Leo may have blown best supporting actress
With Academy Awards ballots due in just one week, an unexpected change appears to be underway in one of the main categories, best supporting actress. But first, let's take a look at where the best picture race stands.
At this point in the race, there are really only three films that have a shot of winning the top prize: "The King's Speech," "The Social Network" and "The Fighter." While "Speech's" impressive wins at the PGA Awards, DGA Awards, SAG Awards and BAFTA Awards have put it in the top spot, it's not a lock to win - not yet anyway. "Social Network" still has its fans, but moreover, the popular "The Fighter" has waged an aggressive campaign to try and claim the Oscar crown. The Gurus o'Gold, including this pundit, have weighed in and "Speech" is the top pick pretty much across the board.
Here's some quick commentary on my top 10 rankings.
1. "The King's Speech"
Seems hard to imagine losing Oscar after winning PGA, DGA and SAG ensemble, but stranger things have happened. Well, not really, but it gives the race some drama, no?
2. "The Fighter"
Working hard for a 12th round knockout, but it's a reach.
3. "The Social Network"
The film's false notion that Mark Zucerberg was motivated to create Facebook because he was dumped by his girlfriend (he's actually still dating her) was turned into the main lawsuit on an episode of "The Good Wife" this week. Ouch.
4. "True Grit"
Hard to win without an editing nod.
Hard to win without a directing or acting nod.
6. "Black Swan"
Too polarizing to capture the big prize.
7. "The Kids Are All Right"
Fine film, not enough steam for the big prize.
8. "127 Hours"
Amazing picture. Why does it feel like only a passionate few in the Academy even saw it?
9. "Toy Story 3"
Truth hurts, but too many members don't believe an animated film should even be in this category for it to ever win.
10. "Winter's Bone"
Enjoy the show.
As for the other major category predictions, this pundit surprisingly agrees with all his peers. Colin Firth will win best actor, Natalie Portman is still the favorite for best actress (although Annette Bening is giving her a much closer race than expected), Christian Bale should win best supporting actor and Hailee Steinfeld should capture best supporting actress.
Wait, what was that? Hailee Steinfeld?
Yes, while the Guru prognosticators are split 6-5, "True Grit's" young 14-year-old star has overtaken longtime frontrunner Melissa Leo of "The Fighter" for the lead. And in my opinion, Amy Adams now has a better shot of winning than Leo. This isn't meant to pour salt on the public relations wounds of this year's SAG and Golden Globe winner, but the reaction to Leo running her own "Consider" ads has not been good. The ads, which featured Leo in a pictorial spread similar to a fashion magazine, were run without the knowledge of "Fighter" studios Paramount Pictures and Relativity Media who obviously weren't thrilled to discover them on major trade websites and in Variety. The fact she has continued to talk about the controversy in multiple interviews has only kept the buzz going on a story any publicist would kill to have fade way.
Moreover, at this point in the campaign you'd have expected Leo to have the Oscar all wrapped up (see co-star Christian Bale). Instead, you now hear Academy voters talking up other candidates instead of Leo. It didn't help that the actresses' off-kilter speeches at the SAGs and Globes only added to the awkwardness of the situation. The big question now is how many voters in the 6,000 member Academy mailed in their ballots before the controversy started.
A year ago, "Hurt Locker" producer Nicolas Chartier lost his tickets to the Academy Awards for breaking strict rules on soliciting votes via E-mail. "Locker" still won best picture, but the story broke significantly later than Leo's flub. Leo supporters will tell you her inexperience got the best of her and Academy members should simply vote on the merits of her performance. No one will dispute that, but her actions have only put the spotlight on the other excellent performances in the category by Steinfeld and Adams. Some critics would tell you those ladies were better than Leo anyway.
And here you thought there would be no drama on Oscar night.
We'll find out makes it through the campaign unscathed when the 83rd Academy Awards are revealed Sunday, Feb. 27. For more on Hollywood's biggest night, check out this interview HitFix's Daniel Fienberg had with Academy Awards co-producer Bruce Cohen and longtime writer Bruce Vilanch.