It's the second week in November and the best picture field is already starting to solidify itself. Barring a stunning reception for James L. Brooks' "How Do You Know," a critic's group lovefest for "I Am Love" or an unexpected holiday flick wooing the country and industry, the players are pretty much set. "The King's Speech," "The Social Network," "Inception" and "Toy Story 3" are all considered locks for a nomination by every consultant in town with "Speech" and "Network" seemingly battling it out for the win (at least at this date). All the other contenders are in flux, but that could change by Christmas.
With Thanksgiving screeners arriving next week and trade and Los Angeles based industry for your consideration ads expected to ramp up by Dec. 1, the question is who will mount a challenge to the top players. "Inception" should, but the heavy lifting hasn't begun yet. Searchlight could easily make "Black Swan" a bigger player, especially with the film's emotional and dramatic third act. "True Grit" is expected to become one of the big boys, but it's still sight unseen. And this week's long awaited debut of "The Fighter" proved David O. Russell's latest is more of a crowd pleaser than anyone expected. All questions to ponder as we round the first quarter mile in the long awards season race.
With that in mind, here's a look at where the contenders stand today in this pundit's opinion.
1. "The King's Speech"
It's never fun being the frontrunner, but luckily everyone's attention is on the competition.
2. "The Social Network"
Expecting some sort of massive second wave campaign around our after the holidays.
Can it actually win best picture? The difference between possibly winning or just playing the game may be determined in Dec.
4. "Toy Story 3"
Here's hoping the Mouse House has realistic expectations on this one.
5. "Black Swan"
After tonight's AFI premiere, it will be back in the buzz bin of the always fickle media.
6. "The Kids Are All Right"
Going on faith with this one. Focus can't wait too much longer to start seriously campaigning out there.
7. "Rabbit Hole"
Starting to win many over.
8. "127 Hours"
The critical raves are there, but the fainting reports don't help with older Academy members. This one will be a nail-biter up to nomination day.
9. "True Grit"
Could jump to the top or "locked" status once it's actually seen (I know, imagine that).
10. "The Fighter"
Most likely in. The more money it makes will help its cause and if producer and star Mark Wahlberg hits the awards circuit? Watch out.
ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN
11. "Another Year"
Should be in, but this pundit is starting to feel the late Dec. 29 opening won't help it in this race.
12. "The Town"
Could easily crash the party. Especially with $100 million in its sights.
13. "Winter's Bone"
A true wildcard, but they are mostly playing for Jennifer Lawrence in the best actress race and landing an original screenplay nod.
14. "How To Train Your Dragon"
Jeffrey Katzenberg wants it. The movie's fans want it. Will the Academy make history and put two animated films on their ballots?
If it gets great critical support it could surprise. But that's a big maybe.