Months and months ago, maybe it was July or August, a major industry insider saw "The Social Network" for the first time. The player was not involved with the film, but predicted to me over the summer that "The Social Network" would win best picture.
Riding a wave of pre-New York Film Festival attention, "The Social Network" was in demand. It became a steady pick for Oscar attention all through the fall and into December when critics lists put the film at the head of the pack. It was a frontrunner for many awards season prognosticators who loved the movie. When Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg was named Time Magazine's Person of the Year, many guessed that "The Social Network" would be the movie of the year at the Oscars.
Not so fast.
"The King's Speech" generated immediate heat at the Telluride fest over Labor Day weekend, where Colin Firth was honored. Then it stirred significant buzz at the Toronto fest the following week. This was a serious best picture contender, many observed. Harvey Weinstein started a string of small screenings for tastemakers and Academy members right after Toronto, continuing even as "The Social Network" was scooping up major critics prizes. The film seemed to falter a bit into the fall, until Weinstein's long campaign found its voice over the holidays. Industry guilds came out in support of the film setting it up well for Oscar night.
"Black Swan" emerged rather unexpectedly. Early word from Venice -- where the film opened the fest -- said that the film might be too intense for Oscar voters. In Telluride a few days later, Darren Aronofsky told the crowd at the first screening, “I’m very sorry for what is about to happen. I didn’t know I was doing it." As audiences in Telluride and Toronto saw the movie, buzz grew. It was playing really really well, with a mix of old fashioned thrill and even some humor. At the Hamptons fest, Madonna snuck into a screening where James Franco and Alec Baldwin were watching the film in closing night. After it opened, the film drew big crowds.
Critics embraced the artfulness of a studio auteur David Fincher's "The Social Network," guilds went for British drama in "The King's Speech" and audiences loved indie-minded speciality entry, "Black Swan." An array of studio films, "Inception," "Toy Story3," "True Grit" and "The Fighter" couldn't gain momentum for best picture.
So who will win tonight?
"The King's Speech." Maybe David Fincher. Likely Natalie Portman and without a doubt Colin Firth. Here's an official printable ballot, mine is filled out below, including frontrunners as picked by MCN's Gurus o' Gold.
MORE: My dispatch from this year's Telluride Film Fest where Oscar season began in earnest.
Best motion picture of the year
EH: The King's Speech
Gurus: The King's Speech
Performance by an actor in a leading role
EH: Colin Firth in "The King's Speech"
Gurus: Colin Firth in "The King's Speech"
Performance by an actor in a supporting role
EH: Christian Bale in "The Fighter"
Gurus: Christian Bale in "The Fighter"
Performance by an actress in a leading role
EH: Natalie Portman in "Black Swan"
Gurus: Natalie Portman in "Black Swan"
Performance by an actress in a supporting role
EH: Hailee Steinfeld in "True Grit"
Gurus: Hailee Steinfeld in "True Grit"
Best animated feature film of the year
EH: Toy Story 3
Gurus: Toy Story 3
EH: The King's Speech. Eve Stewart (Production Design), Judy Farr (Set Decoration)
Gurus: Inception. Guy Hendrix Dyas, Larry Dias and Doug Mowat
Achievement in Cinematography
EH: True Grit. Roger Deakins
Gurus: True Grit. Roger Deakins
Achievement in costume design
EH: The King's Speech. Jenny Beavan
Gurus: Alice in Wonderland. Colleen Atwood
Achievement in directing
EH: The Social Network. David Fincher
Gurus: The Social Network. David Fincher
Best Documentary Feature
EH: Waste Land. Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley
Gurus: Inside Job. Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs A Representational Pictures Production
Best documentary short subject
EH: No prediction
Achievement in film editing
EH: The Social Network. Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter
Gurus: The Social Network. Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter
Best foreign language film of the year
EH: In a Better World. Denmark
Gurus: In a Better World. Denmark
Achievement in makeup
EH: The Wolfman. Rick Baker and Dave Elsey
Gurus: The Wolfman. Rick Baker and Dave Elsey
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
EH: The Social Network. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
Gurus: The King's Speech. Alexandre Desplat
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
EH: We Belong Together from Toy Story 3. Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
Gurus: We Belong Together from Toy Story 3. Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
Best animated short film
EH: Day & Night. A Pixar Animation Studios Production. Teddy Newton
Gurus: Day & Night. A Pixar Animation Studios Production. Teddy Newton
Best live action short film
EH: No prediction.
Gurus: Wish 143. Ian Barnes and Samantha Waite
Achievement in sound editing
EH: True Grit. Skip Lievsay and Craig Berkey
Gurus: Inception. Richard King
Achievement in sound mixing
EH: The Social Network. Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weingarten
Gurus: Inception. Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick
Achievement in visual effects
EH: Inception. Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb
Gurus: Inception. Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb
EH: The Social Network. Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin
Gurus: The Social Network. Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin
EH: The Kids Are All Right. Written by Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg
Gurus: The King's Speech. Screenplay by David Seidler
What are your predictions for Oscar night?