Picks and Pans Main: Movies: Oscars 2011

UPDATED 02/28/2011 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 02/28/2011 at 01:00 AM EST

Best PICTURE

Black Swan

The Fighter

Inception

The Kids Are All Right

The King's Speech

127 Hours

The Social Network

Toy Story 3

True Grit

Winter's Bone

The argument for The Social Network is that it's the movie of the moment, but it's The King's Speech that truly wrestles with modernity. War looms, royals behave badly, and a damnable new social media contraption-the radio-threatens to erase the lines between public and private. That sounds awfully current to me. Toss in stellar performances and terrific writing, and it's clear why King deserves the crown.

Best ACTOR

Javier Bardem

Biutiful

Jeff Bridges

True Grit

Jesse Eisenberg

The Social Network

Colin Firth

The King's Speech

James Franco

127 Hours

As much as I hate the notion that it's an actor's "turn" to win, it's Firth's turn. He has a history of great work, and even in this year of brilliant competition, his performance lingers. The part demanded that he be all things: magisterial but human, stern but funny, halting in his speech but innately understandable. No one else managed that.

Best DIRECTOR

Darren Aronofsky

Black Swan

David O. Russell

The Fighter

Tom Hooper

The King's Speech

David Fincher

The Social Network

Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

True Grit

Without the snubbed Christopher Nolan (Inception) and Danny Boyle (127 Hours), this isn't a fair fight. That said, the intriguing Aronofsky did a masterful job of pivoting Black Swan from psychodrama to camp, while getting brilliant performances from all his actors.

Best ACTRESS

Annette Bening

The Kids Are All Right

Nicole Kidman

Rabbit Hole

Jennifer Lawrence

Winter's Bone

Natalie Portman

Black Swan

Michelle Williams

Blue Valentine

Honestly, I wasn't sure Portman would end up as a serious contender. Not only is she competing with a handful of deeply respected vets and an exciting newbie but Black Swan is, to put it kindly, wackadoodle. It's also excellent, though, and Portman is the best she's ever been in that delightfully garish swan getup. She lets the camera in as intimately as possible and makes her vulnerability come from the inside out.

Best SUPPORTING ACTOR

Christian Bale

The Fighter

John Hawkes

Winter's Bone

Jeremy Renner

The Town

Mark Ruffalo

The Kids Are All Right

Geoffrey Rush

The King's Speech

There are flashier actors in the category (that's right, Bale, I'm eyeballing you), but Rush delivers the quintessential supporting performance as an impish speech therapist to a King. By turns imperious and humble, his character is so funny that you truly feel Rush and costar Colin Firth are the oldest, warmest and best of friends.

More PICKS

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Aaron Sorkin's wickedly literate script for The Social Network will and should win.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Lisa Cholodenko's nod may be The Kids Are All Right's best shot at Oscar gold.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

It makes no sense that a doc about street artists turning their cameras on each other would be so intriguing, but that's exactly why Exit Through the Gift Shop deserves some love.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

I'm a sucker for almost anything animated, but the emotional heft, expert plotting and technical artistry of Toy Story 3 are undeniable. It was one of the best movies of 2010, period.

Best SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Amy Adams

The Fighter

Helena Bonham Carter

The King's Speech

Melissa Leo

The Fighter

Hailee Steinfeld

True Grit

Jacki Weaver

Animal Kingdom

The odds of Adams tearing little Oscar out of front-runner Leo's hands are fairly slim. But man, I love a surprise, and Adams was positively shocking in The Fighter, coming off goody-goody roles in movies like Enchanted and Doubt to play one helluva broad. I can't wait to see how she knocks me out next time.

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