Potential Upsets of the Academy Awards

So the Oscar noms are out, and there's barely a surprise among them, apart from the snub of Christopher Nolan -- no Best Director nom for Inception? outrageous! -- and this: all the unexpected, and unexpectedly wonderful, love for Winter's Bone.

This year's Oscars feel so preordained that it's hard to believe the statues haven't already been handed out. Of course Colin Firth will win that Best Actor award (and he deserves it!); of course The Social Network will win Best Picture (and it probably doesn't deserve it). Is there room for upsets in such a predictable year? Here are the most likely prospects for an unlikely prospect:

Actor in a Supporting Role: Our own Laremy Legel has Christian Bale for the lock, and that may very well end up being the case, but the many nominations bones thrown to Winter's Bone indicate a greater admiration for the film among the Academy members than I would have forecast ... and that could mean an upset here. Imagine the hardworking, dedicated talent of John Hawkes -- who's always watchably intense even in less than stellar films -- being rewarded for his fiercest, most compelling role ever? If the Academy really wants to honor Bone, it might do so here.

Best Director: Tradition has it that whatever film wins Best Picture also wins Best Director, but that's not always the case ... and it might not be the case this year, if the Academy decides to share the love around by giving the Best Pic Oscar to Social Network but acknowledging the power of Black Swan by bestowing Best Director upon Darren Aronofsky. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see that happen.

Best Actress: Unlike Laremy, I think it'll be Natalie Portman in a landslide here, though his choice of Annette Bening is equally likely. But what happens if Portman and Bening split the Academy, leaving room for a dark horse to take the win? In that case, I think young Jennifer Lawrence could well take this one for her startling, mature turn in Winter's Bone.

Best Original Screenplay: I hate to say it about poor Christopher Nolan, who did at least get a nomination here for Inception, but I think his amazing film will get locked out of winning any award beyond -- perhaps -- some technical notices when the Academy gives this one to Mike Leigh for his extraordinarily insightful Another Year. The voters may want to make up for overlooking one of the best female performances of this year, by Lesley Manville, who wasn't even nominated.

Will I be right? Probably not ... we'll find out on February 27.


MaryAnn Johanson is always a dark horse at FlickFilosopher.com. (email me)