Martin Grove’s Hollywood Report 01-25-11

Jeff Bridges in “The King’s Speech”

“The King’s Speech”

“The Social Network”

“The Social Network”

“Black Swan”

“Black Swan”

“The Fighter”

“The Fighter”

Oscar overview: Well, it's a new horse race, isn't it?

As I've been saying, despite the early critics groups support for “The Social Network,” the Oscar race is a whole different matter. Academy members don't like to rubber stamp the critics and they've just proven it.

With 12 nominations, “The King’s Speech” has more nods than any other film. Clearly, "King's" has broad support from many branches of the Academy, including the actors, who represent the largest block of Oscar votes. Just having the most noms, of course, is no guarantee of winning. But it's definitely a nice distinction going into Phase Two of what's now a wide open race.

It's not surprising that "Social" has fewer nominations. Three of "King's" noms are in acting categories, which helps boost its total. It also suggests more support from the acting branch than "Social" has with its one acting nod (best actor – Jesse Eisenberg).

But winning Best Picture isn't a function of how many noms a film gets. It's got to have the right ones to head down the homestretch. Typically, to have a strong shot at winning a best picture nominee also needs to be competing for best directing and best film editing.

On that basis, there are now four real contenders for best picture. “Black Swan,” “The Fighter,” "King's" and "Social" are the only best picture nominees that also are up for directing and film editing.

“True Grit” has a directing nod, but isn't up for film editing.

“127 Hours” has a film editing nom, but isn't a contender for directing.

“Inception,” “The Kids Are All Right,” “Toy Story 3,” and "Winter's Bone" don't have directing or film editing noms.

So who wins best picture?

"Swan" has thus far resonated for Natalie Portman's performance for best actress (Globes winner). Will Academy voters see it now as something more than that?

"Fighter" has attracted support mostly for its supporting performances by Melissa Leo (Globes winner), Amy Adams and Christian Bale. Can it now muster broader support from Academy members?

"King's" and "Social" have both generated a wide range of noms and awards to date so they have the advantage of entering Phase Two with that strength.

The most interesting wild card in Oscar's Top Ten is "Grit," which didn't figure at all in the Globes. "Grit" lacks a film editing nod and to some Hollywood handicappers that's a major challenge. On the other hand, "Grit" is from producer Scott Rudin (who also produced "Social") and directors Joel and Ethan Coen. That's a big advantage on the campaign front.

Of course, "King's" is Harvey Weinstein's candidate for Best Picture. And Harvey's as good -- some would say better -- as they get when it comes to Oscar campaigning.

Bottom line: Four contenders for Best Picture are blessed with directing and film editing noms. That's typically the winning combination, but surprises are always possible.