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An Oscar for Justin Timberlake?

September 17, 2010 | 12:05 pm

Yes, of course, "The Social Network" will be nominated at the Oscars for best picture, director (David Fincher) and screenplay (Aaron Sorkin), but what about those tricky acting slots? Jesse Eisenberg has a good shot at making the list for lead actor, but his performance may not be flashy enough. Of the two actors competing for a supporting nom — Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake — most Oscarologists say Garfield is more likely to get in. But why? Just because it seems preposterous to nominate a heartthrob pop singer for acting?

The Social Network Justin Timberlake-6

Has everybody already forgotten that the Justin equivalent of 1953 — Frank Sinatra — won this same category? Sinatra may have gotten a free ride on "From Here to Eternity's" best-picture sweep — an award most likely to be won next by "Social Network" in a sweep.

Oscar voters can be cavalier about passing out acting trophies in those supporting slots. Winners don't have to be "serious" actors like they do in the lead races. Past champs include stand-up comedians (Robin Williams, Mo'nique, Whoopi Goldberg, Red Buttons), children (Anna Paquin, Tatum O'Neal), even a Cambodian doctor (Haing S. Ngor).

Timberlake has a much flashier role than Garfield. He portrays hedonist Napster founder Sean Parker, a boozy sleazeball who turns into a vicious snake as the film unfolds. That's significant. Villainous roles didn't used to win Oscars in the past, but they've ruled the supporting actor contest with a sinister sneer in recent years: Christoph Waltz ("Inglourious Basterds"), Heath Ledger ("The Dark Knight") and Javier Bardem ("No Country for Old Men").

The Golden Globes love sexy superstars so much that they'll certainly nominate Justin -- and could possibly give him the gold. That could give him the momentum he needs heading into Oscarmania. 

Justin has won two Emmys: best guest actor in a comedy series (hosting "Saturday Night Live") and writing that naughty song about you-know-what in a box, which he performed on "Saturday Night Live."

Gold Derby asked some top Oscarologists what they think of Justin's Oscar chances. Read their reax here.

Photos: "From Here to Eternity" and "The Social Network" (Columbia Pictures)

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