Since "The Social Network" has not disappointed at the box office, it retains its status as the front-runner to win best picture at the Oscars. However, buzz builds fast for "The King's Speech," which is just the kind of grand historical drama that academy voters used to adore. Normally, royal film pageants don't do well at the early film-critics' awards, though, and nowadays those critics' kudos seem to matter more than ever.
Critics' trophies certainly helped to propel "The Hurt Locker" Oscar bound last year. What's possible this year? Anything. Journos often like to shake things up by making oddball calls. This year that could mean victory by, say, "Toy Story 3" at the New York Film Critics Circle, Los Angeles Film Critics Assn., Critics Choice or National Society of Film Critics. "Toy Story 3" has a high cool factor, high critics' score (92 at Metacritic), and it has strong appeal to those male-dominated gangs who yearn for boyhood days.
"Babe" won best picture from the national society in 1995, and in more recent years, "Shrek" (2001) came close to winning best picture from the New Yorkers. "Babe" also won best comedy/musical picture at the Golden Globes, by the way — just like "Toy Story 2."
"127 Hours" will trigger intense national attention upon its release in November and will draw lots of votes at the critics' awards one month later. Enough to triumph? Maybe. Don't count out "Black Swan" — it's the most artistically daring flick of the year and also very sexy. "True Grit" and "The Fighter" are still unseen by us journos.
Here is my current ranking:
1. "The Social Network"
2. "The King's Speech"
3. "Toy Story 3"
4. "127 Hours"
5. "True Grit"
6. "Black Swan"
9. "The Fighter"
10. "The Kids Are All Right"
Of course, one or two other films are likely to sneak in. From the choices in the poll below, which one has the best chance of breaking in?
Photos: Jesse Eisenberg in "The Social Network" (Columbia), "Toy Story 3" (Pixar)