Let this be a lesson to all of us smug Oscar seers who insist that they know how the current derby will play out. Most of us now say that it's "The Social Network" versus "The King's Speech" for best picture, Colin Firth ("The King's Speech") versus James Franco ("127 Hours") for lead actor and Natalie Portman ("Black Swan") versus Annette Bening ("The Kids Are All Right") for lead actress. But true?
One year ago today, we weren't even talking about the eventual winners of lead actor and actress: Jeff Bridges ("Crazy Heart") and Sandra Bullock ("The Blind Side").
BEST PICTURE: Last year in mid-October we had a decent grasp of the best picture race in terms of leading contenders, but nearly all Oscarologists were betting on "Up in the Air." Just weeks earlier "Precious" had the most buzz. Expectations were building for "Avatar" but also for "Nine," "Invictus" and "The Lovely Bones." "Bright Star," which had already been seen, still shone brightly. Ditto: "An Education," "Up," "A Serious Man," "Julie & Julia," even "District 9." A surge was building for "Inglourious Basterds." "The Hurt Locker" was among top rivals, but it hadn't made its surge to the head of the pack.
LEAD ACTOR: Fox Searchlight had not announced that "Crazy Heart" was about to ambush this contest, so all eyes were on George Clooney ("Up in the Air") as lead pony. Matt Damon ("The Informant") and Daniel Day-Lewis ("Nine") seemed like good bets for bids. Other top rivals: Colin Firth ("A Single Man"), Jeremy Renner ("The Hurt Locker"), Tobey Maguire ("Brothers"), Viggo Mortensen ("The Road"), Morgan Freeman ("Invictus"), Sharlto Copley ("District 9"), Robert Downey Jr. ("Sherlock Holmes"), Robert DeNiro ("Everybody's Fine"), Mark Wahlberg ("The Lovely Bones"), Peter Sarsgaard ("An Education"). Final nominees turned out to be Bridges, Clooney, Firth, Freeman and Renner.