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Colin Firth accepts the best actor award at the Screen Actors Guild Awards Sunday night. A harbinger? (Getty Images)
Colin Firth accepts the best actor award at the Screen Actors Guild Awards Sunday night. A harbinger? (Getty Images)

Liam Lacey: Behind the Screens

Suddenly, 'The King's Speech' is winning the race for best picture Add to ...

What a difference a week makes. Before the Jan. 25 Oscar nomination announcements, almost everyone expected The Social Network to be a sure thing to win the best picture Oscar. David Fincher's movie about the founding of Facebook won most of the year-end critics' prizes, and the Vegas bookmakers agreed, putting it well ahead of the competition.

Previous columns by Liam Lacey

Now all that has changed, thanks to a recent flurry of smaller guild awards, what Variety calls "kudos fests," which have suddenly made The King's Speech the Oscar heir apparent. Awards show pundit Steve Pond (author of The Big Show) wrote in TheWrap.com this weekend: "Voters in the Producers Guild, the Directors Guild and the Screen Actors Guild like it best. And it is almost unfathomable, at this point, that voters in the Academy won't concur."

"Is the Oscar race over?" asked Entertainment Weekly. Time magazine answered with a story headlined "Why the Oscar race is already over." The only doubt is that these supposedly predictive pre-Oscar awards are so often wrong.

The Golden Globes show, run by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, is often cited as a good indicator of the Oscars. Historically, the Golden Globes have agreed with the Academy's best-picture choice 45 times in the past 67 years, but that correlation is becoming less prevalent. The HFPA and the Academy have agreed only once in the past six years. The fact, the fact that HFPA voters chose The Social Network may actually bode well for The King's Speech.

The Producers Guild Awards, handed out on Jan. 22, are also credited with auguring best picture winners. There are 446 members of the producer's branch in the Academy, but the PGA is an organization 10 times that size, including a sprawling union of people who work in film and television. In the last decade, the PGA chose the same winner as the Academy six out of 10 times, including last year, when the PGA went for The Hurt Locker, Oscar's upset winner. This year the PGA is backing The King's Speech.

Last Sunday was the Screen Actors Guild Awards show, which is supposed to be a good indicator of the various acting Oscars. The actors' union represents about 125,000 actors (1,183 of whom are in the Academy). SAG's best-ensemble award is its equivalent to the Academy's best-picture prize. SAG has agreed with the Academy's best-picture choice five out of the past 10 years (this year SAG went for The King's Speech as well). Over the same period, SAG is five for 10 for best actor, and seven of 10 for best actress.

The HFPA, meanwhile, has agreed with the Academy's best-actor winner six of the last 10 years, and seven of 10 with the best actress. Though both indicators are far from infallible, Colin Firth and Natalie Portman can probably start clearing spaces on their mantelpieces.

How about best director? The Golden Globes has agreed with the Academy six out of 10 times in the last decade. But the 13,000 members of the Directors' Guild of America consistently confirm what everyone in movie business knows - the directors are the smart ones.

In its 66-year-history, the DGA has split with the Academy only six times on the best-director choice, and only twice in the past 10 years. Last Saturday the DGA picked Tom Hooper of The King's Speech over the more celebrated Fincher for The Social Network. The decision was a shock, but it's a reliable indication of which way the Hollywood winds are blowing.

Looks like it's time to de-friend The Social Network and prepare for the coronation.

OPENING NEXT WEEK

Biutiful Javier Bardem earned an Academy Award nomination for his performance as an single father and petty criminal, trying to survive on the mean streets of Barcelona in the latest film from Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu ( Babel, Amores Perros).

Cedar Rapids A small-town insurance agent (Ed Helms) cuts loose at an insurance convention with the help of three veterans (John C. Reilly, Anne Heche and Isiah Whitlock Jr.).

The Eagle Director Kevin Macdonald ( Last King of Scotland) made this drama about a young Roman soldier in Britain who is trying to find his lost legion's golden emblem. With Jamie Bell, Donald Sutherland and Channing Tatum.

From Prada to Nada Two spoiled sisters (Camilla Belle and Alexa Vega) are compelled to move into their aunt's home in East L.A. in this contemporary Latina version of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility.

Gnomeo & Juliet An animated tale of the hedge-cross'd love affair between a boy (James McAvoy) and girl (Emily Blunt) from rival gnome families. Featuring the music of Elton John.

Just Go With It Adam Sandler pretends to be the about-to-be-divorced husband of a mother of two (Jennifer Aniston) in an effort to win the woman he's in love with (Brooklyn Decker) on a Hawaiian vacation.

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never A concert film and documentary about the teen pop phenomenon.

Modra Canadian director Ingrid Veninger's film follows a Toronto teenaged girl and boy on a summer trip to small-town Slovakia.

Unauthorized: The Harvey Weinstein Project A documentary about the controversial and colourful film producer Harvey Weinstein from Canadian director Barry Avrich.

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