Winter's Bone, an American independent film with a $2-million (U.S.) budget, earned less than $8-million at the worldwide box office, but managed four nominations - best picture, best actress for its 20-year-old star, Jennifer Lawrence, best supporting actor and best adapted screenplay.
Colin Firth for best actor - bookmakers are giving the British actor odds anywhere from 1:10 to 1:20, which makes his position fairly unshakeable. The runner-up is James Franco for 127 Hours. Natalie Portman for best actress is a somewhat less overwhelming bet, but still dominates her category.
The Animated Upset
Despicable Me, which wasn't nominated , was one of the undisputed successes of the 2010 movie year, a $69-million animated film that earned more than half a billion dollars in worldwide grosses and positive reviews across the board. The animated category therefore includes two predictable choices, Toy Story 3 and How to Train Your Dragon, but the third slot went to the decidedly atypical The Illusionist, an almost wordless exercise in retro-animation, based on an unproduced screenplay by the late French comic and filmmaker, Jacques Tati.
The Mystery Category
Reality TV has eroded documentary credibility to the point where the entire category seems quaint. Consider Exit Through the Gift Shop, a documentary about French video maker Thierry Guetta and his improbable ascension to best-selling-artist status. The direction is credited to street artist Banksy, a notorious prankster who is fascinated with counterfeiting. Is it a documentary or a faux-cumentary?
When support means central
Fourteen-year-old Hailee Steinfeld was in every scene of True Grit, and the movie is told from her character's point of view. Somehow, she ends up as the "supporting actress" while Jeff Bridges gets a best-actor nomination. Though technically inaccurate, her supporting nomination is tactically smart: The supporting-actress category gives her a much better chance at a win.