The British are coming! Colin Welland's ancient war cry is finally coming true, though one wonders just how far Hollywood will go when it comes to giving up those little golden men. I can't see The King's Speech triumphing at the Academy Awards next month, even if it has racked up a dozen nominations and dominates all the big categories.
I sense a mood change to the groundswell of support that greeted Slumdog Millionaire two years ago. And with the Brits' hopes resting almost entirely on King George VI's stammer, it might be time to take a reality check now rather than after the Oscars haven't come our way...
First things first: my money is on Colin Firth bagging Best Actor. I think he's earned it and there is a lot of quiet backing for an actor who has consistently delivered in any number of hit films from The English Patient to Bridget Jones's Diary to Mamma Mia! So what, I hear you say. Isn't Firth a shoo-in? Well, probably. He's up against Jeff Bridges, who won last year for Crazy Heart. Bridges' performance in True Grit is, arguably, better, but he's had his reward for a 40-year career.
Jesse Eisenberg, playing Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, is too young and not well-enough known. I don't think Javier (Biutiful) Bardem has the Hollywood vote (though, heaven knows, he's just awesome) which leaves James Franco as Firth's main rival for his incredible one-man show in 127 Hours. My feeling is that 2011 will be the year of the big Oscar upset.
I can see Annette Bening winning over Nicole Kidman, Natalie Portman, Michelle Williams and underdog Jennifer (Winter's Bone) Lawrence because it's her time, too. Portman's performance is a stand-out, as are those of Williams and Lawrence but their films are indies and probably won't be widely seen.
As for Kidman, playing a grieving mother, it's the kind of thing she can do in her sleep. I hope Christian Bale takes Best Supporting Actor for his wasted ex-boxer in The Fighter. But a more palatable choice might be Geoffrey Rush as the unorthodox therapist in The King's Speech.John Hawkes, Mark Ruffalo and Jeremy Renner are all also-rans, I suspect.
I foresee an interesting battle between Melissa Leo's white trash momma in The Fighter and Hailee Steinfeld's feisty teenager in True Grit in the category of Best Supporting Actress. I'd be thrilled for Aussie actress Jackie Weaver to win for her gangster matriarch in Animal Kingdom, but I don't think she'll get a look-in. And both Amy Adams (The Fighter) and Helena Bonham Carter (The King's Speech) may get overlooked. And Best Picture? My bet will be on The Social Network with David Fincher nabbing Best Director and Aaron Sorkin taking Best Adapted Screenplay. I'm gunning for my fellow Yorkshireman Simon Beaufoy (with co-writer Danny Boyle) to win for 127 Hours but Oscar will be looking to play home, not away.