To hear Franco describe it, this year’s nearly four hour show should prove a mix of old and new.
The Oscars have “been going on for 83 years. I’m kind of joining a bigger apparatus, so it’s going to be pretty familiar in some ways, but I think it’ll be fun,” Franco said backstage Saturday at the Spirit Awards honoring independent film, where he won best actor for “127 Hours.” “They’re allowing us to be relaxed. They’re not stretching us into some mold that we don’t fit.”
There are front-runners in most major categories and a few near-certain winners, including Colin Firth for best actor in the title role of “The King’s Speech” and Christian Bale for supporting-actor as real-life boxer-turned-drug abuser Dicky Eklund in “The Fighter.”
Natalie Portman is expected to win best actress as a ballerina lost in dangerous delusion in “Black Swan,” while Leo is the supporting-actress favorite as a boxing clan’s domineering matriarch in “The Fighter.”
But both actresses face potential upsets. Bening, a Hollywood favorite nominated three times previously without a win, is a strong best-actress contender as a stern but loving lesbian mom in “The Kids Are All Right.”
Portman won best actress over a field that included Bening at the Spirit Awards, where “Black Swan” led with four prizes, including best picture and director for Darren Aronofsky.
The supporting-actress ranks offer really strong competitors, among them Leo’s “The Fighter” co-star Amy Adams as boxer Micky Ward’s scrappy girlfriend. Momentum for “The King’s Speech” also could propel Helena Bonham Carter to an Oscar win as George’s devoted wife, Queen Elizabeth, while 14-year-old newcomer Hailee Steinfeld has good prospects as a dauntless teen pursuing her father’s killer in “True Grit.”
The best-director Oscar comes down to Tom Hooper for “The King’s Speech” and David Fincher for “The Social Network.”
Hollywood veteran Fincher, a previous Oscar nominee for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” won best director at the Globes. First-time nominee Hooper, best-known previously for classy television productions, won the filmmaking prize from the Directors Guild of America, whose recipient has gone on to take the directing Oscar 56 times in the past 62 years of the guild’s awards.
Associated Press writers Beth Harris and Raquel Dillon contributed to this report.
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