Oscar predictions 2011: Keep your eye on The King's Speech

Oscar predictions 2011: The Monitor's film critic Peter Rainer picks which movies, and which actors, should win in five major Oscar categories. Best picture, best director, best actor, best actress, and best documentary. Do you agree?

1.Best Picture

"The King's Speech"

Not only do I think “The King’s Speech” will win the Oscar for best picture, I actually think it deserves to win. It stands up to repeated viewings. I should know: I’ve seen it three times. Each time I get something more out of it -- a revelatory bit of business, an emotional grace note, an inflection from one of the many wonderful performers. (No film this past year has had better ensemble acting). “The King’s Speech” is old-fashioned in the best sense. It tells a complex story with deft simplicity.

Nominees: Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The King's Speech, 127 Hours, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter's Bone.

2.Best Director

Tom Hooper, “The King’s Speech”

If you think that directors should get awards for visual pyrotechnics, then Tom Hooper’s principled restraint in “The King’s Speech” will leave you cold. But if bringing out the best in a marvelous cast and screenplay is your thing, you can’t do much better than Hooper.

Nominees: Black Swan, True Grit, The Social Network, The King's Speech, The Fighter.

3.Best Actor

Colin Firth, “The King’s Speech”

I know this is getting redundant, folks. Colin Firth gives the best performance of his career, even better than in “Mamma Mia!” Just kidding. It would have been easy for Firth, as George VI, to trade on his glamour here, but he never once showboats for us. He stays entirely in character throughout – a heroic peformance about a most unlikely hero.

Nominees: Javier Bardem (Biutiful), Jeff Bridges (True Grit), Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network), Colin Firth (The King’s Speech), James Franco (127 Hours).

4.Best Actress

Jennifer Lawrence, “Winter’s Bone

Jennifer Lawrence is probably the most gifted actress of her twenty-something generation. Despite her age, her performance in “Winter’s Bone” seems infused with an entire lifetime of feeling. Much of best acting in this film is wordless – that’s how expressive she is.

Nominees: Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right), Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole), Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone), Natalie Portman (Black Swan). Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine).

5.Best Documentary

“Inside Job”

Charles Ferguson’s blood-boilingly powerful “Inside Job” is an eye-opening overview of the forces leading up to the 2007-2008 Great Recession. It’s a crash-course, an indictment, a call to action.

Nominees: Exit Through the Gift Shop, Gasland, Inside Job, Restrepo, Waste Land.