So will it be
that wins the top prize Sunday at the 83rd
"The Social Network," the acclaimed
about how Harvard computer nerds created the social networking site
, had been the front-runner during the awards season, winning countless critics honors, including the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn., New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics awards as well as the
for dramatic film.
But the tide began to turn in late January when "The King's Speech," the
period piece about George VI's struggle to overcome his stutter before being crowned king of England, began to pick up steam, winning the Producers Guild of America Award, the Directors Guild of America Award for Tom Hooper, the top
Award and the BAFTA for best film.
A win for either one, however, is far from certain. With 10 best picture nominations to choose from, there could be a twist: Perhaps the blockbuster
(also nominated in the animated feature film category) or the Coen brothers' revisionist Western,
could sneak in and snatch the big prize.
After a 90-minute red carpet special on ABC that begins at 4 p.m., the ceremony begins at 5:30 p.m. live on ABC from Hollywood's Kodak Theatre. And for the first time in years, the hosting duties will not be handled by a comedian such as
. In an effort to lure younger audiences to the telecast, the academy has chosen
, nominated for lead actor for
, who was nominated two years ago for lead actress for "
," to host.
Besides best picture, there are several other dramatic story lines to watch, including that of director.
of "The Social Network" has won the lion's share of awards in this category. Though he lost the DGA honor to Hooper, he did earn the BAFTA as director. Remember that the DGA award is one of the most reliable bellwethers in predicting Oscar gold, but it's not a lock: The DGA and the academy differed twice in the directing choices in the last decade.
For lead actor,
is considered the odds-on favorite for his poignant performance of King George VI in "The King's Speech." The British actor has won countless critics awards as well as a BAFTA, Golden Globe, Critics Choice and SAG. His nearest competition is
for "The Social Network."
On the lead actress side,
could dance away with her first actress Academy Award for her performance of the unbalanced prima ballerina in
She won the BAFTA, Golden Globe for dramatic actress and SAG award for her performance. Besides, she's also pregnant, which seemed to be a good luck charm for
("On the Waterfront"),
("The Constant Gardener") and
("Sophie's Choice"). All three were also pregnant when they won their Academy Awards.
But her thunder could be stolen by
, who won the Golden Globe for actress in a
or musical for
as one-half of a lesbian couple. Bening has been nominated three times before for the Academy Award and has yet to win.
is considered the favorite in the supporting actress race for
having won the SAG and Golden Globe for her performance as the feisty mother/manager of a struggling boxer. But Helena Bonham-Carter, who won the BAFTA, is someone to watch in this race for her role as
in "The King's Speech." And don't count out 14-year-old
, who gives a star-making performance in "True Grit." The academy has loved to give supporting actress Oscars to young nominees, including
On the supporting actor front,
is considered the front-runner for his performance of a drug-addicted former boxer in "The Fighter," having won several honors, including the Golden Globe and SAG. But don't forget