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As always, it’s time to kick things off with a fresh batch of predictions. Oscar Frenzy is proud of be one of only a few sites to offer detailed predictions a year in advance. We have analyzed the major races, reviewed release dates, browsed festival lineups, and tapped into the latest buzz surrounding this year’s top contenders. Now we are proud to present you with our 2011 Oscar Predictions.

Best Picture Nominees:

The Social Network: (Columbia Pictures)

David Fincher follows up The Curious Case of Benjamin Button with this film which explores the creation of Facebook. We like this combination of a veteran director and a hot, timely subject that everyone can relate to. With ten Best Picture slots, it’s sure to find a place somewhere.

Biutiful: (Focus Features)

We predicted this film last year, but it wasn’t released on schedule. We’re still keen on Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s drama about a criminal (Javier Bardem) who is confronted by a childhood friend, now a policeman. Inarritu showed his potential with 2007 Best Picture nominee Babel. He will be a name to watch for years to come.

True Grit: (Paramount Pictures)

The Coen brothers remake of the 1969 John Wayne classic may suffer from too much hype. After all, it is a western by the same directors who made Best Picture winner No Country For Old Men. But we simply cannot ignore a cast featuring Best Actor Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and Josh Brolin. Since A Serious Man made the Best Picture list this year, there’s no good reason to think a higher profile film by the same talented duo will not.

Somewhere: (Focus Features)

This is a film that could really fly under the radar. Sofia Coppolla (Lost In Translation) is back with a story about a delinquent Hollywood actor who must examine his life when he is suddenly introduced to his 11 year old daughter. The film, which feels like an intimate character study, may be this year’s An Education.

London Boulevard: (No US distributor yet)

William Monahan, the screenwriter for The Departed, makes his directorial debut with this crime drama/love story about an ex-con (Colin Farrell) who becomes a handyman to a reclusive actress (Keira Knightly). We love the teaming of Farrell and Knightley, two extremely underrated actors who will likely have terrific chemistry together. Writers turned directors have been successful in the past (Paul Haggis, Tony Gilroy). This should be interesting to see.

The Tree of Life: (Apparition)

Here’s another one of last year’s predicted films that wasn’t finished in time. In short, it’s a Terrence Malick film starring Sean Penn and Brad Pitt about nothing short of the meaning of life. It will generate enormous curiosity and intrigue and could either be a masterpiece or a total flop. We’re betting it’s somewhere in between and makes the top ten list.

The American: (Focus Features)

George Clooney plays a hitman hiding out in Italy who must take on one last assignment. The film, directed by up and comer Anton Corbijn, looks to explore the depths of the assasin’s character, as he develops relationships with a priest and a woman. The film could be a powerful meditation on life and death and Clooney seems perfect for the part.

Toy Story 3: (Pixar)

Remember there are ten Best Picture nominees now. We’re putting Pixar’s latest summer blockbuster on our list because quite simply, Pixar never misses a beat. This sequel will likely delight and enchant audiences in the tradition of The Incredibles, Wall-E, and Up… good enough for a nomination.

Miral: (No US distributor yet)

Another under the radar film. This is a real life story about a Palestinian woman who opens an orphanage in Jerusalem in 1948. It stars Freida Pinto, the darling of Slumdog Millionaire, and is helmed by Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly). Expect a lot of early critics’ awards, which should propel this film onto the Best Picture short list.

Hereafter: (Warner Brothers)

You can never count out Clint Eastwood. Sure, Invictus was a disappointment, but The Clint is still easily one of Hollywood’s best directors, if not the best. The plot of this film is shrouded in secrecy (which may be a good thing). All we know is that it is a supernatural drama/thriller starring Matt Damon and Bryce Dallas Howard. Good enough for us to go on.

Just Missing the Cut:

Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, about a veteran ballet dancer and her rival, is intriguing, but Aronofsky has never fared well with the Academy. Likewise, we’re excited about Never Let Me Go, starring Keira Knightley and Carey Mulligan, but don’t have a ton of confidence in director Mark Romanek, whose best previous film is One Hour Photo. Finally, the year’s most anticipated film, Christopher Nolan’s Inception, deserves a mention, but we think it will likely fall into the category of summer blockbuster rather than Oscar contender (although some voters may wish to honor Nolan after dissing him for The Dark Knight).

Best Actor:

George Clooney will be in contention again for The American, as will Jeff Bridges in the John Wayne role in True Grit (Wayne won Best Actor). Possible darkhouses include James McAvoy as a cancer patient in I’m With Cancer, Casey Affleck as a sheriff turned psychotic in The Killer Within Me, and Colin Farrell in London Boulevard. But we think another Colin – Colin Firth – will take home his first Best Actor award for playing George VI, who tries to overcome his nervous stammer with the help of a therapist, in The King’s Speech.

Best Actress:

Natalie Portman will certainly be in the mix as a competitive ballerina in Black Swan, and Carey Mulligan could see her name as a nominee again for her lead role in Never Let Me Go. In the end though, we foresee another established actress, Naomi Watts, adding a gold statue to her mantle for her portrayal of CIA agent Valerie Plame, opposite Sean Penn, in Doug Liman’s drama Fair Game.

Best Supporting Actor:

We’re most confident of this pick. Christian Bale has never been nominated and he’s clearly overdue. His portrayal of a destructive brother and part-time mentor to boxer Mark Wahlberg in director David Russell’s The Fighter seems like just the kind of role Academy voters will embrace. If not him, the brilliant Tom Wilkinson could hear his name called for the Nazi war criminal drama The Debt. Josh Brolin of True Grit is also a contender.

Best Supporting Actress:

Newcomer Elle Fanning may delight audiences as the 11 year old daughter in Sofia Coppolla’s Somewhere, but she may still be too young to win. Rebecca Hall has a juicy part in Ben Affleck’s crime caper Town Hall, but we have a feeling Clint Eastwood will work his magic once again and land an Oscar for the talented Bryce Dallas Howard of Hereafter.

Best Director:

If The Tree of Life pans out, then Terrence Malick may have a stangehold on this award, but that’s a really big if. This race may come down to a couple of rising stars, Anton Corbijn for The American and Sofia Coppolla for Somewhere. Can Coppolla follow in the footsteps of Kathryn Bigelow and become the second female Best Director. It’s certainly possible, but we have to give the edge to the director of the more polished and probably thoughtful film.

Best Picture:

And in the end, it all comes down to this. Inarritu’s Biutiful could be a sleeper and will likely win some key critics’ awards, as could Miral. Hereafter and True Grit will probably suffer from being touted as the early Best Picture frontrunners, which is the kiss of death. Therefore, we’re putting our money on Focus Features’ The American. It’s a sharp, suspenseful story built on character. George Clooney always picks his films well and a triumph for the American may take some of the sting from Up in the Air going home empty handed from the 2010 Oscars. Focus Features will be ubiquitous this Oscar season, with three Best Picture contenders, but The American may have the most mass appeal, which is why we think they will end up pushing it the hardest. So there you have it.

Summary of Predictions:

Best Picture: The American
Best Director: Anton Corbijn, The American
Best Actor: Colin Firth, The King’s Speech
Best Actress: Naomi Watts, Fair Game
Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale, The Fighter
Best Supporting Actress: Bryce Dallas Howard, Hereafter