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"He incorporates the best of the best, from the writing to the score to the young actors, the editing, and the cinematography."
"The race for Best Foreign Language Film will probably come down to two mesmerizing films."
"Aaron Sorkin's screenplay for 'The Social Network' was leaps and bounds, the best writing of the year."
"Accomplishes what very few sequels can, i.e. it completes a trilogy the right way."
2011 Academy Awards Preview  

BEST DIRECTOR

Darren Aronofsky, "Black Swan"; David O. Russell, "The Fighter"; Tom Hooper, "The King's Speech"; David Fincher, "The Social Network"; Joel and Ethan Coen, "True Grit."

MARK'S PICK: DAVID FINCHER

Very rarely has the Director's Guild of America missed the mark when it comes to predicting the Best Director Oscar. In fact, since 1936, only 8 times has the DGA award recipient failed to win the Academy Award; the last such occurrence happened in 2002, when Rob Marshall (Chicago) won the DGA and Roman Polanski (The Pianist) won the Oscar.

Like a blue moon, however, this year should be one of those exceptions. For his outstanding work on The King's Speech, Tom Hooper employed innovative production design and tight camera shots to further emphasize the King's dilemma and bring sophistication and eloquence to a story of personal and public conflict. However, it probably wasn't too big of a stretch for the young director and DGA recipient, known for similarly themed biographical works like The Damned United and HBO's historic mini-series, John Adams.

What was a bigger stretch? Taking a mundane story about a technology start up and transforming it into a high paced thriller. In The Social Network, David Fincher does the unthinkable - he makes coding look sexy! Even more so, he incorporates the best of the best, from the writing to the score to the young actors, the editing, and the cinematography. This film was all about his vision and as a result, succeeds on every level.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

"Biutiful," Mexico; "Dogtooth," Greece; "In a Better World," Denmark; "Incendies," Canada; "Outside the Law," Algeria.

MARK'S PICK: INCENDIES

Although Javier Bardem's powerful journey of redemption in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Biutiful is the most well known, the race for Best Foreign Language Film will probably come down to two mesmerizing films: Denmark's In a Better World and Canada's Incendies. World was directed by noted Dogme filmmaker Susanne Bier, who claimed this year's Golden Globe, and shows the complexity of friendships between two families in an idyllic town in Denmark after they are torn apart by a single act of revenge. Meanwhile, Denis Villeneuve's Incendies depicts the lives of two young adults in search of their birth father after the death of their mother. The journey takes them down a dark abyss - a past filled with unforeseen acts of hatred and love.

The number of times the Golden Globe winner also won the Oscar in the past decade? Thrice - The Sea Inside (2005), No Man's Land (2002), and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2001). The odds favor Incendies.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

"127 Hours," Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy; "The Social Network," Aaron Sorkin; "Toy Story 3," Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, and Lee Unkrich; "True Grit," Joel and Ethan Coen; "Winter's Bone," Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini.

MARK'S PICK: THE SOCIAL NETWORK

This is as close as you will get to a sure thing this year. Aaron Sorkin's screenplay for The Social Network was leaps and bounds, the best writing of the year. Rapid fire dialogue, brilliant segues, well defined characters, strong arcs, and a story that takes the form of a thrilling page turner. It also didn't hurt that it was executed brilliantly on screen with the help of an amazingly talented group of young actors.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

"Another Year," Mike Leigh; "The Fighter," Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson, and Keith Dorrington; "Inception," Christopher Nolan; "The Kids Are All Right," Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg; "The King's Speech," David Seidler.

MARK'S PICK: THE KING'S SPEECH

You can't get more original than Christopher Nolan's Inception - a multilayered script that dives headfirst into a dream within a dream within a dream. The continuity and complexities are mind boggling, but Nolan cleverly ties everything together, taking audiences on another thrilling ride about the human psyche (see also Insomnia, Memento, etc.).

Unfortunately, the Academy struggles to reward films that are commercially successful, regardless of how exceptional they may be. And that does not bode well for Inception. Lisa Cholodenko's The Kids Are All Right certainly is a contender, with its smart, brilliant dialogue and anti-stereotypes. But the safe bet is on David Seidler's The King's Speech, a script of historic proportions that is equally sharp and sentimental.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

"How To Train Your Dragon"; "The Illusionist"; "Toy Story 3."

MARK'S PICK: TOY STORY 3

The animation domination will continue for Pixar this year as the third installment of the popular Toy Story franchise accomplishes what very few sequels can, i.e. it completes a trilogy the right way. Much darker, more dangerous, yet equally sentimental as its predecessors, Toy Story 3 ups the ante. With familiar faces and characters, top notch visuals, and a story for all ages, it's hard to imagine the top prize not going to Toy Story 3; however, should there be any competition, it will undoubtedly come from the dazzling French entr?e, The Illusionist, an underrated gem about magic and the beauty of a childlike imagination.



2011 Academy Awards Preview (CONTINUED)

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