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Posted at 1:20 PM ET, 01/24/2011

Oscars 2011: Predicting the lead actor and actress nominees

By Jen Chaney

Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld: headed for Oscar nominations? (Paramount Pictures)

With the revelation of this year's Academy Award nominations less than 24 hours away, we're down to the wire on making predictions. My educated guesses in the supporting actor and actress categories were revealed Friday. Now let's move on to lead actor and actress, which will be followed up a bit later this afternoon with a post on the most likely contenders in the best director and best picture categories.

Of course, you get an opportunity to lay out the field of acting nominees yourself by ranking the top possibilities via the poll that follows my picks.

Best actor

Your nominees will be:

Colin Firth, "The King's Speech": He hasn't been snubbed in any major race of the season so far, and he does a superb job of playing a powerful man who struggles to make himself heard. Shoo-in.

James Franco, "127 Hours": Will the fact that he's co-hosting the Oscar ceremony hurt his chances? Don't think so. Franco is practically doing a one-man show here, and his fellow actors will recognize how masterfully he handles the challenge.

Jesse Eisenberg, "The Social Network": More than any other actor in a fine ensemble, Eisenberg has captured attention for his portrayal of the fast-talking, emotionally stunted Mark Zuckerberg. If he doesn't make the cut, that would be a big surprise.

Jeff Bridges, "True Grit": He may not have received a Golden Globe nomination, but I think there's a good chance Bridges will follow last year's Academy Award win with another nod, the sixth of his career. My logic here? Academy voters are likely to show more affection for the Western than the Foreign Press did. Plus, Bridges has been riding a love train that looks unlikely to come to a halt in the near future.

Javier Bardem, "Biutiful": Competition is tight for that last spot. But with friends like Julia Roberts pulling for him, the well-respected Bardem may eke out a his third Oscar nom for his portrayal of an ailing father.

In this scenario, which key potential contenders get left out?

Robert Duvall ("Get Low"), Ryan Gosling ("Blue Valentine"), Mark Wahlberg ("The Fighter").

Best actress

Your nominees will be:

Natalie Portman, "Black Swan": I've already written enough mash notes to Portman lately, so I'll just say done deal and leave it at that.

Annette Bening, "The Kids Are All Right": Awards season pundits have been saying for months that this race will be a battle between Portman and Bening. And they're probably right, or at least right about Bening being nominated for a fourth Oscar.

Jennifer Lawrence, "Winter's Bone": She's a newcomer and she's young, but she justly earned praise for her thoroughly believable work in this gritty indie; the conventional wisdom at this moment suggests members of the Academy are likely to recognize her here.

Nicole Kidman, "Rabbit Hole": As a grieving mother trying to find answers and her footing after the loss of a child, Kidman looks poised for a nomination as well. The Gold Derby trackers seem to agree.

Hailee Steinfeld, "True Grit": If Steinfeld earns a place in the lead actress race instead of the supporting actress one, which is where Paramount campaigned to place her, expect this to be one of the big talking points of the day. It wouldn't be unheard of; the same thing happened when Kate Winslet was pitched as a supporting contender for "The Reader," then was (rightly) nominated in the lead category for that film instead. Voters are savvy enough to recognize that Steinfeld's performance is anything but supporting; it's just a question of whether they will play by the rules, go their own way or split enough votes between the two categories to leave Steinfeld empty-handed.

In this scenario, which key potential contenders get left out?

Michelle Williams ("Blue Valentine"), Hilary Swank ("Conviction"), Julianne Moore ("The Kids Are All Right").

Now it's your turn to rank these two sets of contenders:

By Jen Chaney  | January 24, 2011; 1:20 PM ET
Categories:  Awards Season, Movies  
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When Monique won for Precious I knew the Oscars was worthless to TALENTED black's for comics and singers to sell themselves and CDs!!!!

Posted by: MDlady2 | January 24, 2011 2:19 PM | Report abuse

I never heard of any of these movies!

Posted by: bobby20 | January 24, 2011 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Personally I'd pay to watch Colin Firth read the phone book. I adore that actor -- he can do anything and does it all well. Never disappointed with his work. Robert Duvall is another favorite but I have not seen that movie yet.

Posted by: Baltimore11 | January 24, 2011 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Hailee Steinfeld looks like a pretty sure thing -- if only because under-18 women get nominated four times as much as under-18 men. We just did a study of it at Who2:

On the best actor side, I have to think that Colin Firth is a lock for the win. Bridges and Bardem already won, Franco and Eisenberg are a little too green this year. And Firth is entering 'lifetime achievement' territory, really -- he's been great for years.

Mark Wahlberg seems like a stronger candidate than he gets credit for, too.

Posted by: fritz5 | January 24, 2011 3:42 PM | Report abuse

You're mad if you think Gosling and Williams aren't going to be on the final list. I haven't seen the movie and have no interest in doing so, but it seems like every other day I'm hearing someone on TV or radio or the 'net gushing about their performances. While Bardem is generally a lock, I don't think Bitiful has enough momentum to get him a nod, so I think he falls off your list in favor of Gosling. And on the ladies side, I hear that Kidman was amazing in that film, but I think she loses out to Williams for the 5th slot.

Posted by: edgeonyou | January 24, 2011 3:43 PM | Report abuse

I will be really angry if Colin Firth does not win this year. He deserved the Oscar last year for A Single Man.

Posted by: harris1001 | January 24, 2011 6:42 PM | Report abuse

No drama or excitement here at all...its Portman and Firth... count on it !!!

Posted by: JUNGLEJIM123 | January 25, 2011 6:39 AM | Report abuse

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