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Posted at 12:05 PM ET, 02/28/2011

The Oscars and the foregone conclusions syndrome

By Jen Chaney
Colin Firth, clutching the Oscar we all knew he would win. (AP)

At this year's Academy Awards, there wasn't one genuine surprise.

"The King's Speech" won best picture, as pretty much every prognosticator predicted.

Colin Firth was named best actor. We knew that was going to happen.

Natalie Portman won an Oscar, too. Which we also knew.

Even the sight of James Franco in drag felt like something we'd all seen before. Because, well, we had.

So have the Academy Awards become too predictable, just a formal, fancy way to call out a list of Hollywood winners that were already foregone conclusions?

To be fair, every once in a while, the Academy Awards still have the power to surprise.

At the 2008 Oscars, lead and supporting actress winners Marion Cotillard and Tilda Swinton both fell in the semi-unexpected category.

And at the 2003 Academy Awards, there were several shockers: Roman Polanski's win, Adrien Brody's best actor triumph (surprise!) and Brody's subsequent kiss of presenter Halle Berry (big surprise!).

But more often than not, we generally have a sense of what's going to happen on Oscar night well before it happens.

Part of the reason? The increased attention on the pre-Oscars awards ceremonies. With a brighter media spotlight on the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild Awards and even some of the critics' prizes, the decks get stacked long before the golden statuettes are handed out in the awards season's grand finale.

And of course, we can blame the Internet. With an ever-increasing number of blogs playing the Oscar race-tracking game, often just milliseconds after the Toronto Film Festival begins, it's easy to see why the whole thing starts to feel stale by February or March.

It seems unlikely that these trends are going to change. Come this time next year, we'll probably be spending the morning after the Academy Awards once again bemoaning the fact that all of the winners were pretty obvious.

On the positive side, at least all of them, arguably, were deserving this year. And as far as next year goes, we can always hope that one of those completely expected winners will accidentally drop another unexpected f-bomb on live television.

By Jen Chaney  | February 28, 2011; 12:05 PM ET
Categories:  Awards Season, Movies, Oscars  
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