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Oscar Futures: Social Network Rides the Wave

Every week between now and January 25 when the nominations are announced, movies and stars will help themselves — or sometimes, hurt themselves — in the Oscar race. Vulture's Oscar Futures will listen for insider gossip, comb the blogs, and out-and-out guess when necessary to track who's up, who's down, and who's currently leading the race for a coveted nomination.

Best Picture UP: The Social Network. A much-coveted thumbs-down from Armond White and raves from pretty much everybody else. DOWN: Conviction. It took top honors at the Boston Film Fest — but Jeffrey Wells offers this review: "It's one of those films that you just want to pat on the head and smile at and offer best wishes to and leave well enough alone."
CURRENT PREDIX: 127 Hours, Another Year, Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, The King's Speech, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit.
Best Director UP: David Fincher, The Social Network. Near universal acclaim for his movie and this love letter from Denby in the New Yorker. DOWN: Christopher Nolan, Inception. This race is filling up with helmers of more serious prestige movies (looking good, Coens!). Nolan's still a lock for a nod, but can he go all the way with popcorn?
CURRENT PREDIX: Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan; Danny Boyle, 127 Hours; David Fincher, The Social Network; Tom Hooper, The King's Speech; Christopher Nolan, Inception.
Best Actor UP: Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network. "I can't remember the last time I loved such a defiantly unlikable performance," says Movieline's Stephanie Zacharek. "What's perhaps most remarkable about Eisenberg's performance is how close he holds us even as he exerts almost negative charisma ... [Y]ou can't take your eyes off him." DOWN: Javier Bardem, Biutiful. S.T. Vanairsdale, an early fan of Bardem's performance, says: "The bad news [for Bardem] is that it looks increasingly like Colin Firth’s 'year,' with the most substantial backlash coming from observers who want to make it a two-horse race between Firth and Eisenberg."
CURRENT PREDIX: Javier Bardem, Biutiful; Robert Duvall, Get Low; Colin Firth, The King's Speech; James Franco, 127 Hours; Mark Wahlberg, The Fighter.
Best Actress UP: Sally Hawkins, Made in Dagenham. In an extremely slow week here (Natalie Portman, still on top), she gets a thumbs-up from Thelma Adams.DOWN: Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole. Where'd the buzz go?
CURRENT PREDIX: Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right; Anne Hathaway, Love and Other Drugs; Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole; Lesley Manville, Another Year; Natalie Portman, Black Swan.
Best Supporting Actor UP: Armie Hammer, The Social Network. If any of the movie's three supporting actors gets a nod, which will it be? Says EW's Dave Karger: "Hammer, who plays the studly Winklevoss twins (aided by some of David Fincher's technical wizardry), is emerging as a prime scene-stealer ... It's a strong, hooky performance that I’d guess voters will really appreciate once they understand exactly how it was accomplished." DOWN: Justin Timberlake, The Social Network. He basically told us last week that giving him a nomination is a vote against music.
CURRENT PREDIX: Christian Bale, The Fighter; Andrew Garfield, The Social Network; Sam Rockwell, Conviction; Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right; Geoffrey Rush, The King's Speech.
Best Supporting Actress UP: Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit. Whoever cut the movie's new trailer seems way more interested in her than Jeff Bridges. DOWN: Rooney Mara, The Social Network. She's only in the movie for a couple minutes, but given all buzz on the movie, and that it's a weak year for this category, shouldn't more people be talking about her?
CURRENT PREDIX: Helena Bonham-Carter, The King's Speech; Melissa Leo, The Fighter; Miranda Richardson, Made in Dagenham; Sissy Spacek, Get Low; Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit.
Photo: Merrick Morton/Columbia TriStar Marketing Group, Inc.