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Oscar Picks: Portman’s Psycho Ballerina, Bale’s Junkie Fighter

Hailee Steinfeld and Jeff Bridges in "True Grit," directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. Photographer: Lorey Sebastian/Paramount Pictures via Bloomberg

I have one sure-fire prediction for Sunday night’s Academy Awards telecast: Co-hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway won’t be cracking jokes about Charlie Sheen’s substance abuse, Ashton Kutcher’s love life or gay Scientologists.

British comedian Ricky Gervais got in hot water for doing that at last month’s Golden Globes ceremony. So expect kinder, gentler hosts at the Oscars, where the stars expect to be lauded, not ridiculed.

Here are my other fearless predictions, which were made without the aid of that new “Jeopardy” computer:

Best Picture

Nominees: “Black Swan,” “The Fighter,” “Inception,” “The Kids Are All Right,” “The King’s Speech,” “127 Hours,” “The Social Network,” “Toy Story 3,” “True Grit,” “Winter’s Bone.”

Skinny: A match race between “The King’s Speech” and “The Social Network.” “The Social Network” dominated the early awards, but “The King’s Speech” has been on a roll lately and leads all films with 12 Oscar nominations. It’s the stuttering British king versus the take-no-prisoners Facebook founder. Royalty rules.

Should Win: “The King’s Speech.”

Will Win: “The King’s Speech.”

Best Actor

Nominees: Javier Bardem (“Biutiful”), Jeff Bridges (“True Grit”), Jesse Eisenberg (“The Social Network”), Colin Firth (“The King’s Speech”), Franco (“127 Hours”).

Skinny: Firth is a lock to win for his performance as King George VI, who overcame his speech impediment with the help of an eccentric therapist. Franco will have to settle for co-hosting the show.

Should Win: Firth.

Will Win: Firth.

Best Actress

Nominees: Annette Bening (“The Kids Are All Right”), Nicole Kidman (“Rabbit Hole”), Jennifer Lawrence (“Winter’s Bone”), Natalie Portman (“Black Swan”), Michelle Williams (“Blue Valentine”).

Skinny: Portman is the favorite for her role as a hallucinating ballerina, but Bening has an outside shot as the uptight lesbian mother in “The Kids Are All Right.” I prefer Kidman’s moving performance as a mom paralyzed by grief over her son’s death.

Should Win: Kidman.

Will Win: Portman.

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees: Christian Bale (“The Fighter”), John Hawkes (“Winter’s Bone”), Jeremy Renner (“The Town”), Mark Ruffalo (“The Kids Are All Right”), Geoffrey Rush (“The King’s Speech”).

Skinny: Bale’s acceptance speech at the Golden Globes was cut short on TV, but he’ll get another chance to ramble when he accepts the Oscar for playing a drug-addicted former boxer in “The Fighter.” Hawkes, the least-known nominee, gets well-deserved recognition for his chilling portrayal of a backwoods meth dealer in “Winter’s Bone.”

Should Win: Rush.

Will Win: Bale.

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees: Amy Adams (“The Fighter”), Helena Bonham Carter (“The King’s Speech”), Melissa Leo (“The Fighter”), Hailee Steinfeld (“True Grit”), Jacki Weaver (“Animal Kingdom”).

Skinny: While Leo is terrific as a tough-talking, working-class mom in “The Fighter,” Steinfeld has a bigger, more challenging role as the spunky teenager who seeks revenge against her father’s killer in “True Grit.”

Should Win: Steinfeld.

Will Win: Leo.

Best Director

Nominees: 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”).

Skinny: Best director and best picture usually go hand in hand, but this year could be an exception. “The King’s Speech” is an acting showcase, while “The Social Network” is more a product of Fincher’s imaginative directing and Aaron Sorkin’s clever dialogue.

Should Win: Fincher.

Will Win: Fincher.

Best Documentary

Nominees: “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” “Gasland,” “Inside Job,” “Restrepo,” “Waste Land.”

Skinny: Always a strong category, this year’s group includes films about the financial crisis, graffiti artists, the Afghan war, natural-gas drilling and the world’s largest garbage dump. Charles Ferguson’s clear-eyed explanation of the economic meltdown gets the nod.

Should Win: “Inside Job.”

Will Win: “Inside Job.”

The Academy Awards will be broadcast by Walt Disney Co.’s ABC on Feb. 27, starting at 8 p.m. New York time.

(Rick Warner is the movie critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

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