Contender Countdown: ‘127 Hours’ and ‘Winter’s Bone’ fight for the 10th slot

Before we tackled the best picture race leading up to Tuesday’s nominations, some final key thoughts on Sunday’s night’s Golden Globes.

The HFPA has a major public relations problem…again.
Over the past decade many members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association worked very hard to change the perception of the exclusive and quirky org.  Ever since stories of actors such as Sharon Stone sending expensive watches to members to try and land a nomination had became known in the mainstream media, the HFPA had put in strict rules and seemed very intent on lessening the studio’s influence on the Golden Globes nominees and winners. Especially during a time when the Globes ratings were going upward and big brother, the Academy Awards, were falling.  When the writer’s strike occurred in late 2007, awards season came to a grinding halt and the HFPA came up with an embarrassingly lame press conference show to try to salvage their lucrative contract with NBC. The fact they insisted on the presentation should have been the first sign things weren’t as kosher as they seemed. Then came new President Philip Berk, a gentleman who doesn’t seem to have a sense of humor and appears to want to have a swift temper instead.  Berk was largely responsible for the ouster of the Michael Russell Group, a publicity firm that had been the HFPA’s biggest ally for two decades.  You can learn about the gory details here, but the resulting lawsuit filed over the past week accused the organization of participating in payola (uh oh).  Even if it can’t be proven in court, it’s damning in the court of public opinion, the media and the industry.  Worse, those charges came just a month after the HFPA picked some of their most ludicrous and star-[expletive] nominations in years in the comedy or musical categories (“The Tourist,” “Red”) and has eyebrow raising nods for Scott Caan and Piper Perabo on the television side.  And you know things aren’t going well when your Cecil B. DeMille winner, Robert De Niro, is ripping your organization in his acceptance speech.  The HFPA now have a whole year to try and turn things around.  Good luck with that fellas.

Ricky Gervais is a funny guy, but went to far as Golden Globes host.

Listen, I’m a big fan of Gervais’ work as a whole. He’s a very talented and funny guy who has worked his butt off to get  where he is today. In his second go around as Golden Globes host, however, he just went to far.  Now, mocking the HFPA is one thing and most people in the room didn’t mind (except for the members of course), but attacking some of Hollywood’s biggest names like it was a Comedy Central Roast special raised more than eyebrows.  Gervais insisted in his blog on Tuesday that everything was fine with him and Tim Allen and Tom Hanks, etc..  That may be true in some respect, but when Robert Downey, Jr., a man who is probably the one of the most self-deprecating actors in the business, intentionally remarks about how “mean spirited” and “vicious” the show seems, Gervais should have realized something was up and changed his strategy.  Hollywood will always be open to poking fun at itself, it’s “show” business after all, but the point of being an awards show host is not to turn it into a roast.  There is a big difference between the two.  Someday, I think Gervais might realize that — or maybe not.

Now, on to more important thing. Namely, Oscar.

Suffice to say, there is actually some drama left surrounding the ten nominees for best picture.  At this point, eight are locked.  But the remaining two slots appear to be down to three films: “The Town,” “Winter’s Bone” and “127 Hours.”  Out of the three “The Town” seems the most secure, but hasn’t received the critical acclaim or multiple guild nominations as “Winter’s Bone” or “127.”  However, when you speak to Oscar voters they even think it’s in which is a pretty good sign.  As for the other two?  It’s just too close to call, but that early mailing of “Winter’s Bone’s” screener might just be the difference in who makes the cut or not.  Of course, a wildcard such as “The Ghost Writer” or “How To Train Your Dragon” could always enter the fray, but that’s highly unlikely at this point.

With that in mind, here’s a rundown of the expected best picture nominees the Academy will announce bright, er, dark and early Tuesday morning (at least according to this pundit).

1. “The Social Network”
Riding high, but not a lock to win. Not yet anyway.

2. “The King’s Speech”

If “King’s” can pull off a PGA Awards win this Saturday, it’s a whole new ball game.

3 “True Grit”
Waiting in the wings, “Grit” just keeps on going at the box office and could end up well past $160 million by the time final ballots are due. If any picture is gonna upset “SN” or “Speech” we say it’s “Grit.”

4. “The Fighter”
Likely the SAG Awards best ensemble winner, but its still unclear if that is a sign it could be an upset contender or not.  Not getting a BAFTA nod for best picture was a bit disconcerting for the “Fighter” camp.

5. “Inception”
Not sure what’s going on with Nolan’s masterwork.  Expect a slew of nominations on Tuesday, but best picture?  At the least, we’re hoping he can snag screenplay or a surprising directing win on Oscar night.

6. “Black Swan”

Darren Aronofsky’s thriller is going to receive a ton of nominations on Tuesday, but it’s just a bit too polarizing to win best picture.  Could $100 million at the box office change voter’s perceptions?

7. “Toy Story 3”
Disney tried, but they may be coming to the realization that too many actors will refused to vote for an animated film in the best picture category.  And it’s an issue that isn’t going away either.

8. “The Kids Are All Right”
The nod is the win.  Right now, it’s time for Focus to, um, focus on getting a surprise statue for Lisa Cholodekno and Stuart Blumberg or making Annette Bening the comeback kid in best actress.

9. “The Town”

It’s gut, but we’re still going with it.

10. “Winter’s Bone”
SAG nods for Hawkes and Lawrence sealed the deal for this pundit.  However, there’s still a slight chance it gets left out.  It’s gonna be close.

Who do you think will make the final 10? Share your thoughts below.