Oscar prognosticating is a dicey business. If you're wrong you look like a schmuck and if you're right, well, who cares? It's not like you're predicting the outcome of a political election or a revolution. And any true film buff too often confuses his or her own personal taste for that of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (which is a notoriously motley crew or 5,800 or so loons if ever there was one). Do not ever confuse them with cinema aesthetes as they are anything but. It doesn't mean they vote with their pocketbooks (see The Hurt Locker beating the mega-hit Avatar last year) but you can't expect them to vote for the high-brow intellectual movies as much as you might wish they would.

There are many professional awards-watchers and they chatter back-and-forth all through "awards season" about who's up and who's down and who has momentum and who's stuck in the mud. As a service to you, dear Movieweb reader, I'm going to synthesize this information and add my own two-cents and considerable Oscar-forecasting prowess. (The 83rd Academy Awards are often called the "Gay Super Bowl" and thusly I, as a gay man, have SUPERNATURAL INSIGHT.)

Betting in an Oscar pool is as important as betting on the Super Bowl. It's more fun to watch if you have money riding on the outcome - otherwise its just four hours of watching people in better physical shape than yourself duke it out in a pointless contest. So this week I'll take a look at the current state of the Big 8 Races. Next week I'll give you (very valuable) advice on whom to mark on your ballot based on any last minute maneuvering (ballots from Academy members aren't due back until February 22nd) in the big races as well as all those other technical awards which are truly where these pools are won or lost.

Best Picture

Personally, I'm a The Social Network man. I agree with Roger Ebert when he says, "It was not only the best film of 2010, but also one of those films that helps define a year." It swept the critic's awards late last year but it's fared much poorer at the guild awards which are better forecasters of eventual Oscar gold.

All the big money these days is going for The King's Speech. It has swept the guild awards, even winning big at the DGAs for director Tom Hooper. It's historical. It's British. It features triumph over fascism. All things the Academy loves. Expect this to win.

It's possible that in a bizarro-world or in the Star Trek episode "Mirror, Mirror" something else like True Grit or Black Swan could win, but this is Los Angeles, which is bizarre but not THAT bizarre. My fingers are crossed for a The Social Network win, but I'm not betting good money on it.

Best Director

This is one of the more interesting races right now. Usually the winner of the Best Picture trophy also nabs the Best Director one, too. Only twice in the last decade has this not been true (Roman Polanski won for The Pianist in 2002 while Chicago won Best Picture and in 2005 Ang Lee became the first Asian-American to win the directing prize for Brokeback Mountain while the mess that is Crash won BP.) So logic follows that Tom Hooper will pick up the statue for his work on The King's Speech.

However, I'm going out on a limb right now and predicting we get another split this year. I think David Fincher is going to pick up the little gold man for his direction of The Social Network It's generally accepted that his work making long, talky scenes breathe with energy and urgency is masterful. Hooper's achievements are less exciting (though perhaps no less admirable) as directing British Empire acting gods like Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, and Helena Bonham Carter to greatness is less grueling than coaxing epic performances out of virtual unknowns like Andrew Garfield and Jesse Eisenberg. So, for now, I predict a Fincher win because I think the academy will want to reward this film with a top award (besides screenplay). The fact that he won best director at the BAFTAs, beating out native son Tom Hooper, only adds fuel to his fire. I'll get back to you next week if anything changes.

Best Actor

It's going to be Colin Firth. And deservedly so. Sorry James Franco.

Best Actress

Oh how I long to tell you that Annette Bening has a chance at winning this. She's superb in the The Kids Are All Right and it's offensive that she's lost to Hilary Swank TWICE. But Natalie Portman has been steamrolling through the awards galas picking up trophies left and right and it would be silly to expect the Black Swan to lose in the last act. Better luck next time, Annette! No one else is even in the running.

Best Supporting Actor

Christian Bale has so far been the big winner in most of the run-ups to Oscar night for his work in The Fighter. Most think he is a lock for the Oscar. I think this film is losing steam and while there are some fanatics for this South Boston chestnut it won't have the deep support of The King's Speech. Thusly, I think it likely that many voters will vote with their hearts and check off Geoffrey Rush's name in this category for his work opposite Colin Firth. Christian Bale has a rough reputation in the industry and I think many would prefer to vote for Rush anyway. It could go either way, though, at this point. I'll make a final prediction next week.

Best Supporting Actress

Like her costar Christian Bale, Melissa Leo has racked up almost all the wins in this category for her work in The Fighter. Unfortunately, she made a serious misstep earlier this month though by personally financing her own glamor shots and placing them as "For Your Consideration" ads in the industry trades. Another actor with a reputation for being difficult (or, shall we say, demanding and perfectionist) I think it came at just the right time for Oscar voters to remember that when they consider Melissa Leo they consider her a bitch and they'll look to vote for someone else. I'd like to think they'll get caught up in The King's Speech hoopla and cast their votes for Helena Bonham Carter who seriously deserves an Oscar not just for this film but also for her tremendous body of work. I don't think that's going to happen much as I wish it would. Rather, I expect Hailee Steinfeld of True Grit to snag the statue. Once in a generation the Academy loves to reward a youth (see Tatum O'Neal in 1974 and Anna Paquin in 1994). Steinfeld has been variously placed in Supporting and Lead categories over the season. I think the Academy wants to throw True Grit a bone and this is the likely category.

Best Adapted Screenplay

I really don't see how it's possible that Hollywood Golden Boy Aaron Sorkin does not win this for The Social Network. It's absolutely his to lose. I think its only possible competition is True Grit because everyone loves the Cohn brothers, but this should be Sorkin's year. Like Paddy Chayefsky with his seminal "Network," this year's Network is also the most memorable screenplay of the year.

Best Original Screenplay

David Seidler should be able to ride the wave of enthusiasm for The King's Speech and take home this trophy. Eligibility rules kept it out of the WGA awards giving Inception the ability to triumph in this category, but the KS is the 800 pound gorilla at the Oscars.

That's the view from New York at least. Next week we'll recap these races and use the Ouija board to figure out who the hell to vote for in Best Animated Short.

Don't forget to voice your own opinions on the big night right here at MovieWeb as we'll be hosting a LIVE CHAT with movie fans just like yourself as the Oscars are handed out.