Sunday evening’s Academy Awards telecast marks the second year in the era of the Best-Picture-Times-Two experiment.  Once again, ten nominated titles (rather than five) are under consideration to win the most coveted of the ceremony’s golden statuettes.

So which of them is most likely to be awarded the Oscar for best picture? And who will go home with the Oscar for best director?

Will the same movie get both or will voters split their tickets?

So far at least, the expansion from five to ten nominees in the best picture category seems to have increased interest in the Oscars without noticeably diluting the quality of the nominee slates.

A majority of the nominees have little chance of winning, even though it diminishes them to call them also-rans. If nothing else, each has benefited from the prestige and publicity of being included among the elite.

That goes for the low-profile drama Winter’s Bone (which received four nominations), the popular western remake True Grit (ten nominations), the family comedy The Kids Are All Right (four nominations), the real-life survival drama, 127 Hours (six nominations), the animated sequel Toy Story 3 (five nominations),  the mind-bending thriller Inception (eight nominations),  and the psychological ballet thriller Black Swan (five nominations).

The boxing/dysfunctional-family drama The Fighter, with three of its seven nominations in the acting categories, has a very remote shot at pulling an upset and winning best picture, but will probably settle in as an honorable entry that gets its share of attention when the acting winners are announced.

The two movies in the neck-and-neck running for the evening’s climactic prize are The Social Network, the complex, high-tech story of the founding of Facebook, which received eight nominations, and The King’s Speech, an emotional portrait of the stuttering King Edward VI on the eve of World War II, which led the way with twelve nominations.

The decision for voters deciding between the two masterful films has been characterized as choosing between the “head movie” and the “heart movie,” as The Social Network’s cerebral approach differs drastically from the emotionality that flows through The King’s Speech.

Either could come away with the Oscar, but my guess is that it will be The King’s Speech.

Which is where my theoretical vote would land as well, but not by much.

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As for the best director race, nominees David O. Russell (The Fighter), Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), and Joel and Ethan Coen (True Grit) have long since conceded.

That’s because the directing Oscar will go to either Tom Hoover, the director of The King’s Speech, or David Fincher, the director of The Social Network.

And even though I’m predicting that the best picture Oscar will be awarded to The King’s Speech, I think this year’s voters will spread the wealth and acknowledge the quality of both works by handing out the Oscar for best director to The Social Network’s best friend, David Fincher.

This would be another tough call for me if I had a vote, but it would go to The King’s Speech’s king, Tom Hoover.

Anyway, we’ll know sometime late Sunday night.

For more on the Oscars, click here.

Reported by Bill Wine, KYW Newsradio 1060.

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