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Placing bets on Oscar nominees and winners

Paul Giamatti and Dustin Hoffman in "Barney's Version"

Paul Giamatti and Dustin Hoffman in "Barney's Version" Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Tuesday morning at about 8:40 local time, movie fans around the world will begin to cheer, scoff, grumble and prognosticate as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announces this year's nominees for the 83rd annual Oscars.

But why wait until then? I'm picking my Oscar fantasy league now. As a movie critic whose opinions don't always line up with those of the Academy, I realize not everyone on my team will win. Some of them I'd just like to see get in the game. So here's my list of shoulds, mights and admitted fat-chancers for Tuesday.

Best picture

"Barney's Version"

I'm sure "127 Hours" and "True Grit" will be nominated, but I'd rather see this poignant comedy-drama, starring Paul Giamatti as a hopeless philanderer, make the list. It wouldn't win, of course - the Oscar seems destined to go to either the critically adored "The Social Network" or the crowd-pleasing period-piece "The King's Speech."

Best director

Christopher Nolan, "Inception"

Don't think he deserves it? You try choreographing multiple, simultaneous dream sequences that unfold at differing rates of time. Nevertheless, it seems likely that David Fincher will win for "The Social Network," as he did at the Globes.

Best actor

Jesse Eisenberg, "The Social Network"

Eisenberg was born to play Mark Zuckerberg, the young computer nerd behind Facebook; nobody else could have made him so angry, so flawed and yet so pitiable, a kind of Web-era Charles Foster Kane. It seems clear the actual winner will be Colin Firth for his sensitive portrayal of a stuttering royal in "The King's Speech," but Eisenberg deserves a nod for seizing the role of a lifetime.

Best actress

Annette Bening and Julianne Moore, "The Kids Are All Right"

As a lesbian couple with two children, Moore was hilarious and Bening ferocious - and both deserve the award. A tie in this category isn't unprecedented: In 1969 the winners were Katharine Hepburn for "The Lion in Winter" and Barbra Streisand for "Funny Girl." But let's get real: If Natalie Portman doesn't win for "Black Swan" it'll go to Bening, who won best comedic actress at the Globes.

Best supporting actor

Justin Timberlake, "The Social Network"

He wouldn't (and shouldn't) win over Christian Bale, whose astounding performance as a crack addict is at the heart of the "The Fighter." But Timberlake deserves a nod for consistently lighting up the screen as Sean Parker, a fast-talking, mesmerizing dot-commer who spins his own kind of Web.

Best supporting actress

Melissa Leo, "The Fighter"

This isn't really a stretch, since she just won a Globe for her portrayal of a chain- smoking, working-class mother. Helena Bonham Carter could also win for playing a young Queen Mum in "The King's Speech." And despite my aforementioned hopes for Julianne Moore, this category is probably where she'll get a nomination for "The Kids Are All Right." 

Best animated feature

"The Illusionist"

This lovely movie, about an aging magician who adopts a young girl, was hand-drawn under the direction of Sylvain Chomet ("The Triplets of Belleville") and based on a screenplay left behind by the late French filmmaker Jacques Tati. I still think the award should and will go to the terrific "Toy Story 3," but a nomination could help this gem find the wider audience it deserves.

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