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SAG ballots go out this week

The Screen Actors Guild will mail out ballots on Thursday according to, setting the dice a-rolling in a wide-open crap-shoot for this year's awards.

The landscape has altered slightly since the nominations were announced. The "Inception" Oscar campaign has been ramping up (here's an L.A. Times guest essay arguing that Christopher Nolan is a genuis) and the Coen Bros. "True Grit" was finally released to rapturous reviews (not including mine). But none of this should change the preliminary bets you've already placed on the SAG awards and subsequent Oscars.

A quick SAG recap:

Colin Firth in "The King's Speech" remains the man to beat in the leading actor award. Only James Franco in "127 Hours" could give him a run for his money.

Annette Bening, playing a lesbian mother in "The Kids Are All Right," seems the obvious choice for the leading actress award. For starters, her performance is terrific. And then there's the competition: Natalie Portman the horror film "Black Swan," Hilary Swank in the tepidly-reviewed biopic "Conviction," Nicole Kidman in the indie bummer "Rabbit Hole" and the totally unknown Jennifer Lawrence from "Winter's Bone."

Christian Bale, as the crack-addict Dicky Eklund in "The Fighere," has the lock on supporting actor (for the Oscars as well). My precition: This will be one of the few categories that "The King's Speech" will not win. Geoffrey Rush shouldn't take that too hard, since he already won an Oscar for a very similar movie ("Shine").

Melissa Leo, also for "The Fighter," could walk away with the supporting actress SAG. Seems like everyone wanted to give her the leading actress Oscar for "Frozen River" last year, but she was still an unknown quantity. We know her now: She also has a brief but important role as a steely cop in "Conviction."

 As for the outstanding cast award, the SAG's closest equivalent to the best picture Oscar?

The competition is tough, particularly from the youthful cast of "The Social Network," the triple-play of Bening, Moore and Ruffalo in "The Kids are All Right" and a long list of great performances in "The Fighter," which also includes Amy Adams, Mark Wahlberg and Jack McGee. But "The King's Speech" will probably take it. Just about everyone in the film has an Oscar or a Tony (or a knighthood), and Firth will likely join them soon.

The 17th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards will be broadcast live Sunday, Jan. 30, on TNT and TBS at 8 p.m. Eastern time.


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