Movie Maniac

Early awards nominees leave the Oscars picture fuzzy

Movie awards season is like the NFL playoffs for film buffs.

We watch, speculate and analyze like diehard sports fans. The only thing we don't do is paint an Oscar on our chests (mostly because people would beg us to put our shirts back on).

Well, awards season is officially in full swing. Several high-profile organizations announced their picks this week. Many are considered indicators of how the Academy Awards might shape up, and from the early looks of things, it's going to be a rocky, unpredictable season of riches.

First, the New York Film Critics Circle Awards picked the Facebook film " The Social Network" best film and David Fincher best director ("Social" also recently was named best film by the Los Angeles film critics' awards).

Also on Monday, nominees for the 16th annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards were announced, with Darren Aronofsky's trippy ballerina tale " Black Swan" getting a whopping 12 nominations (including nods for best film, director and actress for Natalie Portman). The awards will be presented Jan. 14.

"Social" and "Swan" also fared well when the Hollywood Foreign Press announced Tuesday its nominations for the Golden Globe Awards.

The British monarchy tale " The King's Speech" led the Globes' list with seven nods, including best drama and acting honors for Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush.

I was particularly pleased with nominations for Jennifer Lawrence as best actress in a drama for her revelatory performance in " Winter's Bone" and James Franco as best actor in a drama for his captivating turn in " 127 Hours."

But the omission of both of their films from the best picture categories was kind of a head-scratcher.

Even though they carry some prestige, it's still hard to take the Globes too seriously — even last year's host, Ricky Gervais, was apparently getting tipsy during the proceedings (he's been asked to host the show again, despite — or perhaps because of — his ornery behavior). The awards will be telecast live on Jan. 16.

All these films and performers were (thankfully) mentioned again on Thursday, when the Screen Actors Guild announced nominees for its awards, to be handed out Jan. 30.

Their list truly heats up the Oscar race — the SAG nominees often mirror Oscar's.

And there were some upsets. " True Grit" was all but shut out of the Globes, while it received SAG nods for Jeff Bridges and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld in lead actor and supporting actress categories.

Nice surprises, though, were supporting actor nods for John Hawkes (fearfully stunning in "Winter's Bone") and Mark Ruffalo (coolly charming in " The Kids Are All Right" ). This strengthens their Oscar nomination chances significantly.

But we'll have to wait and see. The Academy Award nominations won't be announced until Jan. 25.