Oscar Race Heats Up: Who Will Go for the Gold?

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Colin Firth, who stars in "The King's Speech," is at the top of Johanson's men's list. Firth plays England's King George VI, who, trying to overcome the stammer he has had since childhood, becomes the student of a speech consultant with unorthodox methods.

"Firth's performance is amazing and even suspenseful, since we never know from one sentence to the next whether he'll even get his words out, and we feel mortified for him," said Johanson. "Firth's work illuminates a powerful story of human perseverance."

James Franco, who portrays outdoorsman Aron Ralston in "127 Hours," also ranked high with Johanson. Ralston frees his arm, which is trapped by a boulder, by amputating it.

"Franco's role, which is essential a one-man show, is about taking a big journey, and it's a marathon performance," said Johanson. "He carries the film."

A nomination could put Franco in an awkward position: He's co-hosting this year's Oscars along with Anne Hathaway.

Jeff Bridges also has a good chance at a nomination for his turn as U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn – a role made famous by John Wayne – in "True Grit," in which a young girl hires Bridges to track her father's killer.

Jeff Bridges in "True Grit."

Other contenders include Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg – both as a hero and a villain – in "The Social Network," and Paul Giamatti, in "Barney's Version," who plays a television producer revisiting his past over several decades.

There's also Mark Wahlberg, as welterweight Micky Ward in the biopic "The Fighter," and Jim Broadbent in "Another Year." Johanson also cited Russell Crowe for his "very believable performance" in "The Next Three Days."

Best Picture

Johanson's best bets are two movies about not giving up – "The King's Speech" and "127 Hours."

Also on her list are "Black Swan," for its depiction of the ballet world in a totally unique way, and "The Social Network" for its "very of-the-moment way of peeling back the mystique about the Facebook phenomenon, a technology we use all the time."

Johanson also likes Oscar-nomination chances for "True Grit," "Made in Dagenham" and "Another Year," directed by Mike Leigh, who's an Academy favorite. "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and "Toy Story 3" may also have a shot.

Go to Oscar.com for Oscar coverage before, during and after the awards.

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