February 18, 2011 at 05:00 AM EST

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Inception certainly counts as the most original script this year, but David Seidler’s touching screenplay for The King’s Speech has the emotional pull needed for the win.

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Aaron Sorkin’s crackling script for The Social Network is a nonstop tsunami of brilliant dialogue. The Academy is destined to ”like” it.

EDITING
The King’s Speech could take this category as part of a sweep, but The Social Network may appeal more to voters given the film’s constant shifts in time.

CINEMATOGRAPHY
Again, support for The King’s Speech may carry over to this race. But if there were ever a time when True Grit‘s nine-time nominee Roger Deakins had a shot to win his first trophy, it’s now.

ART DIRECTION
True Grit and The King’s Speech are both worthy, but the ultra-vivid Alice in Wonderland should, well, take the cake.

ORIGINAL SCORE
If voters go the avant-garde route, then Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ groundbreaking and sinister electronica for The Social Network could take it. But since they usually go classical, Alexandre Desplat’s delicate work on The King’s Speech should top Hans Zimmer’s much-talked-about Inception score.

ORIGINAL SONG
A very tough call. The two Disney tracks (”We Belong Together” from Toy Story 3 and ”I See the Light” from Tangled) could split and allow A.R. Rahman and Dido’s spare 127 Hours theme ”If I Rise” (co-written with Rollo Armstrong) to continue Oscar’s recent run of nontraditional winners.

COSTUME DESIGN
Over-the-top often wins over the Academy in this race. So expect Alice in Wonderland‘s exaggerated frocks to best The King’s Speech‘s more subdued duds.

MAKEUP
Best Makeup usually means Most Makeup, so give the edge to Rick Baker and Dave Elsey’s meticulous creatures from The Wolfman.

SOUND EDITING/SOUND MIXING
The Coen brothers’ legions of fans could fashion a True Grit upset, but both sound categories should go to the technically masterful Inception.

VISUAL EFFECTS
Is there any way the eye-popping Inception can possibly lose? Keep dreaming.

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
This year’s noms are all gritty and dark. While Mexico’s Biutiful is probably the best known, Danish director Susanne Bier’s Golden Globe winner In a Better World offers the most uplift despite some dark undercurrents about bullying.

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Charles Ferguson’s financial-crisis exposé Inside Job is the easy bet here, though the Afghan-war doc Restrepo could slip in.

DOCUMENTARY SHORT
The strongest contender is Killing in the Name, about a Jordanian who confronts Muslim extremists after a suicide bomber kills 27 people at his 2005 wedding. Possible spoiler: Strangers No More, about a multiethnic Israeli school.

ANIMATED FEATURE
A no-brainer: Toy Story 3.

ANIMATED SHORT FILM
The 27-minute kids’-book adaptation The Gruffalo, with the voice of Helena Bonham Carter, is the fave, though Pixar’s Day & Night has its fans.

LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM
The Burundi-set Na Wewe is impressive, but we lean toward The Confession, a well-shot and -acted yarn about a 9-year-old boy and a prank that spirals far out of his control.

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