By Dave Karger
Updated February 25, 2011 at 07:34 PM EST

Each day leading up to Sunday’s 83rd Academy Awards, we will share Dave Karger’s Oscar picks in a major category, as well as his prediction of how the votes will break down (based on previous awards won and conversations with insiders and Academy members). Today, we have his picks for Best Actor and Actress. Check back tomorrow for his predictions for Best Director.

Colin Firth (The King’s Speech)

There’s simply no stronger lock in the major categories this year. Having just won this race last year, Jeff Bridges is at the back of the pack, while the impressive James Franco can focus on his Oscar-hosting gig instead of writing a speech. Javier Bardem, meanwhile, deservedly nabbed a surprise nod for his brutal performance, which will have to serve as his victory this year. The Social Network’s fans will likely boost Jesse Eisenberg to a second-place finish, but with SAG, BAFTA, and Golden Globe wins (not to mention coming awfully close to winning the Oscar last year for A Single Man), stammering monarch Colin Firth will easily walk away with his first trophy. No hesitation about it.

Vote percentage prediction:

Colin Firth (The King’s Speech): 55 percent

Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network): 20 percent

Javier Bardem (Biutiful): 10 percent

James Franco (127 Hours): 10 percent

Jeff Bridges (True Grit): 5 percent


Natalie Portman (Black Swan)

Can Annette Bening actually score an upset here? With four nominations for The Kids Are All Right compared with five for Black Swan, the three-time also-ran certainly has a shot against front-runner Natalie Portman, who’s here with her second career nod. (Happily for Bening, Hilary Swank, who’s beaten her in two Best Actress races, failed to make the cut

for Conviction.) Bening has noticeably stepped up her campaign in the past few weeks, but the deficit may be too big to surmount. The rest of the field — from a previous winner (Nicole Kidman) to a past nominee (Michelle Williams) to a first-timer (Jennifer Lawrence) — is worthy, and would have had a chance in a weaker year.

Natalie Portman (Black Swan): 40 percent

Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right): 35 percent

Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole): 10 percent

Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine): 10 percent

Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone): 5 percent

More Oscars 2011: