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This Year’s Biggest Oscar Underdogs

Toy Story 3
Disney

While the press always thinks they know who the Academy Award winners will be, an underdog or two usually manages to snatch a statuette away from the favorite. Just last year, little-seen indie film “The Hurt Locker” upset James Cameron’s blockbuster “Avatar” for Best Film.

In 2002, 29-year-old Adrien Brody upset Oscar perennials Jack Nicholson and Daniel Day-Lewis to win Best Actor. Marisa Tomei’s win in 1992 was so unexpected, a rumor spread that presenter Jack Palance announced the wrong name.

Who will be the biggest surprise winner this year? Here are five of the biggest underdogs in their categories. Any one of has the potential to make Oscar upset history on February 28th.

5. Jacki Weaver
Category: Actress in a Supporting Role
Favorite: Melissa Leo
As morally ambiguous as Leo’s character is in “The Fighter,” Weaver’s portrayal in “Animal Kingdom” makes the boxing mom seem like Mother Teresa. Very few Americans have seen the crime Australian drama. It’s dark, slow, disturbing and a total mind-job. The fact Weaver got nominated is a total surprise, so what’s to stop her from pulling the big upset?

4. James Franco

Category: Actor in a Leading Role
Favorite: Colin Firth
While “127 Hours” is tough to watch, young Franco’s portrayal as a mountain climber forced to amputate his arm with a dull knife is genius. However, the longtime actor’s actor, Firth, is the hands-down favorite to pick up his first Oscar for his role as a stuttering monarch in “The King’s Speech.” Amputee or stutterer? Did you ever think it’d come down to that?

3. John Hawkes
Category: Actor in a Supporting Role
Favorite: Christian Bale
Bale’s role as a crack-addicted former boxer in ÒThe FighterÓ has almost everything voters love: larger than life character, a complicated accent, serious weight loss, based on actual person and redemption. However, dark horse Hawkes is brilliant and haunting in the year’s art-house standout, “Winter’s Bone.”

2. Toy Story 3
Category: Best Picture
Favorite: “The King’s Speech”
No animated film has ever won the Oscars’ most competitive category. In fact “Toy Story 3″ is only the third ever to be nominated, joining “Beauty and the Beast” and “Up.” Very few expect any film to upset the British time-period drama and the timely ÒSocial Network.Ó However, there is a chance the favorites will split votes and allow the Pixar cartoon to sneak through.

1. “The Illusionist”

Category: Best Animated Feature
Favorite: “Toy Story 3″
There is no bigger Oscar “lock” than this category. Pixar has won this award five of nine years it’s been offered. Plus, “Toy Story 3″ is only the third movie to be nominated for Best Picture. Even with all that against it, France’s “The Illusionist” could pull a rabbit out of the hat. The animation is beautiful, the story complex and it’s the most “adult” feature of the three nominations. All of that could set it apart.

- Contributed by Ryan McKee

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