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A man carrying an Oscar statue in Los Angeles in March 2010. (Damian Dovarganes/AP Images)

Just lie back and think of England. That’s one way to get through this endless movie awards season while focusing on whether various British actors and films will nab Oscar gold.

While there’s no slam-dunk UK contender this year the way that Colin Firth and The King’s Speech were a year ago, there’s reason for Anglophiles to hope.

The long gauntlet that is awards season kicked off at the end of last month when the New York Film Critics Circle voted on its batch of prizes. In quick succession, the National Board of Review (a mysterious group whose membership qualifications have always been hazy) voted, the Independent Spirit nominations came out, and it was off to the races.

All of these awards are merely paving stones along the path leading to the Oscars next Feb. 26 (nominations will be announced January 24). Major markers along the way are the Golden Globes (January 15, with nominations coming next Thursday, December 15); the Screen Actors Guild Awards (January 29, with nominations announced next Wednesday, December 14); and the BAFTA awards (February 12, with nominations due January 17).

Here’s a look at how several of the major categories are shaping up, vis-à-vis British entries, at this early date:

Best Picture

The Academy has changed its rules, again, so that while there might be ten nominations for best movie, there could be as few as five. Likely to make the cut are War Horse (set in England and Europe during WWI, it’s directed by Steven Spielberg and tugs at the heartstrings) and Hugo (lots of Britishers in the cast and it was shot in England). Warner Brothers is putting massive promotional muscle behind Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, hoping to land a nomination for the final film in the series. Also mentioned as possibilities are The Iron Lady and My Week with Marilyn, but now that critics have gotten a look at both pictures, the sense is that they’re too lightweight for this category and instead will each have their leading ladies (Meryl Streep and Michelle Williams respectively) recognized. Long shots in the category are Shame, by British director Steve McQueen, and We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Scots-born director Lynne Ramsay.

Best Actor

The smart money is already being bet on Yanks George Clooney for The Descendants and Brad Pitt for Moneyball. The mostly likely Brit to be nominated in this category is Gary Oldman for his restrained performance as old-school spy George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Voters may also give consideration to Ralph Fiennes for Coriolanus and to Michael Fassbender for going pantless (and shirtless) in Shame.

Best Actress

 Meryl Streep is the current frontrunner for yet another masterful turn, this time as former British Prime Minister Margret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, a biopic. (Streep, who has two Oscars and a gazillion nominations, hasn’t won in 28 years. The woman is due.) English actresses who have a shot at being nominated include Tilda Swinton for playing the mother of a teen shooter in We Need to Talk About Kevin and Felicity Jones for Like Crazy. American Michelle Williams is expected to be nominated for playing Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn, a British film about the Hollywood sexpot’s visit to the U.K. in 1956 to make a movie. The long shot here is comic actress Olivia Colman, who just won a Best Actress nod at the British Independent Film Awards for her searing, dramatic turn as an abused woman in Tyrannosaur.

Best Supporting Actor

The teacup overflows with possible English contenders in this category. Colin Firth may get a nod for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, as could his co-star, Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock). Kenneth Branagh is being mentioned for his amusing turn as Laurence Olivier in My Week with Marilyn and Sir Ben Kingsley, a previous Oscar winner for Gandhi, is being talked up for Hugo. The always reliable Jim Broadbent is impressing early viewers of The Iron Lady with his performance as Denis Thatcher, Dame Maggie’s hubby. And 20th  Century Fox is taking out lots of trade ads hyping Andy Serkis for his performance (albeit through motion capture animation) as the top ape in last summer’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Best Supporting Actress

The ladies from The Help, particularly Octavia Spencer, are the favorites here, but Spencer is likely to get strong competition from England’s Janet McTeer for her bravura performance as a woman disguised as a man in Albert Nobbs. Vanessa Redgrave, who has won two Oscars, may be recognized for her impressive turn as an ambitious mother in Coriolanus. And Carey Mulligan could manage a nomination for her achingly vulnerable young woman in Shame. (She too, like Fassbender, gets naked, and not just emotionally, in the movie.)


Who are you hoping will get an Oscar nomination?


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By Leah Rozen