rnrnEven though Oscar bloggers have already been debating this year’s Oscar contenders for months now, it wasn’t until this week that Awards Season 2011 really kicked off in earnest. The Golden Globes, SAG and VH1’s own Critics’ Choice Movie Awards all announced their list of nominees this week, transforming the race from something that a few nerdy bloggers were discussing into something that THIS nerdy blogger is discussing! Because we love few things in life more than prognosticating, we decided now’s as good a time as any to pull out our trusty crystal ball, dust it off and peer into the Oscar future. We compiled the following list of Oscar frontrunners after consulting both reputable experts and shady gambling sites, so read along to find out who you should strongly consider betting on in this year’s Oscar race. (Hint: put everything you’ve got on Christian Bale!)rnrnrnBEST PICTURErnFavorites: The Social Network, The King’s SpeechrnDark Horse: The FighterrnrnSorry, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole fans, this isn’t your year. If they gave out an Oscar for Best Digitally Animated Film About Talking Owls At War With Each Other, you’d be a shoo-in. Sadly, though, it looks like it’s a dead heat at this point between The Social Network and The King’s Speech. Here’s what each has going for it: The Social Network has dominated the zeitgeist since its release in early October, and Time‘s selection of Mark Zuckerberg for its coveted Person Of The Year award gives the film some additional gravitas; The King’s Speech has an impressive British pedigree and is seen as a “serious” film, which will give it some clout with older Oscar voters. However, if you’re the betting type and looking to put money on the underdog, look no further than The Fighter (DocSports has The Fighter at 14:1 odds at the moment). It has yet to open, but many are calling it the best sports film since Rocky (which, you may recall, won the Best Picture award in 1977) and could really size momentum in the race if it becomes a box office smash. rnrnrnrnBEST ACTORrnFavorite: Colin Firth (The King’s Speech)rnChallengers: James Franco (127 Hours), Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network)rnDark Horse: Ryan Gosling (Blue Valentine)rnrnColin Firth is a handsome, classically trained and well-liked actor starring in a prestige period piece in a role that allows him to triumph over a disability. Additionally, Hollywood LOVES to compensate for its inferiority complex by honoring British actors whenever possible, so when you put all these factors together, oddsmakers put the chances at Firth winning this award at a daunting 2:5. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s been nominated for Oscars in the past and lost. Still, don’t count out the chances of young turks James Franco, Jesse Eisenberg and Ryan Gosling just yet. It’s a long Oscar season and anything can happen!rnrnrnrnBEST ACTRESSrnFavorites: Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right), Natalie Portman (Black Swan)rnAlso-Rans: Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole), Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone), Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine)rnrnYou know how they say “It’s an honor just to be nominated”? Well, that’s exactly the sentiment that likely Oscar nominees Nicole Kidman, Michelle Williams and Jennifer Lawrence should keep in mind this year, as this race will almost certainly come down to the duo of Annette Bening and Natalie Portman. There are strong cases to be made for both of these talented actresses and, as always, this competition will come down to who puts on a better campaign. Bening has incredible connections in Hollywood circles and is seen as being “due,” while giving an award like this to a young talent like Portman could really energize the ceremony and Portman’s box office potential for years to come.rnrnrnrnBEST SUPPORTING ACTORrnHuge Favorite: Christian Bale (The Fighter)rnrnBet your house, your parents’ house and your children’s 529 savings on Christian Bale, it’s his time. Here’s why: He escaped the trappings of being a child actor (read: he’s payed his dues), he’s an actor who’s triumphed both with the critics and at the box office), he made a radical physical transformation for the part (he dropped tons of weight to look like an ailing crackhead), and his role reportedly packs an emotional wallop. The only way Bale loses this is if he pulls a Mel Gibson sometime between now and March 5, 2011.rnrnrnrnBEST SUPPORTING ACTRESSrnFavorite: There isn’t one! (Yet…)rnPrime Contenders: Helena Bonham-Carter (The King’s Speech), Melissa Leo (The Fighter), Amy Adams (The Fighter)rnDark Horse: Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit)rnrnThis race is the most wide-open of the bunch right now. The kooky Helena Bonham-Carter has got the whole “British thing” (mentioned above) going for her (but New York Magazine says she’s already slipping), while Melissa Leo and Amy Adams both reportedly have amazing roles in the same crowd-pleasing film (and Awards Daily considers them both to be “Way Up”). Will Leo and Adams split votes, leaving Helena as the winner come Oscar night? Can the 14 year-old Hailee Steinfeld sneak into the competish and pull an Anna Paquin?rnrnDon’t forget that the 16th Annual Critics’ Choice Movie Awards are airing live on VH1 on Friday, January 14th at 9pm ET!