Ballots for the 2011 Academy Awards go out

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An Oscars statue is seen before the start of the 83rd Annual Academy Awards Nominations Announcement.

A week after movie lovers received the list of this year’s Oscar nominees, the real contest begins. Ballots to choose the winners go out to voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Wednesday.

About 6,000 people hold the power to trump movie critics and decide countless informal bets come Oscar night. Those academy members will have 20 days to vote on 24 award categories.

For months, tastemakers have anointed a cluster of films and performers as the year’s best. But the Oscar ballot results could hold surprises: Will “Toy Story 3” trump presumed front-runners “The King’s Speech,” “True Grit” and “The Social Network” to snare the first Best Picture Oscar for an animated film?

Will any of the favored films walk away from the awards ceremony empty-handed, as the much-praised “Up in the Air” did last year?

Will first-time Oscar nominees like Jennifer Lawrence in “Winter’s Bone” or James Franco in “127 Hours” edge out established competitors in the lead acting categories? Stay tuned.

Academy members must return their ballots by Feb. 22 — five days before the televised Oscar ceremony at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.

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