By DAVID GERMAIN
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — The British monarchy saga “The King’s Speech” leads the Academy Awards with 12 nominations, including best picture and acting honors for Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush.
“This story has struck such a rich resonant chord with audiences of all ages, which is very exciting – to have your work honored by your industry peers is even better,” Rush said in a statement.
Also nominated for best picture Tuesday were the psychosexual thriller “Black Swan“; the boxing drama “The Fighter“; the sci-fi blockbuster “Inception“; the lesbian-family tale “The Kids Are All Right“; the survival story “127 Hours“; the Facebook chronicle “The Social Network“; the animated smash “Toy Story 3“; the Western “True Grit“; and the Ozarks crime thriller “Winter’s Bone.”
“True Grit” ran second with 10 nominations, including acting honors for Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld.
The Feb. 27 Oscars set up a best-picture showdown between two favorites, “The King’s Speech” and “The Social Network.” “The Social Network” won best drama at the Golden Globes and was picked as the year’s best by key critics groups, while “The King’s Speech” pulled an upset last weekend by winning the Producers Guild of America Awards top prize, whose recipient often goes to claim best picture at the Oscars.
The favorites in the male-acting categories both were nominated, Globe winners Firth as best actor for “The King’s Speech” and Christian Bale as supporting actor for “The Fighter.”
The best-actress field shapes up as a two-woman race between Annette Bening for “The Kids Are All Right,” who won the Globe for actress in a musical or comedy, and Natalie Portman for “Black Swan,” who received the Globe for dramatic actress.
The supporting-actress Oscar could prove the most competitive among acting prizes. Melissa Leo won the Globe for “The Fighter,” but she faces strong challenges from that film’s co-star Amy Adams and 14-year-old newcomer Steinfeld, who missed out on a Globe nomination for “True Grit” but made the cut for supporting actress at the Oscars.
“The Social Network” casts Jesse Eisenberg as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who’s depicted as an interpersonal lout in one-on-one relations but a genius for the masses, creating an online hangout where half a billion people now keep connected with friends.
“The King’s Speech” stars Firth as Queen Elizabeth II’s father, the stammering George VI, who reluctantly came to the throne after his brother abdicated in 1936, a terrible time for a stuttering monarch as British subjects looked to their ruler for inspiration via radio as World War II approached.
The two films represent a showdown between classy, traditional Oscar bait and edgy, youthful, up-to-the-minute drama.
With its aristocrats, statesmen and perilous times, “The King’s Speech” is a throwback to the majestic, eye-filling costume pageants that dominated film awards in Hollywood’s earlier decades. Its nominations also include best director for Tom Hooper and supporting-acting slots for Bonham Carter as the king’s devoted wife and Rush as his wily speech therapist.
“The Social Network” is an immediate story, set not in palaces but college dorm rooms, cluttered start-up space and anonymous legal offices where Zuckerberg battles former associates over the proceeds of his invention.
David Fincher is the best-directing favorite for “The Social Network” after winning that prize at the Globes.
Along with Firth and Eisenberg, best-actor contenders are Javier Bardem as a dying father in the Spanish-language drama “Biutiful,” which also is up for best foreign-language film; Bridges as boozy lawman Rooster Cogburn in “True Grit,” a role that earned John Wayne an Oscar for the 1969 adaptation of the Western novel; and James Franco in the real-life tale of a climber trapped in a crevasse after a boulder crushes his arm in “127 Hours.”
Bening was nominated for best actress as a lesbian mom whose family is thrown into turmoil after her teenage children seek out their sperm-donor father in “The Kids Are All Right.” Portman was nominated as a ballerina losing her grip on reality in “Black Swan.”
Other best-actress nominees are Nicole Kidman as a grieving mother in “Rabbit Hole”; Jennifer Lawrence as a teen trying to find her missing father amid the Ozark Mountains’ criminal underbelly in “Winter’s Bone”; and Michelle Williams as a wife in a failing marriage in “Blue Valentine.”
Joining Fincher among best-director picks are Darren Aronofsky for “Black Swan”; Joel and Ethan Coen for “True Grit”; Tom Hooper for “The King’s Speech”; Christopher Nolan for “Inception”; and David O. Russell for “The Fighter.”
The directing category is back to an all-male lineup after Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win that prize last year for “The Hurt Locker,” which also claimed best picture.
The Oscar ceremony will be televised live on ABC from Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre.
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