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Oscar's Battle Royal

The King's Speech gets ready to be crowned

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/1/2011 (3489 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

THE King's Speech -- a crowd-pleasing historical drama with the Oscar-friendly theme of a man overcoming his disability -- has emerged as the darling of the 2011 Academy Awards.

The true story of how King George VI dealt with his paralyzing stutter was nominated Tuesday for a front-running 12 Oscars, including best picture, best director and a best actor nomination for the likely winner, Colin Firth.

Oscar front-runner: The King’s Speech was nominated for 12 awards, including best picture, director and actor, Colin Firth.

Oscar front-runner: The King’s Speech was nominated for 12 awards, including best picture, director and actor, Colin Firth.

It was a day of some surprises and a few delights -- including the nomination of the Canadian film Incendies for best foreign film -- in the run-up to the 83rd Academy Awards.

The King's Speech emerges as a new favourite for the best picture Oscar, displacing The Social Network, which had taken many of the earlier critics' awards. The momentum shift began last weekend, when it was named best movie by the Producers' Guild of America, which has picked all the eventual Oscar winners since 2008: No Country for Old Men, Slumdog Millionaire, and The Hurt Locker.

The film -- which also earned nominations for Geoffrey Rush as a speech therapist and Helena Bonham Carter as the Queen Mother, as well as for director Tom Hooper -- is based on the true story of the man who was forced onto the English throne when his brother abdicated. It was launched at last fall's Toronto International Film Festival, where it won the audience award and has gone on to make $90 million in worldwide box office.

"The King's Speech gives the stuttering community a hero who inspires, and a movie that promotes understanding and acceptance of the complexities of stuttering," the Stuttering Foundation of America said in a statement.

It would be a more traditional choice for Oscar, which has a history of anointing historical dramas, biopics, and stories of redemption, especially if a physical or mental handicap is involved. The Social Network, about the invention of Facebook, is a contemporary American story that captures the Zeitgeist but lacks the heroic arc, as well as the emotional satisfactions, of The King's Speech. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, is portrayed by nominated actor Jesse Eisenberg as socially disconnected, but this becomes a business asset.

Still, in typical Oscar fashion, the academy defied predictions. Part of this was due to the new system of nominating 10 movies, which started last year, and resulted in a more adventurous list than in the past. Beyond the major films, Oscar now has room for offbeat love stories such as The Kids Are All Right, about a lesbian couple meeting the man who supplied the sperm for their children, and Winter's Bone, a low-budget indie movie about a young woman hunting for her father in the secretive Ozarks.

The movie, which brought in only $7 million at the box office, got four nominations, including best picture, best actress (for newcomer Jennifer Lawrence as the woman) and best supporting actor (for first-time nominee John Hawkes as Teardrop, a dangerous meth addict she encounters.)

True Grit, the Coen Brothers' remake of a 1969 John Wayne film, was second with 10 nominations. The film, overlooked by the Golden Globe awards and under the radar of critics' awards, earned a best actor nod for Jeff Bridges, who won last year against a field that also included Firth. It also got a best director nomination for Joel and Ethan Coen.

The Social Network and the sci-fi mind-twister Inception tied for third with eight nominations each.

Incendies, directed by Denis Villeneuve, is based on Wajdi Mouawad's play about two children learning the secrets of their mother's past in the Middle East.

 

It has already won awards at the Toronto and Vancouver film festivals. "It's a dream, and on the night of the awards, I think I'm going to be thankful just to be there with so many other talented filmmakers whose work I respect so much," Villeneuve said from the Sundance Film Festival, where Incendies is being shown.

It was the fifth Oscar nomination in the category for Canada: Denys Arcand's The Barbarian Invasions won the Oscar in 2004.

Javier Bardem was nominated for best actor for his role in the Mexican drama Biutiful -- another foreign film candidate -- taking a spot that was thought to be a toss-up between two Canadian-connected actors: Ryan Gosling for his performance as a troubled husband in the hard-edged drama Blue Valentine, and Paul Giamatti as the dissipated ladies' man in the Canada-Italy co-production of Barney's Version, which got one nomination, for best makeup. Bardem, who won the supporting actor Oscar in 2007 for No Country for Old Men, had been supported by his Eat Pray Love co-star Julia Roberts, who launched her own lobbying campaign to win him a nomination and held a private screening in Los Angeles for academy members.

Blue Valentine, another of the gritty little movies that stood to benefit from the enlarged selection process, had to make do with one nomination, a leading actress nod for Michelle Williams, who plays Gosling's wife. However, Oscar found room in the Top 10 for Toy Story 3, which was nominated for both best animated film and best picture. It tied with psychosexual ballet film Black Swan -- whose star, Natalie Portman, is the early favourite as best actress -- with five nominations each.

In the best supporting actress category, the academy nominated 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld for her role as the feisty young girl who hires Bridges' gunfighter in True Grit. Steinfeld is in almost every scene of the film, but the studio campaigned for a supporting actress nomination rather than a leading actress. Her competition includes little-known Australian actress Jacki Weaver for her role in the crime drama Animal Kingdom.

The Oscars will be handed out Feb. 27. Hosts of the show will be actors Anne Hathaway and James Franco, who is also a nominee for best actor. It's the first time that has happened since Paul Hogan, an Oscar host and nominee for best screenplay for the 1986 film, Crocodile Dundee.

-- Postmedia News

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