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A royal fight ahead

'King's Speech' may be ahead of the pack but with rivals like 'True Grit' and 'Social Network,' it's gonna be close.

January 26, 2011|Nicole Sperling

The race is on.

In the weeks leading up to Oscar nomination day, David Fincher's Facebook movie "The Social Network" had all but been anointed the winner of this year's best picture Academy Award, racking up nearly every critic's prize across the country, in addition to taking the top Golden Globe. But Tuesday morning the race heated up significantly with the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences handing the British drama "The King's Speech" 12 nominations -- the most of any film this year.

Joel and Ethan Coen's western "True Grit" landed 10 nominations while "Social Network" and "Inception" each walked away with eight.

"It seems like an extremely even playing field," said Scott Rudin, who with "The Social Network" and "True Grit" became the first producer since 1974 to have two films in the best picture race. "I don't think it's a two-horse race, I don't think it's even a three-horse race. I think it's going to be a very fun and interesting month."

The rest of the films in the best picture category include director David O. Russell's "The Fighter," which earned seven nods; the James Franco-starring "127 Hours," which landed six; and "Black Swan" with five; plus "Toy Story 3," "The Kids Are All Right" and "Winter's Bone."

Leaving aside "Toy Story 3," all of the nine other best-picture nominees are adult-oriented dramas, most of which have done exceedingly well at the box office. "Inception," "True Grit" and "The Social Network" all passed the $100-million mark, and "Black Swan" is on track to do so. "These are all grown-up, sophisticated movies that are mostly big hits in a genre that people thought was finished," added Rudin.

This crop of films also serves as a reinforcement for the academy's decision to expand the best-picture category from five films to 10 last year as a way to better reflect the most popular movies (especially in comparison to the 2010 race, in which top-grossing "Avatar" was nominated but the little-seen indie "The Hurt Locker" won the top prize).

Nearing the finish

Now the teams behind the nominated films and actors will enter the final leg of their marketing campaigns, with four weeks remaining to get their movies seen and admired by all academy voters before ballots are due on Feb. 22. The awards will be handed out Feb. 27.

"The King's Speech" took home top honors at Saturday's Producers Guild Awards and seems to be gaining momentum. But the film's backers aren't taking anything for granted.

"I do not believe that of the 6,000-plus Oscar members, that everybody saw the movie," said Harvey Weinstein, whose Weinstein Co. distributed "The King's Speech," echoing the sentiments of most Oscar campaigners. "We have to get them all to see the movie."

Big match

In the top acting categories, the boxing drama "The Fighter" rivaled "The King's Speech" for the most nominations, with three each. Melissa Leo, Christian Bale and Amy Adams were all selected for their portrayals of characters in the real-life Lowell, Mass., family surrounding boxing champion Micky Ward (played by Mark Wahlberg, who was not nominated for his performance).

"We are here because of all these actors and their performances," said Russell, who also walked away with a best director nomination along with Darren Aronofsky ("Black Swan"), Tom Hooper ("The King's Speech"), Fincher ("The Social Network") and the Coen brothers ("True Grit"). "It's been very emotional for me and my family."

The one striking omission in the directing category was Christopher Nolan, whose mind-bending thriller "Inception" landed eight other nominations.

As for "The King's Speech," Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter were recognized for their portrayal of British royalty, while Geoffrey Rush was rewarded for his role as speech therapist Lionel Logue in the period drama about friendship and loyalty. "It's a simple thing," said Weinstein. "The reason the movie got that many nominations is a tribute to this cast. Our actors are our special effects on this movie."

In contrast, "The Social Network" only received one acting nomination -- for Jesse Eisenberg's portrayal of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Andrew Garfield's role as Zuckerberg's friend-turned-courtroom rival Eduardo Saverin was bypassed in the supporting actor category in favor of turns by Bale, Rush, John Hawkes for "Winter's Bone," Jeremy Renner in "The Town" and Mark Ruffalo for "The Kids Are All Right."

"It's pretty crazy," said Ruffalo of his first-time recognition for his role as a sperm donor in director Lisa Cholodenko's family drama. "I think this is as close as you can be to becoming royalty in this country. It's like being a duke. I was pretty much blown away."

One of the other actors landing a nomination for the first time was "127 Hours" star Franco, who will also be hosting the show with Anne Hathaway on Feb. 27. Franco said he's relieved to have double duty on Oscar night.

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