BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- The British monarchy saga "TheKing's Speech" leads the Academy Awards with 12 nominations,including best picture and acting honors for Colin Firth, HelenaBonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush.
Also nominated for best picture Tuesday were the psychosexualthriller "Black Swan"; the boxing drama "The Fighter"; thesci-fi blockbuster "Inception"; the lesbian-family tale "TheKids Are All Right"; the survival story "127 Hours"; theFacebook chronicle "The Social Network"; the animated smash "ToyStory 3"; the Western "True Grit"; and the Ozarks crime thriller"Winter's Bone."
"True Grit" ran second with 10 nominations, including actinghonors for Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld.
The Feb. 27 Oscars set up a best-picture showdown between twofavorites, "The King's Speech" and "The Social Network." "TheSocial Network" won best drama at the Golden Globes and was pickedas the year's best by key critics groups, while "The King'sSpeech" pulled an upset last weekend by winning the ProducersGuild of America Awards top prize, whose recipient often goes toclaim best picture at the Oscars.
"This story has struck such a rich resonant chord withaudiences of all ages, which is very exciting - to have your workhonored by your industry peers is even better," Rush said in astatement.
The favorites in the male-acting categories both were nominated,Globe winners Firth as best actor for "The King's Speech" andChristian Bale as supporting actor for "The Fighter."
The best-actress field shapes up as a two-woman race betweenAnnette Bening for "The Kids Are All Right," who won the Globefor actress in a musical or comedy, and Natalie Portman for "BlackSwan," who received the Globe for dramatic actress.
The supporting-actress Oscar could prove the most competitiveamong acting prizes. Melissa Leo won the Globe for "The Fighter,"but she faces strong challenges from that film's co-star Amy Adamsand 14-year-old newcomer Steinfeld, who missed out on a Globenomination for "True Grit" but made the cut for supportingactress at the Oscars.
"The Social Network" casts Jesse Eisenberg as Facebook founderMark Zuckerberg, who's depicted as an interpersonal lout inone-on-one relations but a genius for the masses, creating anonline hangout where half a billion people now keep connected withfriends.
"The King's Speech" stars Firth as Queen Elizabeth II'sfather, the stammering George VI, who reluctantly came to thethrone after his brother abdicated in 1936, a terrible time for astuttering monarch as British subjects looked to their ruler forinspiration via radio as World War II approached.
The two films represent a showdown between classy, traditionalOscar bait and edgy, youthful, up-to-the-minute drama.
With its aristocrats, statesmen and perilous times, "The King'sSpeech" is a throwback to the majestic, eye-filling costumepageants that dominated film awards in Hollywood's earlier decades.Its nominations also include best director for Tom Hooper andsupporting-acting slots for Bonham Carter as the king's devotedwife and Rush as his wily speech therapist.
"The Social Network" is an immediate story, set not in palacesbut college dorm rooms, cluttered start-up space and anonymouslegal offices where Zuckerberg battles former associates over theproceeds of his invention.
David Fincher is the best-directing favorite for "The SocialNetwork" after winning that prize at the Globes.
"My recommendation to anybody who wants to get an Oscarnomination is, work with David Fincher. It was just a triumph ofteamwork," Aaron Sorkin, nominated for best adapted screenplay for"The Social Network," said on ABC's "Good Morning America."
Along with Firth and Eisenberg, best-actor contenders are JavierBardem 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 rolethat earned John Wayne an Oscar for the 1969 adaptation of theWestern novel; and James Franco in the real-life tale of a climbertrapped in a crevasse after a boulder crushes his arm in "127Hours."
Bening was nominated for best actress as a lesbian mom whosefamily is thrown into turmoil after her teenage children seek outtheir sperm-donor father in "The Kids Are All Right." Portman wasnominated as a ballerina losing her grip on reality in "BlackSwan."
Other best-actress nominees are Nicole Kidman as a grievingmother in "Rabbit Hole"; Jennifer Lawrence as a teen trying tofind her missing father amid the Ozark Mountains' criminalunderbelly in "Winter's Bone"; and Michelle Williams as a wife ina failing marriage in "Blue Valentine."
Joining Fincher among best-director picks are Darren Aronofskyfor "Black Swan"; Joel and Ethan Coen for "True Grit"; TomHooper for "The King's Speech"; and David O. Russell for "TheFighter."
One notable snub was the omission of director Christopher Nolanfor "Inception," though he got a nod for original screenplay.Nolan also missed out on a directing Oscar nomination for "TheDark Knight," which was famously not nominated for best picture.
The directing category is back to an all-male lineup afterKathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win that prize last yearfor "The Hurt Locker," which also claimed best picture.
Bale, the star of Nolan's "Batman" franchise, is a strongfavorite to win supporting actor as former boxer Dicky Eklund, whohelps his half-brother to a title shot after his own careerunraveled amid drugs and crime in "The Fighter." The film's star,Mark Wahlberg, missed out on a nomination as Eklund's half-brother,boxer Micky Ward.
Two years ago, Bale's "Batman" co-star, the late Heath Ledger,was on the same awards track as he won a posthumous Oscar forsupporting actor for "The Dark Knight."
"The Fighter" offers two sterling supporting-actressperformances from Leo as Ward and Eklund's doting but domineeringmother and Adams as Ward's tough, defiant girlfriend. Steinfeld,who was just 13 when she shot her debut performance in "TrueGrit," also is a strong contender as a girl who hires lawmanCogburn to track down her father's killer.
"Toy Story 3," the top-grossing film released in 2010, also isnominated for animated feature and is expected to become thefourth-straight winner in that category from Disney's PixarAnimation, following "Up," "WALL-E" and "Ratatouille." Pixarhas won five of the nine animation Oscars since the category wasadded.
The other animation nominees are "How to Train Your Dragon"and "The Illusionist."
While two of the three animated categories are huge commercialsuccesses, the best-picture race is a mix of big commercial hitsand smaller critical darlings, which is what academy organizerswanted when they expanded the competition to 10 films.
Like "Toy Story 3," "Inception" is a blockbuster, comingfrom director Nolan, whose "The Dark Knight" missed out on abest-picture nomination two years ago, contributing to the decisionto double the number of contenders so that acclaimed popular movieswould have a better chance.
"True Grit" is the first $100 million Western hit since the1990s, "The Social Network" climbed to about $95 million inrevenue, and "Black Swan" is closing on $100 million. At theother end are "Winter's Bone" with $6.3 million and "127 Hours"with $11 million, respectable returns for lower-budgetedindependent films but small change next to big studio productions.
Besides Leo, Adams, Bonham Carter and Steinfeld, Jacki Weaverearned a supporting-actress nomination as a crime family matriarchin the Australian thriller "Animal Kingdom."
Rounding out the supporting-actor field with Bale and Rush areJohn Hawkes as a backwoods tough guy in "Winter's Bone"; JeremyRenner as a holdup man in the bank-heist thriller "The Town";Mark Ruffalo as a sperm-donor dad in "The Kids Are All Right."
The Oscar ceremony will be televised live on ABC fromHollywood's Kodak Theatre.
Online: http://www.oscars.orgCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times