'The King's Speech' Reigns at Oscars
The King's Speech reigned at the 83rd annual Academy Awards Sunday night, securing the prize for best picture against such rivals as The Social Network. The British drama, released domestically by the Weinstein Co., also collected three other awards for best actor Colin Firth, director Tom Hooper and screenwriter David Seidler.
Natalie Portman danced to victory as best actress for playing a neurotic ballerina in Black Swan, while The Fighter costars Christian Bale and Melissa Leo captured the supporting actor and actress trophies. All four of the triumphant actors were first time Oscar winners.
Like Speech, Warner's thriller Inception also picked up four Oscars -- for cinematography, sound editing, sound mixing and visual effects. And Sony's Social picked up three key awards -- adapted screenplay, score and editing. But ultimately Speech, which began the night with a commanding 12 nominations, dominated in the final awards of the night, which guaranteed its coronation.
Although there were ten movies in play in the best picture race -- for the second time in modern Oscar history -- the pundits created a season-long narrative in which Social was pitted against Speech. Social, the critics' favorite, was characterized as the hipper, cutting edge choice for its behind-the-scenes account of the creation of Facebook, while Speech was painted as the safe and traditional option.
While Social appeared to be the early favorite, dominating the year-end critics awards, and claiming the Golden Globe as the year's best drama, Speech then rallied and took home a steady string of guild awards, including top honors from the Directors Guild of America, the Producers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild.
In the end, Speech, which dramatized King George VI's efforts to overcome a debilitating stammer, could be viewed as one in a line of best picture Oscar winners in which a singular man triumphs over adversity -- like 1998's Rain Man and 2001's A Beautiful Mind. Social is more akin to zeitgeist-defining movies like 1967's The Graduate, 1975's Shampoo and 1996's Jerry Maguire, whose anti-social heroes find themselves at odds with the world around them. None of those movies were rewarded with the ultimate prize, either.
As the winning producers accepted their crown, Iain Canning thanked Hooper and the movie's trio of lead actors, calling them "our acting royalty"; fellow producer Emile Sherman acknowledged that the relatively low-budget $14 million movie was a "huge risk" as he tipped his hat to the Weinstein Co.'s Harvey and Bob Weinstein -- the risk paid off handsomely for the various companies that backed the film, which has grossed more than $245 million worldwide; and refusing to give up the stage even as the music began to swell, Gareth Unwin called the win "a boyhood ambition come true tonight."
Firth, who was nominated last year for A Single Man and whose ultimate victory was something of a foregone conclusion, was self-deprecating in a tony British manner, as he accepted his Oscar. "I have a feeling my career's just peaked," he said before eloquently paying tribute to the movie's writer Seidler, "whose own struggles have given so many people the benefit of his very beautiful voice"; director Hooper "for immense courage and clear-sightedness"; and his own wife Livia "for putting up with my fleeting delusions of royalty."
Taking the stage to the music from Swan Lake, the pregnant Portman composed herself as she accepted her best actress Oscar and began by expressing her appreciation to her parents. Citing directors who had championed her such as Luc Besson and Mike Nichols, she moved on to hail Swan director Darren Aronofksy as "a fearless leader, a visionary." And she thanked the movie's choreographer, Benjamin Millepied, with whom she is expecting a child, for giving "me the most important role of my life."
Hooper, a first-time nominee, breathed a huge sigh of relief when the best director envelope contained his name. Just two weeks ago at Britain's BAFTAs, he lost the directing honors to Social's David Fincher.
"This is an extraordinary honor," he said before going on to thank his stars, Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter, writer Seidler and the film's producers. He reserved special acknowledgment for his mother, who first spotted Seidler's material at a play-reading and called to alert her son, telling him, "I think I found your next film." Added Hooper, "the moral of the story is listen to your mother."
Leo won the first acting award of the evening for her performance as fiercely controlling mom in The Fighter.
The veteran actress immediately established another first as she blurted out a bleeped-out F-word amid her flustered acceptance speech. First, though, she had to wait for presenter Kirk Douglas, who milked opening the envelope for all it was worth. "Pinch me," she said to Douglas as she accepted her Oscar. "Wow...mine..for me?," she vamped, as Douglas told her, "You're much more beautiful than you were in The Fighter" before he was escorted to the side of the stage.
Her Fighter costar Bale was named best supporting actor for taking on the real-life character of ex-fighter-turned-addict Dicky Eklund. Referring to Leo, the sometimes volatile actor said, "I'm not going to drop the f-bomb like she did. I've already done that plenty before." Instead, he thanked director David O. Russell and gave a shout-out to Eklund, who stood up and waved from his seat in the audience.
Aaron Sorkin, who was clearly the odds-on favorite in his category, claimed the Oscar for best adapted screenplay for the fast-talking Social, adapted from Ben Mezrich's book The Accidental Billionaires. As he began his acceptance, Sorkin noted that the great Paddy Chayefsky won a writing screenplay 35 years ago for another movie with the word network in the title. He also offered extravagant praise to the film's director Fincher, saying, "David Fincher made this movie and he did it with an ungodly artfulness."
Seidler's victory in the original screenplay category for Speech was equally expected. "My father always said to me, I would be a late bloomer," the writer said as he began his remarks before concluding, "I accept this on behalf of all the stutterers around the world. We have a voice, we have been heard, thanks to you, the Academy."
When it came to best score, the Social vs. Speech rivalry tipped in favor of Social and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who collaborated on its uniquely moody score. Reznor, a rock musician, said the Oscar was "humbling and flattering beyond words."
The movie, which cut relentlessly between a series of legal depositions, also rose to the top in the editing category, where Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter shared the prize.
Disney's Alice in Wonderland led off the trophy parade as it took home the first award of the evening, the prize for art direction.
Production designer Robert Stromberg was visibly nervous as he took the stage with set decorator Karen O'Hara. In his rush into a litany of thank yous, he referred to his Disney bosses as "Iger and Ross and Bailey," referring to Robert Iger, Rich Ross and Sean Bailey, reserving most of his thanks for the movie's director Tim Burton.
Alice's fantasy world also resulted in an award for its costume design, the third such Oscar that Colleen Atwood has won, and she also hailed "the singular Tim Burton."
Wally Pfister took home the night's second trophy for his cinematography in Inception. It was the fifth nomination and first win for Pfister, a longtime collaborator of director Christopher Nolan, and he acknowledged that fact, saying, "Nothing I did would have been possible without the incredible vision of my master Christopher Nolan."
When it came to sound, Inception executed a double-play: It earned the prize for sound editing, which went to Richard King, and for sound mixing, which went to Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick.
The film, full of elaborate imagery, picked up its fourth Oscar when it proved victorious in the visual effects race. Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb all came to the stage to accept their prize.
Even though presenter Cate Blanchett shuddered, "That's gross," after watching a clip from The Wolfman, in which Benicio Del Toro turns into the title character, the movie still took the prize for best make-up. The award was shared by Rick Baker (collecting his seventh Oscar win) and Dave Elsey (accepting his first).
Pixar's Toy Story 3, directed by Lee Unkrich, claimed the Oscar for best animated feature, while the corresponding prize for best short animated movie went to the Australian-made The Lost Thing and its creators Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann.
Expressing his debt to Pixar founders John Lasseter, Ed Catmull and Steve Jobs, Unkrich called Pixar "the most awesome place on the planet to make movies" and thanked audiences who "embraced a movie about talking toys that hopefully had something very human to say."
Toy got further airtime when Randy Newman got his second Oscar (on his 20th nomination) for the movie's tune "We Belong Together." Newman resisted a winner's natural inclination to recite a long line of thank-yous since it wouldn't be "good television" and also since, he admitted, "I've been on this show any number of times, and I've slowed it down every time."
Strangers No More, which looks at a school in Tel Aviv that is attended by children from 48 countries, earned the prize for documentary short subject, which was accepted by Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon.
The prize for best live-action short subject went to God of Love, which focuses on three musicians in a love triangle, directed by Luke Matheny, whose thank-yous included one to "my mother, who did craft services for the film."
Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs, who were previously nominated for the Iraq War documentary No End in Sight, both won their first Oscar for their new feature doc Inside Job, from Sony Pictures Classics, a look at the worldwide financial crisis of 2008.
Ferguson interjected some politics into the ceremony as he began his acceptance by saying, "Forgive me, I must start by pointing out that three years after a horrific financial crisis caused by massive fraud, not a single financial executive has gone to jail, and that's wrong."
Job's win did mean, however, that one of the night's great mysteries went unanswered. Was Banksy, the mysterious graffiti artist who was nominated in the same category for directing Exit Through the Gift Shop, in the audience? Who knows?
Susanne Bier's Danish feature In a Better World was named best foreign-language feature. The film ranges from a refugee camp in Sudan to a Danish provincial town, where two boys strike up a friendship as they confront local bullies. Thanking the Academy, Bier also tipped her hat to SPC and its two co-heads Michael Barker and Tom Bernard for distributing the film in America.
For the ABC broadcast, originating at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, the show's producers Bruce Cohen and Don Mischer aimed to give the show a fresher, more youthful look, recruiting James Franco and Anne Hathaway, who appeared amid a high-tech set that used a series of "projections" to shift from one historic setting to another.
To open the show, the two hosts took an Inception-like trip into Alec Baldwin's dreams, which looked like most of the other best picture nominees, in search of the secret for hosting the Oscars.
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