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Oscar Nominations: 'King's Speech' Leads With 12

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Firth’s Favorite Roles: “The King’s Speech”
Weinstein Company/Courtesy Everett Collection

"True Grit" earned 10; "The Social Network" and "Inception" nabbed eight.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences might as well have broken out the tea and scones Tuesday morning as it rewarded The King’s Speech with 12 nominations to make it the dominant player at the 83rd annual Academy Awards. True Grit, set on the edge of the American frontier in the 19th century, placed second with 10 nominations. And the dreamy thriller Inception and the computer-savvy The Social Network followed close behind with eight nominations each.

The nominations represented a victory for a resurgent Weinstein Co., which boarded  the $14 million Speech, a drama about King George VI’s efforts to overcome a speech impediment on the eve of World War II, when it was still at the script stage. The movie, which received a standing ovation when it was first unveiled at the Telluride Film Festival, has found a receptive U.S. audience, having grossed $57.3 million domestically to date. PHOTOS: Oscar hosts through the years.

"I can honestly say, when you make a movie for $14 million, it was about the twelve actors who came together to create an ensemble, a repertory company on film," said Weinstein Co. co-head Harvey Weinstein of the movie's appeal. "[Director] Tom Hooper is brilliant visually, but he also knows how to work with actors. Everyone called in favors -- myself, Colin Firth, Tom -- to get that cast."

Earning nominations for all of its three principal actors -- Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter -- bested the competition. Sony’s Social, a critical favorite which many handicappers have been predicting will be Speech’s main rival for best picture honors come Oscar night on Feb. 27, had to settle for eight noms, since it scored only one acting nomination -- for Jesse Eisenberg, who plays Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg -- and did not figure in the art direction and costume design where Speech, as a period movie, had an edge.

True Grit, a late starter this awards season since the Paramount/Skydance production wasn’t unveiled until shortly before it was released Dec. 14, made up for lost time with a particularly strong showing. The fraternal filmmaking team of Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, who took home multiple Oscars three years ago with their best picture winner No Country for Old Men, were back in the saddle, picking up adapted screenplay, directing and best picture noms. Jeff Bridges, last year’s best actor for Crazy Heart, secured a back-to-back nomination for stepping into the boots of Rooster Cogburn, a role that first proved Oscar-worthy when John Wayne played it in 1969; and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld earned her spurs in the supporting actress category for playing the spunky Mattie Ross.

But certainly the man who had the most to celebrate once the noms were revealed was producer Scott Rudin, who earned two best picture nominations for both Social and Grit. It’s only the second time since 1951, when individual producers rather than companies were first cited in the best picture nominations, that a producer has done that in the same year. In 1974, Francis Ford Coppola and Fred Roos were similarly honored for The Conversation and the eventual winner, The Godfather: Part II.

Still, for others, the morning had to be bittersweet. While Inception, widely hailed as a thinking-man’s blockbuster, amassed eight nominations including best picture and best original screenplay for Christopher Nolan, he was not included among the best director nominees, a surprise given that he has been nominated by the Directors Guild of America. And the movie’s editor, Lee Smith, was also overlooked. PHOTOS: Oscars snubs

Others that must have found themselves waiting by phones that didn’t ring with celebratory news included Another Year’s Lesley Manville, who began awards season with a best actress citation from the National Board of Review but then failed to gain further traction; Robert Duvall, who was nominated by the Screen Actors Guild for his ornery recluse in Get Low but then ignored by the Academy; Social’s supporting players Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake; Paul Giamatti, despite winning the best comedy actor Golden Globe for Barney’s Version; and other Globe acting nominees like The Kids Are All Right’s Julianne MooreThe Fighter’s Mark Wahlberg, Wall Street: Money Never Sleep’s Michael Douglas, Blue Valentine’s Ryan Gosling and Black Swan’s Mila Kunis.

By nominating ten pictures for the second year in a row since the 1940s, the 5,755 voting members of the Academy did embrace a wide range of motion pictures, which ran the gamut from Toy Story 3, the top-grossing picture of 2010 with more than $1 billion in worldwide ticket sales -- it was also nominated in the animated feature category along with French film The Illusionist, distributed by Sony Pictures Classics, and DreamWorks Animation’s How to Train Your Dragon -- down to feisty indie Winter’s Bone.

Bone, which debuted at last year’s Sundance Film Festival and was released last summer by Roadside Attractions, clearly made a big impression even though it grossed just $6.3 million domestically. The austere drama collected four nominations -- best actress for Jennifer Lawrence, best supporting actor for John Hawkes, best picture and best screenplay for writer-director Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini.

For Roadside, which also picked up two nominations for Biutiful, Mexico's foreign-language film entry, it was a particularly heartening morning. Javier Bardem's best actor nomination for Biutiful "is really a credit to the campaign," said Roadside co-head Howard Cohen. "The movie got a mixed reception in Cannes, and as of mid-December, we were nowhere. But we poured it on with two key screenings -- one with Sean Penn and the other with Julia Roberts -- which really reverberated. People noticed. In the case of Winter's Bone, which opened over the summer, once we started getting the critics' awards, we were able to get Academy members to watch the movie, and they really responded."

In addition to Toy, Bone, Speech, Social, Grit and Inception, the ten best picture nominees also include Black Swan, The Fighter, The Kids Are All Right and 127 Hours.

The Academy's directing branch once again looked more like an exclusive boys club with its nominations. In addition to the Coens and Hooper, the directing nominees are Swan's Darren Aronofsky, Fighter's David O. Russell and Social's David Fincher.

But two movies that can be credited to women directors, who also served as co-writers, made it into the best ten: Kids, directed by Lisa Cholodenko, and Bone, directed by Granik.

Observed Focus Features CEO James Schamus, who acquired Kids exactly one year ago at Sundance, "In a year of very muscular movies, it's nice to see that some of the muscles being flexed come from a female-centric creative team."

But despite the wide variety of films, there was a marked lack of diversity among the acting nominees. For the first time since the 73rd Oscars 10 years ago, there were no black actors nominated -- a fact that reflects a 2010 release schedule that came up short as far as seriously themed movies about African-American were concerned.

In the best actress category, Lawrence will find herself up against a field that encompasses Annette Bening, who plays a lesbian mom protecting her family in Kids; Natalie Portman, who steps in the pointe shoes of a ballerina descending into madness in Swan; Nicole Kidman, who stars as a mother dealing with grief in Rabbit Hole; and Michelle Williams, who portrays a young woman whose marriage is falling apart in Blue Valentine.

Along with Bridges, Eisenberg and Firth, the best actor lineup consists of Bardem, who plays a dying man putting his life in order in the Spanish-language Biutiful, and James Franco, who is co-hosting the Oscars with Anne Hathaway and who was nominated for his trapped hiker in 127 Hours.

Christian Bale led off the list of best supporting actors for his performance as a meth-addled ex-boxer in The Fighter. Hawkes, for his tough backwoodsman in Bone; Jeremy Renner, for his hopped-up street tough in The Town; Mark Ruffalo, for his sperm donor of a dad in Kids; and Speech’s Rush.

In addition to Bonham Carter and Steinfeld, the best supporting actress nominees are Amy Adams, for her feisty girlfriend in The Fighter, and Melissa Leo, who plays a formidable mom in the same movie; and Aussie actress Jacki Weaver, who plays an equally monstrous matriarch in Animal Kingdom.

All the 10 best picture nominees, with the exception of the genre-defying Swan, also collected nominations in the two screenwriting categories.

In the category of original screenplay, Swan, which was nominated by the Writers Guild of America, lost its spot to Mike Leigh's Another Year. It's the seventh nomination for the British writer-director. The other nominees are Fighter, screenplay by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson, story by Keith Dorrington & Tamasy & Johnson; Inception, written by Nolan; Kids, written by Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg; and Speech, screenplay by David Seidler.

For adapted screenplay, the nominees are: 127 Hours, screenplay by Danny Boyle (who, like Nolan, missed out on a directing nom) & Simon Beaufoy; Social, screenplay by Aaron Sorkin; Toy, screenplay by Michael Arndt, story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich; Grit, written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen; and Bone, adapted for the screen by Granik & Rosellini.

While the Academy validated 3D animated hits like Toy and Dragon, it also found room for the two-dimensional The Illusionist, from French director Sylvain Chomet, who also earned a feature animation nomination seven years ago for The Triplets of Belleville.

"Do you know what it means to get one of those three nominations up against those big quality films? It should give us the really good box office we saw with Triplets, where the nomination doubled the gross," said Michael Barker, co-head of Sony Pictures Classics, which garnered noms across seven different categories.

While the SPC execs were pained by the omissions of Duvall and Manville, they scored one supporting actor nom (Kingdom's Weaver) and Leigh's screenwriting nom.

Additionally, SPC is releasing Charles Feguson's Inside Job, which documents the 2008 financial crisis and made it into the circle of feature documentary nominees. This weekend, it will expand to about 200 screens. The documentary feature category also includes Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic's Gasland, Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger's Restrepo, Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley's Waste Land and Exit Through the Gift Shop, directed by Jaimie D'Cruz and guerrilla artist Banksy -- raising the intriguing possibility that Banksy's graffiti could grace the Kodak Theatre come Oscar night.

Surprisingly, though, Davis Guggenheim's critique of the U.S. educational system, Waiting for Superman, which won an award from the Producers Guild of America on Saturday night, was among the missing.

SPC also fielded two of the foreign-language film nominees: Denmark's In a Better World and Canada's Incendies. The other nominees are Mexico's Biutiful, Greece's Dogtooth and Algeria's Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi).

With the nominations now revealed, the wait until the big show on Feb. 27 begins. At Academy headquarters Tuesday morning, president Tom Sherak, who announced the nominations with last year's supporting actress winner, Mo'Nique, predicted that hosts Franco and Hathaway will "bring that youthful glamour and talent, and the show is going to be about the idea of young Hollywood meeting old Hollywood, and the history of who we are. I think you're going to see that come out on Oscar night."

Meanwhile, as the Oscar bandwagon began to pull out of the station, everyone was clamoring to jump on board and claim a piece of the action. Paramount announced it had a hand in 20 nominations: Seventeen from Grit and Fighter; two from Dragon, which it distributed for DreamWorks Animation; and one for Iron Man 2, which it distributed for Marvel. Sony Pictures pointed to the fact that its three labels -- Columbia, SPC and Screen Gems -- collected 17 noms. The Weinstein Co. had 13. Disney and Warners both had 12 each.

The Independent Film & Television Alliance applauded the multiple nominations earned by companies like the Weinstein Co. and Roadside. And the upcoming Santa Barbara International Film Festival, which kicks off Jan. 27, happily pointed out that it will be hosting dozens of nominees -- among them, Firth, Rush, Bonham Carter, Bening, Kidman and Nolan -- as Oscar season enters its final, critical round.

A complete list of nominees can be found on the next page.