With 12 Oscar nominations, 'King's Speech' says it all

 

The acclaimed British drama `The King's Speech' dominated nominations for Oscars, but there were also some pleasant surprises.

By RENE RODRIGUEZ | rrodriguez@MiamiHerald.com

A surprising mix of the predictable and the unexpected typifies nominations for the 49th Academy Awards, which were announced Tuesday. Last year's decision to expand the Best Picture category from five to 10 nominees allowed blockbusters and crowd pleasers such as Avatar and District 9 to crash what had traditionally been a snooty ceremony. But this year's nominations suggest that Oscar voters continue to take a serious look at movies in all categories, regardless of their production costs or how much money they raked in.

As expected, the British drama The King's Speech, the sort of high-toned, pedigreed picture the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has traditionally honored, racked up the most nominations -- 12 -- including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director, Best Original Script and Best Actor (for Colin Firth, who is a mortal lock to win).

The Social Network, which had swept practically every critics-group and awards show until a shocking upset at the Producers Guild of America (which opted for The King's Speech), also made a strong showing with eight nominations, nabbing nods for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor (for Jesse Eisenberg). Until last week, The Social Network seemed a sure thing for Best Picture. But with the PGA surprise, the biggest Oscar of all really is up for grabs.

`THE FIGHTER'

The Fighter, the rousing real-life story of the relationship between two brothers set against the sport of boxing, made an impressive show with seven nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting nods for Christian Bale and Melissa Leo. If there is any justice in the cosmos, both will win.

The polarizing Black Swan earned five nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director and a nod for Natalie Portman in the Best Actress category, essentially a two-way race with Annette Bening, whose film The Kids Are All Right earned four nominations, including Best Picture.

The fact-based drama 127 Hours may not have succeeded at the box office -- something to do with audiences not being keen about watching a man saw his arm off -- but Academy voters rewarded the film's considerable merits with six nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor for James Franco, who will co-host the awards telecast at 8:30 p.m. Feb. 27 on WPLG-ABC 10 and has a chance to become the first host to win an Oscar on the same night.

Joel and Ethan Coen's remake of True Grit was one of the biggest surprises, scoring an unexpected nine nominations, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (newcomer Hailee Steinfeld), Best Director and Best Actor for last year's winner Jeff Bridges, who essentially reprised his down-in-the-dumps alcoholic routine from Crazy Heart and probably knocked Blue Valentine's much more deserving Ryan Gosling out of the category.

LOVE FOR INDIES

Gosling's co-star Michelle Williams did earn a Best Actress nomination, along with Nicole Kidman for the little-seen Rabbit Hole. Continuing the Oscars' trend to recognize small, independent features along with studio productions, the low-budget drama Winter's Bone impressed with four major nods, including Best Picture, Best Actress (Jennifer Lawrence), Best Supporting Actor (John Hawkes) and Best Adapted Screenplay. Australian actress Jacki Weaver also won a surprise Best Supporting Actress nomination for her portrayal of a murderous grandma in the little-seen crime drama Animal Kingdom.

Javier Bardem's out-of-nowhere nomination for Best Actor for Biutiful proved that Academy members actually watched the grueling, grim drama and recognize the genius of his performance. Biutiful also made the final cut of the five Best Foreign Language Films, which include two movies -- In a Better World and Incendies -- to be screened at Miami International Film Festival in March.

Toy Story 3 earned three nods, including a Best Picture nomination, becoming only the third cartoon in history (after Beauty and the Beast and Up) to achieve the honor. Banksy's is-it-real-or-not documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop made the list of documentary nominees, along with the superb Inside Job and Waiting for Superman and Restrepo, about Pfc. Juan S. Restrepo, a 20-year-old medic from Pembroke Pines who died in Afghanistan.

The box-office blockbuster Inception scored eight nominations, but with the exception of Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay, all came from technical categories. The film's star, Leonardo DiCaprio, was once again snubbed, despite having turned in two terrific performances this year, in Inception and Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island (another film ignored by Oscar).

Also sadly snubbed: The Italian melodrama I Am Love, which scored one measly nomination, for Best Costume Design.

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