BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - "The King's Speech," the true story of an English monarch's struggle to overcome a disability to lead his nation in a time of war, is front-runner for this year's Academy Awards.
The film received 12 nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, and for its three main cast members.
Close behind are "True Grit," with 10 nominations. The Coen Brothers' remake of the classic western, starring Best Actor nominee Jeff Bridges (in the role that won John Wayne HIS Oscar).
"The Social network" the critically acclaimed tale of the founding of Facebook, with eight nominations, as did "Inception," a spectacular sci-fi thriller in which corporate espionage is conducted in the subconscious.
But a surprise this morning was the lack of a Best Director nomination for "Inception's creator, Christopher Nolan.
Nominations for this year's Oscars were announced by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences this morning at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.
Other nominees in the race for Best Picture include: "127 Hours," the true-life story of a hiker forced to cut off his arm when he becomes trapped under a boulder; "Black Swan," a feverish psychosexual tale of a ballerina and her mad dash for perfection; "The Fighter," about a struggling boxer and his combative family dynamics; "The Kids Are All Right," a comedy-drama about a lesbian couple whose lives are turned upside-down after meeting the sperm donor who sired their children; "Toy Story 3," a 3-D computer-generated odyssey of toys seeking to escape a daycare center; and "Winter's Bone," in which a young girl combats criminal elements in her extended Missouri family in order to save her home.
In addition to Bridges (winner last year for "Crazy Heart"), Best Actor nominees are Javier Bardem as a low-life seeking reconciliation in his relationships as he faces death in "Biutiful"; Jesse Eisenberg as Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg in "The Social Network"; Colin Firth as Britain's King George VI who must overcome a debilitating speech impediment in "The King's Speech"; and James Franco as Aron Ralston, who was forced to cut off his own arm to escape being trapped by a boulder in the UTAH wilderness in the true-life "127 Hours."
Firth was nominated last year for "A Single Man." Bardem was nominated for Best Actor for "Before Night Falls," and won Best Supporting Actor for "No Country for Old Men."
Best Supporting Actor nominees are: Christian Bale, as the brother and sparring partner of "The Fighter"; John Hawkes as the uncle who tries to dissuade Jennifer Lawrence from searching for her missing father in "Winter's Bone"; Jeremy Renner as a hot-headed gangster in "The Town"; Mark Ruffalo, as a sperm donor trying to connect with his progeny in "The Kids Are All Right"; and Geoffrey Rush as Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue, hired to correct the monarch's stutter, in "The King's Speech."
Rush, a Best Actor winner for "Shine," and received two Best Supporting Actor nominations. Renner was a Best Actor nominee last year for "The Hurt Locker."
Two of this year's Golden Globe winners are also nominated for Best Actress: Annette Bening as a lesbian mom struggling with her partner's infidelity in "The Kids Are All Right"; and Natalie Portman as a repressed ballerina who undergoes a haunting psychological journey in "Black Swan."
Also nominated: Nicole Kidman as a mother who cannot move beyond the death of her child in "Rabbit Hole"; Jennifer Lawrence as a backwoods Missouri teenager trying to uncover the mystery of her father's disappearance and save the family home in "Winter's Bone"; and Michelle Williams, for the courtship and marital drama "Blue Valentine."
Kidman won Best Actress for "The Hours." Bening has been nominated three times before (for "The Grifters," "American Beauty" and "Being Julia"). Portman and Williams have each been nominated once for Best Supporting Actress (Portman for "Closer," Williams for "Brokeback Mountain")
Nominated for Best Supporting Actress are Amy Adams, as the girlfriend of boxer Mark Wahlberg in "The Fighter"; Helena Bonham Carter as Elizabeth, the future Queen Mother, in "The King's Speech"; Melissa Leo, Wahlberg's combative mother in "The Fighter"; Hailee Steinfeld, for her film debut as a non-nonsense girl seeking revenge for her father's murder in "True Grit"; and Jacki Weaver as the matriarch of a criminal family in "Animal Kingdom."
Adams has received two Supporting Actress nominations in the past ("Junebug" and "Doubt"). Carter and Leo have each received Best Actress nods (for "The Wings of the Dove" and "Frozen River," respectively).
Missing from the major acting categories: Julianne Moore, Bening's co-star in "The Kids Are All Right," Michelle Williams' "Blue Valentine" co-star Ryan Gosling; and Leonardo DiCaprio, whose two performances in this year's "Inception" and "Shutter Island" may have canceled each other out.
The nominees for Best Director are Darren Aronofsky, "Black Swan"; David O. Russell for "The Fighter"; Tom Hooper for "The King's Speech"; David Fincher for "The Social Network"; and Joel and Ethan Coen for "True Grit."
The screenwriting categories mirror the Best Picture nominees except for "Black Swan"; its slot for Best Original Screenplay was filled by British filmmaker Mike Leigh for "Another Year."
In addition to its Best Picture nomination - the second for a Pixar animated feature - "Toy Story 3" was nominated for Best Animated Feature, alongside "How to Train Your Dragon" and "The Illusionist."
"Inception" and "True Grit" dominated the technical categories, including Best Cinematography. Roger Deakins, who has been nominated 8 times before without a win, is a favorite for his work on "True Grit," but he will be going up against "Black Swan," "Inception," "The King's Speech" and "The Social Network."
Costumes nominees are a mix of period ("The King's Speech," "True Grit"), fantasy ("Alice in Wonderland," "The Tempest") and contemporary (the Italian "I Am Love").
A big question raised by the documentary categories: Will the camera-shy street artist Banksy, nominated for "Exit Through the Gift Shop," appear at the awards now that he's up for Best Documentary Feature?
Also nominated are looks into the environmental hazards of natural gas "fracking" in "Gasland"; "Inside Job," an expose of the 2008 financial crisis; "Restrepo," which follows U.S> troops deployed in Afghanistan; and "Waste Land," which tells the story of Brazil's impoverished and the "catadores" who live and work at the world's largest landfill.
Winners of this year's Academy Awards will be announced on Sunday, February 27, 2011, at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, broadcast by ABC.
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