'King's Speech' rules in Oscar battle
AFTER a confusing year marked by uncertainty about the financial and creative futures of their industry, Hollywood's great and good must choose between the forces of tradition and modernity when they sit down to cast their votes for next month's Academy Awards.
The Oscar nominations, announced yesterday, set up an intriguing three-horse race. It pits two old-fashioned, well-made films set in the past -- a costume drama, 'The King's Speech', and a western called 'True Grit' -- against 'The Social Network', the biopic about the creation of Facebook.
Despite the important role 3D movies have played in boosting box-office returns, they failed to make a significant impact on the shortlists.
And although the independent sector continues to struggle commercially, small and medium-budget dramas dominated most of the key categories.
Leading the nominations for the big night on February 27 was 'The King's Speech', the historical drama about King George VI and his speech therapist, Lionel Logue, which opened here last week. It was shortlisted for 12 gongs including Best Picture, a record for any British title.
The film's star, Colin Firth, is favourite for the Best Actor award, having picked up a raft of silverware so far this awards season. His fellow actors Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush were picked in supporting categories, while Tom Hooper is in the running for Best Director.
A close second to 'The King's Speech' was the Coen Brothers movie 'True Grit', based on the novel by Charles Portis. It picked up 10 nominations, including one in the Best Supporting Actress category for its young star Hailee Steinfeld, a previously unknown 14-year-old who plays Mattie Ross, a girl seeking revenge for the murder of her father.
Steinfeld hopes to become the third youngest winner of the Oscar. Her personal fairytale began when she was cast in the role just days before filming was due to commence.
"She came along at the last possible minute," 'True Grit's' producer, Scott Rudin, said.
"We were two weeks from shutting down the movie, because we didn't have the right girl to star in it. And then we met Hailee."
Mr Rudin is also behind the third big contender of this awards season: the Facebook film 'The Social Network'.
It dominated the Golden Globes, and got eight nominations yesterday, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay for writer Aaron Sorkin, and Best Director for David Fincher.
"We now have a very open Oscar race, in which a lot of very good films have multiple nominations. This has been a great year for intelligent drama," said Mr Rudin.
Other films with strong showings include 'The Fighter', about the boxer Micky Ward, which got seven nods including one for Christian Bale, who is favourite to win Best Supporting Actor, and 'Black Swan', Darren Aronofsky's drama set in the world of ballet, which got five. British director Danny Boyle's '127 Hours', about Aron Ralston, the hiker who cut off his own arm to escape from a climbing accident, got six nods; 'Toy Story 3' got five; while 'The Kids Are All Right', a comedy-drama about a lesbian couple and their children, is a contender in four categories.
Though the list had few surprises, many observers were stunned by the decision to ignore Christopher Nolan in the Best Director category.
His film, 'Inception', which has made more than $800m (€584m) at the box office, got most of its eight nominations in technical categories.
A final point of interest, 'The King's Speech' would never have been made had the producers not been able to secure a grant from the UK Film Council, the funding body which has just been controversially scrapped by the British Government. (© Independent News Service)