"The King's Speech" dominated the Oscar nominations on Tuesday morning, earning 12 nods including best picture and best lead actor for Colin Firth as King George VI, who battles to eradicate his stammer before he unexpectedly takes the throne.
Joel and Ethan Coen's spirited remake of the western "True Grit" followed with 10 nominations for the 83rd annual Academy Awards, including best picture. "The Social Network" and "Inception" scored eight apiece.
Those four films are in the running for best picture with six other movies: "Black Swan," "The Fighter," "The Kids Are All Right," "127 Hours," "Toy Story 3" and "Winter's Bone." "Toy Story 3" is also nominated in four more categories, including best animated feature.
The academy shared the wealth this year, doling out nominations in the major categories to movies big and small. Nominated alongside blockbusters such as "Inception," "Toy Story 3" and "True Grit" are such tiny indies as "Winter's Bone" and "Animal Kingdom" -- two films that received acclaim but had limited release.
Firth, who won the Golden Globe for his lead role in "The King's Speech," is joined in the lead actor race by Franco for "127 Hours," surprise nominee Javier Bardem for "Biutiful," Jesse Eisenberg for "The Social Network" and Jeff Bridges, who won last year in this category for "Crazy Heart," for "True Grit."
Natalie Portman, Golden Globe winner and mom-to-be, is nominated for lead actress in "Black Swan" along with fellow Globe winner Annette Bening for "The Kids Are All Right," Nicole Kidman for "Rabbit Hole," Jennifer Lawrence for "Winter's Bone" and Michelle Williams in "Blue Valentine."
Supporting actor nominees are Christian Bale in "The Fighter," surprise nominee John Hawkes for "Winter's Bone," Jeremy Renner in "The Town," Mark Ruffalo in "The Kids Are All Right" and Geoffrey Rush for "The King's Speech."
On the supporting actress side, Amy Adams and Melissa Leo will duke it out for their roles in "The Fighter." Helena Bonham Carter is nominated for "The King's Speech," 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld for "True Grit," and Jacki Weaver in "Animal Kingdom."
Although many of the nominees are no stranger to Oscar, Tuesday's nominations show a notable infusion of first-time nominees including Eisenberg, Lawrence and Steinfeld.
Notably missing from the performance list of nominees: Ryan Gosling for lead actor in "Blue Valentine," Andrew Garfield for supporting actor in "The Social Network," Mark Wahlberg for lead actor in "The Fighter" and Mila Kunis for supporting actress in "Black Swan."
There was also a surprise in the directing category. Christopher Nolan, who is nominated for a Directors Guild of America Award for "Inception," failed to earn an Oscar nomination in that category. He did receive a nod for his screenplay for the surreal thriller.
Competing in the directing category are: Darren Aronofsky for "Black Swan," David O. Russell for "The Fighter," Tom Hooper for "The King's Speech," David Fincher for "The Social Network" and brothers Joel and Ethan Coen for "True Grit." The siblings also were nominated for their adapted screenplay of Charles Portis' novel.
Two of the best picture nominees -- "The Kids Are All Right" and "Winter's Bone" -- were directed by women, neither of whom made the roster.
The dearth of women in the directing category is sure to disappoint those who saw Kathryn Bigelow's win last year for "The Hurt Locker" -- she became the first woman ever to win in the directing category -- as a sign that women would be more welcome in that marquee category.
Other nominations of note:
In contention for the foreign language film Oscar are "Biutiful" from Mexico, "Dogtooth" from Greece, Golden Globe winner "In a Better World" from Denmark, "Incendies" from Canada and "Outside the Law" from Algeria.
Joining "Toy Story 3" in the animated feature film category are "How to Train Your Dragon" and "The Illusionist."
In the adapted screenplay category, the nominees are "127 Hours," "The Social Network," "Toy Story 3," "True Grit" and "Winter's Bone." Original screenplay contenders are "Another Year," "The Fighter," "Inception," "The Kids Are All Right" and "The King's Speech."
With Tuesday's nominations, the talk in Hollywood shifts to who will win the big prizes.
Though "The Social Network" has been a front-runner this awards season, it's now looking over its shoulder.
The period drama "The King's Speech" is picking up momentum: It won the Producers Guild of America award on Saturday night over "The Social Network" and also leads the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards with 14 nominations. Now, it leads the Oscar nominations with 12. And "True Grit" is also coming on strong with its 10 nominations. That said, the academy and westerns are like oil and water. Only three sagebrush sagas have ever won the best picture Oscar, the last being 1992's "Unforgiven."
There's another bit of awards-season speculation that is already pinging about the Internet, centered on the documentary feature nominee "Exit Through the Gift Shop." That film was directed by the infamous British graffiti artist Banksy, whose identify is a closely guarded secret. Is he ready to step out of the shadows to attend the Oscars? Or will he show up in disguise? Or skip it altogether?
All will be answered -- or not -- when the 83rd Academy Awards airs live at 5 p.m. Feb. 27 on ABC from the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland. Lead actor nominee Franco and Anne Hathaway are the hosts.
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