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"The King's Speech" took home seven awards from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts last night, including best film, best actor (Colin Firth), best original screenplay (David Seidler), best supporting actress (Helena Bonham Carter), best supporting actor (Geoffrey Rush), best music (Alexandre Desplat), and a prize unique to BAFTA, outstanding British film.

Its prime awards-season competitor, "The Social Network," bagged three awards. David Fincher won best director, Aaron Sorkin best adapted screenplay, and Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter best editing.

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"Inception" and "Alice in Wonderland" also each scored three: "Inception" for production design, sound and visual effects and "Alice in Wonderland" for hair, costumes and makeup.

The show itself was mostly a brisk affair, especially as cut for delayed broadcast on BBC America, with a half-hour red-carpet introduction and a two-and-a-half hour presentation.

Bonham Carter (a great actress, but an awkward winner) nattered on semi-charmingly in her acceptance speech. Is that why a handful of awards didn't fit into the televised format? We didn't even get to see cinematographer Roger Deakins win for "True Grit."

The host, British TV personality Jonathan Ross, noted that security was tight -- he reassured audience members that "Ricky Gervais would not get into the building." (Ross and Gervais are friends.) Without going into petty Gervais roast mode, he got off several genuinely funny, irreverent lines, including his note to Americans that the grand Royal Opera House, the event site, "is pretty much what all of Britain looks like apart from one street where Ken Loach lives with Mike Leigh in a council flat."

Christopher Lee -- Count Dracula in the Hammer horror films, Count Dooku in the "Star Wars" prequels, Scaramanga in "The Man With the Golden Gun" and the corrupted wizard Saruman in Peter Jackson's Tolkien films -- roused the audience to its feet for his acceptance of BAFTA's lifetime-achievement "Fellowship" award. Tim Burton, who directed Lee in several films including "Sleepy Hollow" (a homage to Hammer horror films), presented the award and was visibly moved when Lee called him one of the great directors.

Rosamund Pike, terrific in "Barney's Version" (opening Friday at the Charles), added a jolt of spontaneity when she misread her cues and nearly declared "The King's Speech" the winner for best original screenplay before announcing the nominees.

The nominations overall differed in significant ways from the Oscar nods. Hailee Steinfeld of "True Grit" was nominated in her true category, best actress. BAFTA, unlike nearly every other English-speaking awards group, did not forget Noomi Rapace, the heroine of the Millennium movies, who was also up for best actress, as were both Annette Bening and Julianne Moore for "The Kids Are All Right." All lost to Natalie Portman of "Black Swan." The best supporting actress nominees included Miranda Richardson for "Made in Dagenham" and Lesley Manville for "Another Year."

Andrew Garfield, so unexpectedly moving as Mark Zuckerberg's one pal in "The Social Network,"  was nominated for best supporting actor and rising star, but lost the first to Rush and the second to Tom Hardy (best known here for "Inception"). Pete Postlethwaite provided the final clip and image for BAFTA's "in memoriam" tribute; he also had been nominated for best supporting actor, for "The Town."

"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" won "best film not in the English language." David Fincher, who is making the English-language version, didn't fly to London for the BAFTA ceremony. Garfield, and Fincher's Zuckerberg, Jesse Eisenberg, accepted the best director award for "The Social Network" on his behalf.

Did last night presage a "King's Speech" romp over "Social Network" at the Oscars?  Not necessarily. The win for Fincher is telling. One of Sorkin's key lines in his many acceptance speeches (last night's included) -- a variation of "I wrote a good script, but David Fincher made a great movie" -- really has started to sink in.

Another key Sorkin acceptance-speech line is that he wrote a timeless script about friendship and betrayal, not a topical script about Facebook. But "Facebook revolutions" from the trivial to the profound have been breaking out all over the world. The timeliness of "The Social Network" should help propel it to the top of the Academy Awards. Whether Sorkin realizes it or not, the hot-off-the-presses quality of "The Social Network" -- as well as his collaboration with Fincher -- inspired him to do his most incisive work so far.

Photo by Luke Macgregor

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