Oscar nominations 2011: 'King's Speech' leads with 12 nominations; 'True Grit' nets 10

A look at the Oscar nominees for 2011.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 25, 2011; 8:47 PM

This year's Academy Award race for Best Picture may be the cinematic equivalent of a rally to restore sanity. Let's just stop arguing, America, and accept the fact that all the movies competing for Oscar's top token of glory are pretty darn good.

"The Social Network," which earned its entirely expected spot in the Best Picture race along with seven other nods? Sounds fine.

"Inception," the thinking geek's blockbuster, which racked up eight nominations? Oh, everyone's totally pleased with that.

And is there anything snarky to say about gentlemanly Colin Firth and "The King's Speech," which emerged as the Oscar front-runner by earning an, again, entirely expected 12 nominations?

Seriously, try to come up with something. Go ahead. We'll wait.

None of the movies that landed on the list of 10 worthy contenders - revealed Tuesday morning during the traditional much-hyped news conference - raised any eyebrows or anyone's blood pressure. And that includes the rest of the sizable, predictable Best Picture pack: "Black Swan," "The Fighter," "True Grit," "The Kids Are All Right," "127 Hours," "Winter's Bone" and "Toy Story 3," the top-grossing release of 2010 and the third animated film in history to be considered for the trophy show's top statuette. Last year the academy expanded its Best Picture embrace to include 10 nominees instead of the usual five, with the aim of being more inclusive. Mission, arguably, accomplished.

Of course, that's not to say that Oscar failed to inflame the masses in other categories, most notably in neglecting to nominate Christopher Nolan as Best Director for "Inception." The latent rage over Nolan's 2009 "Dark Knight" Oscar snub spilled forth anew via thousands of incensed tweets - sample grab: "ARE YOU FREAKING SERIOUS, ACADEMY???? NO BEST DIRECTOR NOM FOR CHRIS NOLAN?????" - that nearly threatened to cause the implosion of the Internet. (Again, remain calm, America. Like Leonardo DiCaprio's mind-invading "Inception" character, all of those protesters will eventually kick back into reality.)

The slate of acting nominees featured a sizable number of first-timers - eight of the 20 have never been nominated before - as well as the least amount of diversity in more than a decade. One has to go back to 2000 to find a year that, like this one, is completely devoid of any black contenders. That may say more about a studio system that failed to produce any award-worthy film with African American stars, such as last year's "Precious," than it does about the academy voters.

With a few exceptions, those acting nominations played out as previously forecast. Colin Firth earned his second consecutive Best Actor bid, for overcoming a stutter in "The King's Speech," and James Franco earned his first, for partially amputating a limb in "127 Hours."

Natalie Portman's "Black Swan" madness paid off, as she earned a nod for transforming into a cuticle-ripping, feather-sprouting ballerina. Hailee Steinfeld, at 14, earned her first Supporting Actress nomination, for "True Grit," after some debate about whether she might land in the lead actress category. Each of "The Fighter's" front-runners - Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Melissa Leo - earned props in their respective supporting categories, but Mark Wahlberg, who portrayed the fighter of the film's title, was overlooked.

The morning's semi-surprises included Javier Bardem's nod in the lead actor category for his role as an ailing father in "Biutiful," Michelle Williams's nomination in the Best Actress category as one half of a struggling married couple in "Blue Valentine" and a Supporting Actor bid for John Hawkes, a veteran character actor who earned his first nomination as a menacing meth addict in "Winter's Bone."

Another surprising snub, albeit less controversial than Nolan's, was the omission of "Waiting for 'Superman' " - Davis Guggenheim's education expose, which focused largely on the D.C. public school system - from the Best Documentary category.

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