'King's Speech' wins Best Picture Oscar

Nominees and presenters made waves at the Academy Awards in glittering sheers, bold reds, asymmetrical details and yards of tulle.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 28, 2011; 12:51 AM

"The King's Speech," a stirring British costume drama about King George VI's struggle with a speech impediment and the challenges of leadership at the dawn of mass media, won Best Picture and three other prizes Sunday night at the Academy Awards.

After a decade in which the Oscars took a turn toward dark, violent and ambiguous fare, "The King's Speech" - whose leading man, Colin Firth, nabbed the Best Actor prize and whose director, Tom Hooper, was honored as well - marked a return to the feel-good themes and lush backdrops that the Hollywood voting community traditionally favored.

And a lucrative return at that: "The King's Speech" has made $114 million at the box office - a popular success for such proper fare and nearly tenfold what last year's uber-dark winner, "The Hurt Locker," had taken in by Oscar time.

The movie considered its closest competitor, "The Social Network" - which electrified audiences by telling the story of Facebook, a history so recent we're still living it - picked three major prizes, included Best Adapted Screenplay.

Firth, a British star beloved stateside for his stiff-upper-lip heartthrobs in "Pride and Prejudice" and "Bridget Jones's Diary," had picked up nearly every other acting prize this year but still seemed moved by the tribute.

"I have a feeling my career's just peaked," he said.

Natalie Portman won Best Actress for her portrayal of a ballerina on the verge of a nervous breakdown in the psychosexual art-house thriller "Black Swan." The 29-year-old Harvard grad cheered in Hollywood as the rare child star to avoid tabloid hijinks and mature gracefully into adult roles, mustered her usual poise to thank a laundry list of colleagues, as well as "my family, friends and my love" - her choreographer-fiance, by whom she is visibly pregnant.

Portman's coronation - among others, she defeated Annette Bening, revered in Hollywood for taming Warren Beatty and four winless nominations over two decades - marked what was intended to be a vote-for-youth year at the Academy Awards.

Instead of the usual grizzled stand-up veteran (Jon Stewart, Steve Martin, Billy Crystal), the academy tapped as its hosts glamorous Hollywood babes Anne Hathaway, 28, and James Franco, 32.

But it was the older folks who stole the show - 73-year-old "King's Speech" Best Screenplay writer David Seidler (who joked "my father always said I'd be a late bloomer"); 50-year-old Melissa Leo, who dropped a bleeped-out F-bomb while accepting her Best Supporting Actress trophy; and 94-year-old Kirk Douglas, who did his own part to extend the always-too-long show by drinking up the spotlight as he gave Leo her prize.

"You're much more beautiful than you were in 'The Fighter,' " Douglas flirted.

It seemed a multi-layered inside joke: The veteran character actress was much lauded for her role as the brassy, bouffanted manager matriarch of a dysfunctional Boston boxing family. But she raised eyebrows in Hollywood when she took out glamour-shot ads in the local papers asking academy members for their vote.

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