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Oscars: The king vs. the nerds vs. the Rooster

The 2011 Oscar race seems to be shaping up among the King of England, two nerds, and Rooster Cogburn. "The King's Speech," about George VI's struggle to overcome a stammer, led all nominations with 12. The nerds won eight nominations each for "The Social Network," the story of the founder of Facebook, and "Inception," about a man who hacks into other people's dreams. "The Fighter" followed with seven.

But the big surprise was the strong showing for "True Grit," a remake of a 1969 John Wayne classic, which placed second overall with ten nominations, including best picture, actor (Jeff Bridges), supporting actress (Hailee Steinfeld) and direction  and screenplay adaptation (Joel and Ethan Coen).

On the basis of this showing, "True Grit" may pass the presumed leader "The Social Network." My feeling is it may even out-talk the King and win for "Best Picture."

The nominations. announced before dawn in Los Angeles, contained other surprises, some of them qualifying as upsets. But to the probable relief of the movie industry, the finalists included many popular films, which could lead to the most active Oscar pools and water-cooler debates in years.

Some of the highlights:

Javier Bardem's best actor nomination for "Biutiful," set in Barcelona, marked a rare appearance for a non-English language performance in the category. The most memorable was for Roberto Benigni, for "Life is Beautiful."

• Although she obviously played the lead in "True Grit," 12-year-old Hailee Steinfeld was nominated for best supporting actress. Academy rules say if you receive votes for both categories, your nomination comes in the category where you have the most votes.  Paramount encouraged voters to choose the supporting category, where Steinfeld becomes the front-runner, and not the top category, where she didn't have a chance.

• "The Illusionist," a French animated film based on a posthumous screenplay by the great director Jacques Tati, won the third slots for Best Animation which was expected to go to "Tangled." Its $1-2 million box office is dwarfed by its co-nominee "Toy Story 3," the top-grossing film of the year.

• Every year there is a Best Picture the Academy didn't think was directed by a Best Director, and this year the leading candidate for Overlooked Director seems to be Christopher Nolan, of "Inception." His exclusion isn't as dramatic as in the years where there were only five BP nominees; after all, the directors of five of this year's BP nominees weren't nominated, but Nolan, whose film won eight other nominations, seems to qualify. He wasn't nominated for "The Dark Knight," either. What does he have to do to get a break?

• In selecting James Franco to co-host this year's Oscarcast with Anne Hathaway, did the Academy discount his chances for a Best Actor nomination for "127 Hours?" He surprised them. The very least the show producers can do is require Franco to open the envelope and read the winner. He will probably lose, and we won't have to squint at all those little boxes to read his facial reaction. He will sound very jolly.

• The underdog winner of the year is the indie film "Winter's Bone," made for less than $2 million, which won at Sundance just a year ago and now has nominations including Best Picture, actress (Jennifer Lawrence), supporting actor (John Hawkes) and adapted screenplay.

• A loser was Ben Affleck's "The Town," which was expected to do better in major categories than its (deserved) supporting actor nod for Jeremy Renner.

• "The Kids Are All Right," with major nominations including picture, actress (Annette Bening), supporting actor Mark Ruffalo) and screenplay (Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg), joins "Milk" among top nominees with a homosexual subject, and in a way is more meaningful because it shows a functioning family rather than a single person.

• As she read the major nominees,  it must have occurred to last year's Oscar winner Mo'Nique that this was a rare year in modern times when no African-American was nominated.

• Two of the BP nominees were directed by women, but the best director nominees were a boys's club. Didn't it take Debra Granik more old-fashioned roll-up-the-sleeves directing to make "Winter's Bone" than some of the other nominees required?

• No Cher on this year's Oscarcast. "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me," her Golden Globe-winning song from "Burlesque," did not prove prophetic.

• The Best Foreign Film category always produces some conundrums caused by the Academy rules. “Biutiful” was shot on location in Barcelona with mostly Spanish actors, and is listed as a nominee from Mexico. "Outside the Law" was filmed almost entirely in Paris with a French director and actors, and is listed as from Algeria.

• Year after year, there are Academy members to who want to honor the great British director Mike Leigh. This year it was for his original screenplay for "Another Year," his seventh nomination.

• The documentary, "Waiting for Superman" was thought to be a sure nominee, but wasn't. "Superman" was apparently edged out by "WasteLand" and "Gasland," both with environmental themes.

Here is the complete list of 2011 nominees:

Best Picture

* "Black Swan" Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver and Scott Franklin, Producers * "The Fighter" David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman and Mark Wahlberg, Producers * "Inception" Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan, Producers * "The Kids Are All Right" Gary Gilbert, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and Celine Rattray, Producers * "The King's Speech" Iain Canning, Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin, Producers * "127 Hours" Christian Colson, Danny Boyle and John Smithson, Producers * "The Social Network" Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca and Ceán Chaffin, Producers * "Toy Story 3" Darla K. Anderson, Producer * "True Grit" Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Producers * "Winter's Bone" Anne Rosellini and Alix Madigan-Yorkin, Producers

Actor in a Leading Role

* Javier Bardem in "Biutiful" * Jeff Bridges in "True Grit" * Jesse Eisenberg in "The Social Network" * Colin Firth in "The King's Speech" * James Franco in "127 Hours"

Actress in a Leading Role

* Annette Bening in "The Kids Are All Right" * Nicole Kidman in "Rabbit Hole" * Jennifer Lawrence in "Winter's Bone" * Natalie Portman in "Black Swan" * Michelle Williams in "Blue Valentine"

Actor in a Supporting Role

* Christian Bale in "The Fighter" * John Hawkes in "Winter's Bone" * Jeremy Renner in "The Town" * Mark Ruffalo in "The Kids Are All Right" * Geoffrey Rush in "The King's Speech"

Actress in a Supporting Role

* Amy Adams in "The Fighter" * Helena Bonham-Carter in "The King's Speech" * Melissa Leo in "The Fighter" * Hailee Steinfeld in "True Grit" * Jacki Weaver in "Animal Kingdom"


* "Black Swan" Darren Aronofsky * "The Fighter" David O. Russell * "The King's Speech" Tom Hooper * "The Social Network" David Fincher * "True Grit" Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

* "127 Hours" Screenplay by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy * "The Social Network" Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin * "Toy Story 3" Screenplay by Michael Arndt; Story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich * "True Grit" Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen * "Winter's Bone" Adapted for the screen by Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini

Writing (Original Screenplay)

* "Another Year" Written by Mike Leigh * "The Fighter" Screenplay by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson; Story by Keith Dorrington & Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson * "Inception" Written by Christopher Nolan * "The Kids Are All Right" Written by Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg * "The King's Speech" Screenplay by David Seidler

Animated Feature Film

* "How to Train Your Dragon" Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois * "The Illusionist" Sylvain Chomet * "Toy Story 3" Lee Unkrich

Art Direction

* "Alice in Wonderland" Production Design: Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Karen O'Hara * "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" Production Design: Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan * "Inception" Production Design: Guy Hendrix Dyas; Set Decoration: Larry Dias and Doug Mowat * "The King's Speech" Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Judy Farr * "True Grit" Production Design: Jess Gonchor; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh


* "Black Swan" Matthew Libatique * "Inception" Wally Pfister * "The King's Speech" Danny Cohen * "The Social Network" Jeff Cronenweth * "True Grit" Roger Deakins

Costume Design

* "Alice in Wonderland" Colleen Atwood * "I Am Love" Antonella Cannarozzi * "The King's Speech" Jenny Beavan * "The Tempest" Sandy Powell * "True Grit" Mary Zophres

Documentary (Feature)

* "Exit Through the Gift Shop" Banksy and Jaimie D'Cruz * "Gasland" Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic * "Inside Job" Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs * "Restrepo" Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger * "Waste Land" Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley

Documentary (Short Subject)

* "Killing in the Name" Nominees to be determined * "Poster Girl" Nominees to be determined * "Strangers No More" Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon * "Sun Come Up" Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger * "The Warriors of Qiugang" Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon

Film Editing

* "Black Swan" Andrew Weisblum * "The Fighter" Pamela Martin * "The King's Speech" Tariq Anwar * "127 Hours" Jon Harris * "The Social Network" Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter

Foreign Language Film

* "Biutiful" Mexico * "Dogtooth" Greece * "In a Better World" Denmark * "Incendies" Canada * "Outside the Law" Algeria


* "Barney's Version" Adrien Morot * "The Way Back" Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng * "The Wolfman" Rick Baker and Dave Elsey

Music (Original Score)

* "How to Train Your Dragon" John Powell * "Inception" Hans Zimmer * "The King's Speech" Alexandre Desplat * "127 Hours" A.R. Rahman * "The Social Network" Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Music (Original Song)

* "Coming Home" from "Country Strong" Music and Lyric by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey * "I See the Light" from "Tangled" Music by Alan Menken Lyric by Glenn Slater * "If I Rise" from "127 Hours" Music by A.R. Rahman Lyric by Dido and Rollo Armstrong * "We Belong Together" from "Toy Story 3" Music and Lyric by Randy Newman

Short Film (Animated)

* "Day & Night" Teddy Newton * "The Gruffalo" Jakob Schuh and Max Lang * "Let's Pollute" Geefwee Boedoe * "The Lost Thing" Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann * "Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)" Bastien Dubois

Short Film (Live Action)

* "The Confession" Tanel Toom * "The Crush" Michael Creagh * "God of Love" Luke Matheny * "Na Wewe" Ivan Goldschmidt * "Wish 143" Ian Barnes and Samantha Waite

Sound Editing

* "Inception" Richard King * "Toy Story 3" Tom Myers and Michael Silvers * "Tron: Legacy" Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague * "True Grit" Skip Lievsay and Craig Berkey * "Unstoppable" Mark P. Stoeckinger

Sound Mixing

* "Inception" Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick * "The King's Speech" Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen and John Midgley * "Salt" Jeffrey J. Haboush, Greg P. Russell, Scott Millan and William Sarokin * "The Social Network" Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weingarten * "True Grit" Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland

Visual Effects

* "Alice in Wonderland" Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean Phillips * "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz and Nicolas Aithadi * "Hereafter" Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojanski and Joe Farrell * "Inception" Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb * "Iron Man 2" Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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