British historical drama "The King’s Speech" enters the home straight as frontrunner to take the Oscars crown this week, but "The Social Network" is poking all its friends for last-minute help.
Colin Firth, who plays a stammering George VI, is considered all but unbeatable for the best actor Oscar next Sunday, when the multi-billion dollar movie industry gathers for the climax to Hollywood’s annual awards season.
But the Facebook movie’s David Fincher could yet be named best director, and the movie remains the joint frontrunner for best picture along with "The King’s Speech," which topped the nominations haul with nods in 12 categories. The nearly 6,000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences finish voting Tuesday, but the results will only be announced in a show watched by hundreds of millions live around the world next Sunday night.
After the British film, the next most nominated for the 83rd annual Academy Awards was classic Western remake "True Grit," which garnered 10 nods, followed by eight each for "The Social Network" and hi-tech thriller "Inception."
Natalie Portman leads the pack for the best actress prize for sexually-charged ballet thriller "The Black Swan" — although she faces stiff competition from Nicole Kidman in "Rabbit Hole" and Annette Bening in "The Kids are All Right."
Like Firth, Portman has taken a string of awards in the run-up to the Oscars, including the Golden Globe for best actress, as well as the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and Britain’s BAFTA prize in the same category.
"The Black Swan" and powerful boxing movie "The Fighter" are also among those vying seriously for best picture, while some say box office smash thriller "Inception", starring Leonardo DiCaprio, could yet produce an upset.
The "King’s Speech," also starring Helena Bonham Carter and Australian Geoffrey Rush as the king’s voice coach, started the awards season with a disappointment, winning only one Golden Globe despite having seven nominations.
"The Social Network" about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s creation of the game-changing website took top honors at the Globes with four at Hollywood’s first major pre-Oscars show last month.
But since then the British movie has romped away in a series of awards, including the Screen Actors’ Guild (SAGs) and the Directors Guild of America (DGA) prizes here.
Then last week "The King’s Speech" won best film at Britain’s BAFTAs in London, along with yet another best actor win for Firth, as it continued its regal progress through the awards season.
Firth’s main rivals include Jeff Bridges — who beat the Briton to the best actor Oscar last year — for his "True Grit" turn, and Jesse Eisenberg’s almost emotion-less portrayal of Zuckerberg in "The Social Network."
The best foreign film contest is between Mexico’s "Biutiful" — whose star Javier Bardem is also up for best actor — "Dogtooth" from Greece, Denmark’s "In a Better World," "Incendies" from Canada and Algeria’s "Outside the Law."
The Oscars, which gather "A" list stars with powerful studio bosses for Tinsel Town’s annual night of glamour, is universally recognized as the movie industry’s awards pinnacle.
Organizers say this year’s show will update the traditional format, using a series of six or seven "projections" to give the evening a constantly changing look.
They also tout the youth of the two main presenters, actor James Franco — himself nominated for an Oscar for arm self-amputation movie "127 Hours" — and actress Anne Hathaway, as signaling a new generation.
"Yes, they are famous, but they are on their way up," said co-producer Bruce Cohen.
"They are not untouchable, they are not unreachable. We hope they will offer (the audience) a way in. So everyone come along, and we’ll see through the eyes of these two up-and-coming stars."