LOS ANGELES - "The King's Speech" was crowned best picture Sunday at an Academy Awards ceremony as precise as a state coronation, the monarchy drama leading as expected with four Oscars and predictable favorites claiming acting honors.
Colin Firth as stammering British ruler George VI in “The King’s Speech” earned the best-actor prize, while Natalie Portman won best actress as a delusional ballerina in “Black Swan.”
The boxing drama “The Fighter” claimed both supporting-acting honors, for Christian Bale as a boxer-turned-drug-abuser and Melissa Leo as a boxing clan’s domineering matriarch.
“The King’s Speech” also won the directing prize for Tom Hooper and the original-screenplay Oscar for David Seidler, a boyhood stutterer himself.
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“I have a feeling my career’s just peaked,” Firth said. “I’m afraid I have to warn you that I’m experiencing stirrings somewhere in the upper abdominals which are threatening to form themselves into dance moves.”
Among those Portman beat was Annette Bening for “The Kids Are All Right.” Bening now has lost all four times she’s been nominated.
“Thank you so much. This is insane, and I truly, sincerely wish that the prize tonight was to get to work with my fellow nominees. I’m so in awe of you,” Portman said.
Network censors bleeped Leo for dropping the F-word during her speech. Backstage, she jokingly conceded it was “probably a very inappropriate place to use that particular word.”
Bale joked that he was keeping his language clean. “I’m not going to drop the F-bomb like she did,” he said. “I’ve done that plenty of times before.”
But the Oscars, being a global affair, were telecast elsewhere in the world with Leo’s words uncensored. Viewers who watched the show on Star Movies, a major channel available throughout Asia, heard the F-word loud and clear.
Hooper, a relative big-screen newcomer best known for classy TV drama, took the industry’s top filmmaking prize over Hollywood veteran David Fincher, who had been a strong prospect for his Facebook drama “The Social Network.”
The prize was presented by last year’s winner, Kathryn Bigelow, the first woman to earn a directing Oscar.
Leo’s win capped an unusual career surge in middle age for the 50-year-old actress, who had moderate success on TV’s “Homicide: Life on the Street” in her 30s but leaped to big-screen stardom in her late 40s, a time when most actresses find good roles hard to come by.
In disbelief when she took the stage, Leo said, “Pinch me.” Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas, who presented her award, obliged with a little pinch on her arm.
The Oscar for adapted screenplay went to Aaron Sorkin for “The Social Network,” a chronicle of the birth of Facebook based on Ben Mezrich’s book “The Accidental Billionaires.” “The Social Network” also won for musical score for Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, and for film editing.
The sci-fi blockbuster “Inception,” which came in with eight nominations, tied with “The Kings Speech” with four Oscars, all in technical categories: visual effects, cinematography, sound editing and sound mixing.
“Inside Job,” an exploration of the 2008 economic meltdown, won for best documentary, which proved an uncommonly lively category.
“Toy Story 3,” last year’s top-grossing release and a contender for best picture, won the fourth-straight animated-feature Oscar for Disney’s Pixar Animation unit.
The show opened with co-hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco inserted into a montage of scenes from best-picture nominees, built as a series of dream sequences reminiscent of “Inception.” The footage included such guests as Morgan Freeman and last year’s Oscar co-host Alec Baldwin.
Franco started off telling Hathaway how beautiful she looked. Hathaway shot back, “You look very appealing to a younger demographic, as well.”