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BEVERLY HILLS, California (Reuters) - "The King's Speech" reigned supreme in Hollywood on Tuesday as Oscar voters bestowed 12 nominations on the British drama, including best picture, actor and director.
The film, revolving around wartime monarch King George VI's struggle to overcome a crippling stammer, led a field packed with commercial and critical hits.
"True Grit," a Western remake about a young girl's brave quest to track down her father's killer, received 10 nominations despite performing poorly in key critics awards. The film's writers/directors/producers, Joel and Ethan Coen, accounted for three of those nominations.
The Facebook drama, "The Social Network," the early favorite during awards season, received eight nominations, tying with the groundbreaking sci-fi thriller "Inception," one of 2010's biggest movies.
All will vie for best picture, a 10-film field rounded out by "Black Swan," "The Fighter," "The Kids Are All Right," "127 Hours," "Toy Story 3" and "Winter's Bone."
Initial consensus among critics indicated a tight race for the top prize between Columbia's "Social Network" and Weinstein Co's "King's Speech," with Paramount's "True Grit" a possible spoiler.
The films' respective studios will ramp up their campaigning in the lead-up to the 83rd annual awards show on February 27. Actor Kevin Spacey, a "Social Network" executive producer, said talk of a bitter contest was "a silly conversation."
"You guys like the horse race. I enjoy the work," he told Reuters.
As in recent years there was little surprise or controversy among the leading contenders.
Perhaps the most notable omission was that of "Inception" director Christopher Nolan, despite universal acclaim for his bold vision setting a heist thriller in the subconscious.
"As any of the other people on 'Inception' will tell you, our job would not have been possible without Chris' amazing vision," said Guy Hendrix Dyas, the film's Oscar-nominated production designer.
Observers were pleasantly surprised by the four nominations for the indie film "Winter's Bone," a gritty murder-mystery that earned just $6 million during its limited release at the North American box office and is out on DVD.
Awards season favorite Colin Firth was nominated for his lead role in "The King's Speech" as the father of the current monarch, Queen Elizabeth.
His co-stars were also nominated for their supporting roles in the Weinstein Co. release: Helena Bonham Carter, as George's wife, the future Queen Mother; and Australian actor Geoffrey Rush as the king's unorthodox speech therapist.
The film's director, Tom Hooper, was one of three first-time contenders in the category, joined by David O. Russell for seven-time nominee "The Fighter" and Darren Aronofsky for five-time nominee "Black Swan."
The field was rounded out by "Social Network" director David Fincher, a previous nominee for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," and the Coens, who won three years ago for "No Country for Old Men."
A sapphic undertone pervades the best actress race where the leading contenders are Natalie Portman for her role in "Black Swan," which features an erotic coupling between ballerinas, and Annette Bening for playing a lesbian mother in "The Kids Are All Right," another arthouse movie with four nominations.
For the first time since 2001, no black actors received any nominations. But Javier Bardem became the first Spanish-language best actor nominee, for his role in the drama "Biutiful," which opens in North American theaters on Friday.
Virtually all the best picture nominees crossed over to mainstream audiences, and those still in theaters will likely receive an Oscar-related boost in business in coming weeks.
Four of the nominees are in the top 10 at the North American box office: "The King's Speech," "True Grit," "Black Swan" and "The Fighter." "The King's Speech" has been the No. 1 film in Britain for the past three weekends.