LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hollywood polished up its golden boy statue, the Oscar, for its glittery awards ceremony on Sunday with “The King’s Speech” and “The Network” leading the field for the world’s top movie honors.
The presentation will feature two youthful co-hosts, actors James Franco, 32, and Anne Hathaway, 28, marking the first time a man and woman have presided over the Oscars. Hathaway is the youngest person to emcee what is annually the second most-watched TV show in the United States and broadcast live in more than 200 countries worldwide.
“The King’s Speech” and Facebook film “The Social Network” are widely considered front-runners to be named best movie by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Best actress and actor nominees including Nicole Kidman, Natalie Portman, Javier Bardem and Colin Firth will parade up the red carpet outside Hollywood’s Kodak Theater in fashionable gowns and tuxedos ahead of the ceremony on Sunday night.
Producers say the ceremony, at which more than 20 awards will be given out in just over three hours, is meant to connect movie fans to the Hollywood of old, while also giving a nod to the future with web cams and Twitter feeds.
The show’s best moments occur when Oscar winners give emotional acceptance speeches.
“(Audiences) want to see when people are moved or touched,” producer Don Mischer said.
For months ahead of Sunday’s big awards, a stream of honors have come from industry groups such as the New York Film Critics Circle, Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Directors Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild.
Where Oscar is concerned, fans saw “Social Network,” which tells of the rise of Facebook from college-oriented website to global phenomenon, scoop up many early critics awards.
But as the season played out, “The King’s Speech,” which tells of a stuttering British king facing his personal demons, was embraced by numerous movie professional groups.
Now, the two will face-off for the Oscars with “King’s Speech” tipped as the favorite.
Colin Firth, in the starring role of King George VI in “King’s Speech,” is widely expected to win best actor because he has claimed most honors from both critics and industry groups. Similarly, Christian Bale and Melissa Leo, both in boxing drama “The Fighter,” are front-runners in supporting categories.
The race for best actress is close between “Black Swan” ballerina Natalie Portman and A-lister Annette Bening playing a lesbian mother with family issues in “The Kids Are All Right.” The category of best director is tight between “Facebook” veteran David Fincher and “King’s Speech” newcomer Tom Hooper.
Will there be a surprise? Oscar watchers think not.
“It looks as if the front-runners will cross the finish line,” said Tom O’Neil, veteran Oscar watcher at awards websites goldderby.com and theenvelope.com.
But anything could happen. As they say in Hollywood, the red carpet is rolled out, the champagne is on ice and the limousines are waiting. It’s Oscar time.
Editing by Bill Trott