Best Picture: 'The King's Speech' Stares Down 'The Social Network.' Plus: Who's Next Best?

Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield in 'the Social Network'.
Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield in 'the Social Network'.
Columbia Pictures

For complete Oscar coverage, including photos, videos and Peter Travers' breakdown of who should win, who will win and who does win, click here.

Black Swan
That a genuine chunk of rogue cinema, such as Darren Aronfsky's take on ballet as one of the bleeding arts, gets into the Academy's inner circle of 10 Best Picture nominees, is cause for celebration. A win would be too much for the fogeyish Academy, except for awarding star Natalie Portman. But Aronofsky walks the high wire as he leads us into a dancer's tormented mind. The swirling hand-held camerawork of Matthew Libatique, coupled with a Clint Mansell score that channels Tchaikovsky's ecstatic dread, adds to the whirlwind.

The Fighter
The underdog boxers of Rocky and Million Dollar Baby went on to win  Best Picture Oscar titles. The Fighter, about "Irish" Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), a street rat from Lowell, Mass. who bumped along nearly anonymously in the 1980s before taking a welterweight title, has all the elements.  Micky also fought killer battles outside the ring, with his manager mom, Alice (Melissa Leo), and his older boxer half brother, Dickie Eklund (Christian Bale), a junkie ex-con. Director David O. Russell gives the movie heart and muscle. But will it be enough to KO a stammering King?

Oscar Guide: What Should Win and What Will Win at This Year's Ceremony

In a better Oscar world, Christopher Nolan's hallucinatory dream epic would be a serious contender. But Nolan's lack of a nomination for Best Director (Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!) shows Academy voters out of tune with the blue-flame intensity of a movie that features Leonardo DiCaprio as a professional invader of the subconscious. Inception dreams big. The middlebrow Academy  definitely does not.

The Kids Are All Right

Among the 10 nominees for Best Picture, Kids is the best film  about about family and its power to hurt and heal. As directed and co-written by Lisa Cholodenko, gay marriage is the subject here, but not the issue. Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) are thrown when their two kids ask to meet the sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo) who fathered them. It's a sitcom premise, but Cholodenko and the actors keep it raw and touchingly humane.

The 10 Best Movies of 2010

The King's Speech

Oscar loves bowing down to royalty and British accents. And there's no reason the golden boy won't do it again in the face of this true story of stammering King George VI (Colin Firth) and the eccentric Aussie therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), who unties has consonants. Under the astute direction of Tom Hooper, two men alone create an epic landscape of feeling.

The Travers Take Main Next

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Peter Travers

Rolling Stone senior writer Peter Travers has reviewed movies for the magazine for more than 20 years. Send your comments and questions to him here.

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