Critics bow before ‘The King’s Speech’

The King’s Speech” debuted to rave reviews Friday. The film has scored a jaw-dropping 100% among the top tier of critics at Rotten Tomatoes. Among all 41 critics surveyed by the site, this Oscar frontunner rates an impressive 91%.

Of the 18 experts surveyed by Gold Derby, eight are predicting “The King’s Speech” is the film to beat at the Academy Awards. One-time favorite “The Social Network” has the support of five of our pundits while “Black Swan” is the choice of two and “Inception,” “Toy Story 3” and “The Way Back” win over one expert apiece.

The King’s Speech” certainly has a proven forumla for success at the Academy Awards. The film was produced by, among others, Harvey Weinstein, who has stickhandled three Best Picture champs: “The English Patient” (1996);  “Shakespeare in Love” (1998) and “Chicago” (2002). The director, Tom Hooper, won an Emmy for one historical drama (“Elizabeth I,” 2006) and contended for another (“John Adams,” 2008). Both of those biopics won the Emmy for Best Miniseries. And the screenwriter, David Seidler, is a three-time WGA nominee for his TV work.

Colin Firth, who was a Best Actor nominee last year for “A Single Man,” is the overwhelming frontrunner to win that race this year for his performance as King George VI. Firth tops the list for 17 of our 18 experts, with just one predicting reigning champ Jeff Bridges to repeat for “True Grit.” Firth has many factors in his favor — he is portraying a real-life person as did six of the last 10 Best Actor champs; his character is overcoming a handicap as did past winners like Daniel Day-Lewis (“My Left Foot”), Dustin Hoffman (“Rain Man”) and Geoffrey Rush (“Shine”); and he holds an Oscar IOU having been edged out last year.

Rush, as the monarch’s speech therapist, and Helena Bonham Carter, as his understanding wife, are both strong contenders in the Supporting categories according to our panel of prognosticators. And the film could vie for a slew of below the line bids as well, including art direction, costumes, editing, and score. It may well enter the final lap of derby with the most Oscar nominations.

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Photo: “The King’s Speech” poster (TWC)

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