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'The King's Speech' takes top Oscars

From left, Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, Melissa Leo

From left, Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, Melissa Leo and Colin Firth pose backstage with their Oscars at the 83rd Academy Awards on Feb. 27, 2011. Credit: AP

"The King's Speech" won four awards at Sunday night's Academy Awards, including best picture and best actor for Colin Firth, while the movie's biggest Oscar rival, "The Social Network," earned three awards, including adapted screenplay for Aaron Sorkin.

Syosset High School's own Natalie Portman won best actress for the psychological thriller "Black Swan," giving that unlikely $100-million hit its only Oscar. In her speech, the pregnant actress gestured to her now-visible belly and thanked the baby's father, Benjamin Millepied, "who has now given me my most important role in my life."

Attention focused on the unusually close race that pitted "The King's Speech," a crowd-pleasing British movie set at the dawn of World War II, against "The Social Network," a downbeat tale about the dawn of Facebook. The running debate about entertainment versus art helped generate excitement for the Oscars, which have been craving increased relevance and viewership.

To that end, the show hired James Franco and Anne Hathaway, young and attractive stars who perhaps resonate better with younger viewers than last year's hosts, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin. Hathaway acknowledged as much by telling her co-host, "You look very appealing to a younger demographic as well."

The academy spread its awards across a range of popular movies. The sci-fi thriller "Inception" picked up four technical awards, including cinematography. Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" earned two Oscars, for costume design and art direction. Even "The Wolfman," one of last year's box-office disappointments, won the award for makeup.

As predicted, "The Fighter" earned its two awards in the supporting actor categories for Christian Bale, playing a crack-addicted boxer, and Melissa Leo as his chain-smoking mother.

Other highlights (and lowlights):

TRUE GRIT. At 94, Kirk Douglas presents the supporting actress category with enough energy to pull off some slapstick with his cane, make eyes at Hathaway and insult Hugh Jackman ("Everybody in Australia thinks they're funny").

TIMING IS EVERYTHING. Great Neck-raised David Seidler, 73, accepts the original screenplay award for "The King's Speech," becoming the oldest person to do so. His opening line: "My father always said to me I would be a late bloomer."

SOCIAL NETWORKING. Newly crowned supporting actor Bale thanks the real-life boxer he portrayed in "The Fighter" - Dicky Eklund - by sending him some business: " Check him out, he deserves it."

THE PRESIDENT'S SPEECH. In a montage preceding the award for original song, Barack Obama shows up to cite his favorite: "There are a lot of great songs, but when it comes to just one song, you've gotta go with 'As Time Goes By.' "

DOUBLE STANDARD. Robert Downey Jr. read Ricky Gervais the riot act for cracking jokes about his checkered past at the Golden Globes, but his co-presenter Jude Law gets away with lobbing a hooker joke.

ANOTHER LI WINNER. Co-producer and New York University student Ryan Silbert of Port Washington gets to add an Oscar-winning film, the short comedy "God of Love," to his resume.

FIFTY-FIVE MINUTES. That's how long it took before Franco, dressed in drag, cracked the evening's first (and surprisingly only) joke about Charlie Sheen.

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